CAST your mind back to the end of August and an alarming defeat at West Brom in the middle of what was a worrying start to the Championship season.

Boro leaked four goals to the Baggies as their winless started stretched to four games - and they would go another three before their wait for a victory finally came to an end.

But after the 4-2 defeat at the Hawthorns, Michael Carrick confidently told his players in the dressing room that he was backing them for a top six finish.


Had Carrick made that public at the time, it was a claim that would have been dismissed. Boro looked way short of being anything like play-off contenders at that stage. And while they ultimately came up short in their bid to reach the top six, Carrick's confidence was by no means misplaced. He was right, his team would find their feet. Not only did they emerge from their nightmare start but they've also come through some sticky spells that followed.

And those experiences, believes Carrick, will stand Boro in good stead for next season, a campaign the head coach is relishing after his side signed off for the summer with a 3-1 win over Watford and just one defeat in their last 12 games.

The mood at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon certainly felt extremely positive, and that was also the case in the dressing room at full-time - even if there was a sense of regret at what could have been, with Boro eventually finishing just four points shy of the top six.

"The spirit has gone an awful long way to helping us on this run at the end of the season," said Carrick.

"There's a positivity after a win and run a lot of feel-good inside the group. The other side is when you pull away from it how close we've come.

"I told the boys after West Brom away that I wouldn't mind putting a bet on us to get in the play-offs at that stage. I genuinely believed that. We just fell a little bit short in the end, but because of what we came through we can use that as a real positive.

"The feel around the stadium at the end, there was real happiness and a connection between the fans and players and we need to build on that next season."