IN a rollercoaster season of ups and downs on Teesside, there has been one constant throughout - Michael Carrick's praise for Middlesbrough's supporters.

The head coach has never needed a second invite to thank the fans for their unwavering support through the good times and the bad.

And for Carrick, the ideal way to finish the campaign and sign off for the summer would be to give the Boro faithful a home win against Watford today.

“I think it’s always important to have that connection with supporters," he said.

"When you’re winning games it’s a little bit easier because everyone is happy and smiling. It’s a lot easier for the players to play and the supporters to support in those periods. It kind of looks after itself.

"When you have a run of results when it might not have gone to plan, that’s when ultimately you see what you’re made of. I’ve personally enjoyed that this season - seeing how the boys have reacted and how we’ve come closer together. And the supporters have played a big part in that as well.

"It’s very easy when things aren’t going well to say I’m not good enough, the players are not good enough, but they’ve gone the other way and supported us.

"We wouldn’t be finishing the season like we have if we’d have gone through the season we had and everything was up in the air because of a setback. Hopefully they can see we’re trying to do what we do for the right reasons and that we’re giving it our everything - the players certainly do that.

"The away following - how many miles they’ve travelled and how much money they’ve spent - last week was a good one for us to show them they matter and we were able to share that moment with them. Hopefully we can put in a performance and try and get the right result so that we can share that moment at the end again."

Boro have lost just one of their last 11 games and a win against the Hornets today would secure an eighth place finish. With Boro finishing the campaign so strongly and individuals such as Emmanuel Latte Lath in blistering form, there's already a feel of anticipation ahead of next term.

“I’m really excited about next season," said Carrick.

"Every season is fresh anyway. We’ve got one game to play, so I don’t want to look forward too quickly.

"The boys this season have had a lot of varied experiences. Compared to where we started where experience for a lot of the boys was limited, there is a lot there in the bag now.

"Consistency and continuity in the group is important because the boys understand each other now and there is an unbelievable spirit within the group that will definitely help us drive on next season."


Watford head for the Riverside today having lost just one of their last eight games but only winning two in 12.

Tom Cleverley was named permanent head coach last month - their 12th since 2018 - and Carrick takes great pride in seeing a player who he mentored at Manchester United move into the dugout.

“I’ve been in touch with Clevs and I’m delighted he got the job," he said.

"I know him really well. The last time we won the league at United we played a lot of games together, and him becoming a manager makes me feel old!

"He was doing a lot of my running at that stage, so for him to now be stepping into management...but I’m delighted for him. He’s done really well so far and you can see the good work he’s been doing already.

“You take the opportunity when it comes. Clev is smart and has a real football intelligence. He had a spell coaching in their under-18s and has stepped up now, so I’m hoping he does well.

“It’s similar to how I am now in terms of giving young players an opportunity. Whether that’s debuts, training with us or bits of advice to help them. I was exactly the same as a player.

"When I was at United, it was almost part of the evolution of what you were expected to do as a player as you were getting a little bit older and considered a senior player. Playing alongside players like Clevs, it was natural to just give him bits of advice.

"To see him go on and, first of all have a fantastic playing career and now go into management, of course there’s a lot of pride.

"I don’t want to take credit for much of it, but certainly when you come through at United, senior players will certainly have a big impact. So I take a lot of pride in how players like Clevs have flourished through their careers. It’s great and I’m sure he’ll do really well.

"We know it will be a tough game. They’re looking a bit longer term now with his appointment and they’ll be looking for a strong end to the season exactly the same as us. So it should be a good game. We’ve got one game left this season and we want to play well in it and try to win it."