MICHAEL CARRICK is confident his Middlesbrough players will be stronger as a result of the experiences they have had to come through this season.

While the Teessiders finished the campaign in eighth position in the Championship table, their final standing only tells a small part of the story of a season that had more than its fair share of ups and downs.

Carrick and his players found themselves having to deal with an injury crisis that regularly saw an entire first team consigned to the sidelines, and also had to bounce back from a horrendous start that saw them pick up just two points from their opening seven matches.

The resilience of the squad eventually shone through, as well as the ability of a number of the players who were recruited last summer, with Carrick expecting the challenges of the last 12 months to prove beneficial as thoughts begin to turn to next season.

“We certainly look at the season in a positive light,” said the Boro boss. “We’ve gone through an awful lot - most seasons have a few ups and downs but this one does seem to have been a lot more extreme.

“We’ve had to face a few more challenges. But I think that’s made us better and given us good foundations to build on next season. The lads have gained a lot of experience and had to adapt a lot.


“They’ve faced some tougher periods, but dealt with it all really well. I see it as a big positive. Yeah, we wanted more, and we wanted to be higher up the league. But I’m excited for what’s to come next season.”

With Boro having missed out on a play-off place by just four points, it is easy to forget just how badly things were looking after the first six weeks of the campaign.

The Teessiders were rooted to the foot of the table after they drew with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in mid-September, but Carrick insists he was never worried about his side’s prospects. Indeed, after they were beaten 4-2 at West Brom in their fourth league game, he was telling them he was convinced they would make the top six.

“I’m still adamant at the start of the season we played some good football, but just couldn’t find the results at the time,” said the Boro boss. “It was a lesson learned for all of us, but I think we’ll be better for it.

“The way we’ve finished the season is really positive. It’s easy to get to a certain point and let the season drift away, but the lads showed real character and determination to keep going and keep pushing.”

It is also easy to forget that this season was Carrick’s first full campaign as a head coach. In the previous season, when Boro were finishing in the top six, he was able to ride on the crest of a wave, with pretty much everything falling in his side’s favour.

Things were very different this time around, and on a personal level, the 42-year-old claims to have benefited from having to manage his way through a series of challenging situations.

“I’m definitely always learning,” he said. “It’s kind of a cliche, but there is always something new to learn - even just minor things that you pick up on or sometimes challenges that are a little bigger and how I deal with them.

“I’ve really enjoyed this season. There have been challenges and it’s been different to my first season, but I’ve really enjoyed it, manoeuvring through certain situations we found ourselves in.

“Most of all though, seeing the boys thriving and sticking together and finding a way through when it's not always been easy. To finish the season strongly, I’m really excited and hopeful that it puts us in a strong position moving forward.”