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Only four Premier League managers had been in charge at their clubs for longer than Karanka before his sacking on Thursday and, while the suggestion from chairman Steve Gibson is that the decision was a mutual one, it will still irk Karanka that he was not given the chance to secure Boro’s Premier League status having been the one who led them to it in the first place.

As Championship runners-up last season, Karanka’s time in charge at the Riverside Stadium will be fondly remembered by many fans, despite numerous reports of fallouts with everyone from the players to the owners to the supporters themselves throughout his spell at the helm.

However, his ability to keep the club in the top flight had been increasingly questioned throughout what is now a 10-game winless run in the Premier League that has seen Boro pick up just four points from a possible 30 since Christmas.

It is the longest current winless run in the division, and leaves Boro 19th in the Premier League table, three points from safety and in danger of that gap growing considering the recent improvement of many teams around them.

Agnew’s first assignment is a difficult one, but whether he, Nigel Pearson or anyone else is handed the role until the end of the season or beyond, the first question has to be simply: ‘How are Middlesbrough going to get out of this mess?’

So often in such scenarios the first priority is to tighten up at the back, which is why Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce – Crystal Palace permitting – have been so successful at steering teams away from danger. However, Boro have conceded just 30 goals in their 27 games this season – fewer than Liverpool and Arsenal and a tally that only four teams in the entire league can beat.

 

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