Middlesbrough secured a return to the Premier League, following a seven year absence from the division, by finishing second in the Championship last season.
Promotion winning season
After drawing their last game of the season 1-1 with Brighton at the Riverside, Aitor Karanka’s side were automatically promoted ahead of their final day opponents on goal difference. The margin by which they were could scarcely have been finer, with Middlesbrough’s goal difference being just two superior to Brighton’s.
Nevertheless, after occupying one of the top two spots throughout the season, Middlesbrough thoroughly merited their promotion and in achieving that banished the painful memory of losing the 2014/2015 Championship Play-Off Final 2-0 Norwich.
Rather than making wholesale changes to his squad for the 2015-16 season following that disappointment, Karanka retained a faith that the majority of the players who endured it were capable of helping the club build a promotion winning campaign.
Ultimately that faith was proven to be well placed as eight of the players featuring against Norwich were heavily involved for Middlesbrough’s last term and still feature in Karanka’s plans for the forthcoming season.
Ironically after playing in the previous year’s play-off final defeat to Norwich, Albert Adomah, Daniel Ayala, Adam Clayton, George Friend, Ben Gibson, Dimitrious Konstantopoulos, Grant Leadbitter and Emilio Nsue, all also started Middlesbrough’s 1-1 draw with Brighton on the final day of last season which sealed the North – East club’s return to the Premier League.
Preparing for the Premier League
Preparations for that are currently ongoing, as Karanka aims to develop a squad which is suitably equipped to keep the club in the top flight. The former Real Madrid assistant manager is receiving strong support in order to do that from Middlesbrough’s chairman Steve Gibson. Just as he did last season, Gibson has made considerable finances available for Karanka to sign new players, with the 42-year-old taking the opportunity to do that by adding four new members to his squad.
Whilst centre back Bernard Espinosa has arrived at the Riverside from Sporting Gijon, the midfield duo of Martin de Roon and Viktor Fischer have been brought in from Atalanta and Ajax respectively, whilst Karanka has also signed Hearts’ Jordan McGhee as a future prospect.
As such in recruiting the quartet, Karanka has considerably strengthened his squad, which he is understood to be keen to do further by signing former Barcelona goal keeper Victor Valdes.
Ultimately Middlesbrough’s preparations for the new season will gradually intensify between now and their first game, which is a home fixture against Stoke on 13 August. Nevertheless they seem will on course to be ready to make a good start to their first campaign back in the top tier of English football since 2008/2009.