HE might have only been on Teesside for less than four months, but John Obi Mikel has admitted his short spell at Middlesbrough has not ended the way he would have liked.

When Mikel agreed to join until the end of the season as a free agent on January 24, Middlesbrough were six points shy of top spot and with genuine ambitions of closing that gap.

His first league appearance was to help Middlesbrough to a 3-2 win at promotion rivals West Bromwich Albion, and at that stage he must have fancied the team’s chances of achieving the aim.

But Middlesbrough came up short, significantly affected by a run of six defeats in a row at exactly the wrong time, ending with Tony Pulis’ team missing out on a play-off place.

Failing to secure promotion is more than likely to prevent Mikel from joining on a full-time basis, with Premier League clubs known to be keen, but he has still enjoyed the Riverside experience.

“What I expected was to be in the play-offs or automatic promotion,” admitted Mikel. “It just wasn’t to be but the club, the players and the staff were exactly what I expected, good staff, good players, good human beings. I’ve had a lovely time here, it’s been amazing.

“I enjoyed the physicality, the fans right in front of you – the real English football. I missed that in China. Tony has given me the opportunity and I’ve enjoyed it.

“This (England) is where I want to be, I want to be closer to home, I want to be near my family, so we’ll see what happens. I have a few options here and there. You never know in football.”

The former Chelsea midfielder would not reveal the identity of those interested, although he is known to have had interest from Crystal Palace and Brighton in January – and both are staying in the top-flight.

“I think we went through a bad spell when we lost six games in a row,” added Mikel.

“A team like us with big players, a big dressing room, a big club, shouldn’t have gone through that period.

“A lot went on, key injuries, red cards, a lot of chances we didn’t take. You can point at a lot of things. This club should be at the top and I’m sure they will get there.

“I’m sure they will do exactly what they need to do (to come back stronger). The manager is a good manager, an experienced manager, I’m sure he will look at the team and know what he wants and then they will go from there.

“The feeling is we’ll come back stronger next year. The players are hungry, they want to carry on, they want to be in the Premier League. It’s good to see that. Hopefully next season they will do that.”

Mikel was a regular in the Middlesbrough team following his stint in China, and he has seen plenty to be encouraged by in the squad.

“Lewis Wing is a great player, Dael Fry – they will be massive players for Middlesbrough in the future,” he said. “There is great potential there. I’m sure this club is in the right place with the right players, next season they will do really well.”

But the 32-year-old could not hide his disappointment at the fact his promotion goal was not achieved, even though Middlesbrough did deliver three points on the final day – raising hope of a play-off spot being pinched from Derby.

Mikel, who scored at Rotherham, said: “We just weren’t good enough when we lost six games in a row and that put us where we are.”