By Scott Wilson
Sometimes after an argument, it takes a bigger man to back down.
Digging your heels in is all well and good, but if it is going to cause you damage in the long term, it is surely advisable to swallow your pride, let bygones be bygones, and begin the process of repairing the relationship that has been damaged.
In the wake of Tuesday’s transfer deadline, that is the position Aitor Karanka finds himself in as he ponders what to do with out-of-favour winger Albert Adomah. If he is obsessed by winning a personal battle, the Middlesbrough head coach could find himself losing the fight that really matters.
To recap, Adomah has found himself omitted from the last two Boro squads after he clashed with Karanka in the wake of last month’s 1-0 defeat to Bristol City. Adomah thought he should have been playing against his former side, Karanka did not take kindly to being told what to do, and an argument ensued that had looked like ending the midfielder’s Boro career.
Only, with no one coming up with an acceptable offer before the transfer window closed on Tuesday, it didn’t bring Adomah’s time on Teesside to an end. Or at least it doesn’t have to unless Karanka chooses to continue his cold-shoulder treatment right up to the opening of the Football League loan window next Wednesday. At that point, he can begin the process of moving on the 27-year-old again.
It is difficult to second guess Karanka, but if his past actions are anything to go by, it is hard to imagine him offering an olive branch to a player who challenged his authority in front of the rest of the squad in a manner that has subsequently become public knowledge.
The Spaniard puts a lot of stock in his authoritarian attitude, and while it would be wrong to suggest that he rules by fear, he certainly likes his players to know who is in charge. His fondness for chopping and changing his starting side relies on his squad accepting there will be times when they are taken out of the limelight, and he might understandably feel that he will be weakened if he is perceived to be going cap in hand to Adomah and offering him forgiveness.
Are any of those good enough reasons to continue ostracising a player who could play an important role in a possible promotion push though?
Admittedly, we were not in the dressing room a couple of weekends ago so we did not know quite what was said, or how far any personal criticism went. But assuming the argument did not stray too far beyond the limits of what can be regarded as a fairly normal falling out between employees at a football club, surely it does not serve anyone’s interests to continue prolonging it?
The deadline-day arrival of Carlos de Pena has increased Middlesbrough’s midfield options, but Adomah remains one of the most talented attacking players within the squad.
He is the only naturally right-footed winger available to Karanka, and made 43 Championship appearances last season, scoring five goals. With Mustapha Carayol having been loaned to Huddersfield, he is one of the few wingers in the squad boasting genuine pace, and prior to last month’s fall out, he had been a popular figure amongst both his team-mates and the Boro fans.
Is it worth throwing all of that away over an argument? Adomah would have to accept that he cannot demand to be a first-team regular, but provided he is willing to display a degree of contrition, it should not be too difficult to reintegrate him into the squad.
The alternative is to loan him out, in the hope of selling him permanently in either January or next summer. That might shave a few thousand pounds off the wage bill, but assuming that Adomah would only move to one of the bigger clubs in the Championship, it would potentially hand a valuable asset to a team that could find themselves battling against Boro come the final weeks of the season.
While Adomah would be ineligible to face the Teessiders, he would be available to score some potentially crucial goals for a side that might turn out to be one of Boro’s promotion rivals.
That would not make any kind of sense, but to avoid it, Karanka will have to make the first move. Steve Gibson will almost certainly be led by his head coach, so it is up to Karanka to draw a line under last month’s events and pledge to move on.
In the eyes of some, that might weaken his authority. To plenty of others, however, it would be interpreted as an impressive display of maturity and a welcome willingness to put the needs of his club above a desire for personal validation.