RAV VAN DEN BERG claims Michael Carrick’s level-headed approach was one of the key factors in Middlesbrough successfully turning around their season after a shaky start to the campaign.

When Boro drew at Sheffield Wednesday in mid-September, they were rooted to the foot of the Championship table, having failed to win any of their opening seven league games.

Given that he was an inexperienced head coach facing his first major challenge in terms of a prolonged run of negative results, Carrick could have been excused for a sense of panic or desire to make major changes in an attempt to improve things.

Instead, the Boro boss stuck steadfastly to his principles, refused to abandon his preferred playing style and backed his players to the hilt, even though a number of them had arrived in the summer transfer window with limited playing experience.

Carrick’s calm, undemonstrative approach has proved to be exactly what his side needed, and since drawing at Hillsborough, Boro have lost just one of their subsequent nine league games, a run that has lifted them to within two points of the play-off places.

They have also reached the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, where they will take on League One side Port Vale for a place in the last four, and van den Berg has been impressed with his head coach’s management of a situation that could have been much more fraught.

“It was hard,” admitted the Dutchman, who joined Boro in the summer from PEC Zwolle. “When you lose games at the beginning, it’s not great. The fans complain, and to be honest, that is fair because we weren’t playing well. We didn’t create enough chances, and it was a hard time.

“But the gaffer was never screaming at us. He just wanted to help us – never negative, only positive. I think that was amazing, and the right approach.”


Carrick’s positivity certainly seemed to help van den Berg, with the 19-year-old settling into his new surrounds and rapidly establishing himself as a key member of Boro’s first-team line-up.

The teenager has played right across the backline, but appears to be well settled at right-back, where he has emerged as the replacement for the injured Tommy Smith.

Van den Berg’s natural ability meant he was a wanted man in the summer, with the likes of AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund linked with his services before he was persuaded to join Boro, but he attributes much of his recent development to his team-mates, Carrick and the rest of Boro’s coaching team.

“Self-belief always helps, but I think I also must credit the whole backroom staff,” said van den Berg. “They showed so much belief in us and trust in us.

“If you don’t have that feeling from them, then on the pitch, it can be very different. So, I have to thank them for that. If you can have confidence in yourself, it helps, but I think both have been important.”

Van den Berg is currently on international duty with the Netherlands Under-21s preparing for Euros qualifiers against Gibraltar and Sweden.

He impressed at right-back at the weekend, helping Boro beat league leaders Leicester 1-0 thanks to Sam Greenwood’s superb late free-kick.

“We feel well into our stride now,” he said. “Plymouth was very disappointing because know at 3-2 up, to give it away like that was very disappointing. So, we wanted to win the next game, and obviously we did.

“It feels good to get that win, especially because against Stoke (in Boro’s previous home game), we didn’t deserve to win. So, to come back and play like that was just an amazing feeling.”