Aitor Karanka: Middlesbrough 'deserve' top flight opportunity

By Matt NewsumBBC Sport at the Riverside
Aitor Karanka
Karanka never played at Wembley, but will lead Boro out at the national stadium on 25 May

Middlesbrough "deserve" the chance to play in the Premier League after reaching the Championship play-off final, says head coach Aitor Karanka.

The Teessiders beat Brentford 5-1 on aggregate to book a Wembley day out on 25 May and move within 90 minutes of a return to the top flight.

Boro will meet the winners of the other semi-final between Norwich and Ipswich.

"The first thing is the money, but these players deserve to play in the Premier League," Karanka said.

"It's the biggest step for everybody. We have to prepare for that game and do the best."

Karanka, a Champions League winner as a player with Real Madrid, will accomplish an unfulfilled ambition when he leads Middlesbrough out at the national stadium.

"I have to thank my players because they showed everybody they are an amazing team with amazing spirit," Karanka said.

Mark Warburton
Brentford's defeat was Mark Warburton's last in charge and he is now set to leave the club

"One of the things I have to thank them for is, as a player I have played in a Champions League final but I have never had the opportunity to play at Wembley."

For Brentford boss Mark Warburton, Friday's loss was the last of his spell in charge after owner Matthew Benham decided to replace him at the end of the season.

Having led the club to promotion from League One last season after replacing Uwe Rosler, Warburton has delivered a promotion bid in the second tier but it has not been enough to secure his future with the Bees.

The 52-year old, along with David Weir, will continue to work with the squad until 30 May when Benham will look to appoint a replacement.

"We didn't want to spoil Boro's party but we wanted to thank our fans, they've been tremendous," said Warburton.

"I wanted it to be one more game after this, but that's why we went over to the fans.

"They're lower than a snake's belly in the dressing room and missed a Wembley final. We have a great relationship, I will see them tomorrow and we'll do the right thing by them."

Jonathan Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate is in his second spell at hometown club Middlesbrough

Boro, who will begin the sale of 38,000 tickets for the showpiece on Saturday, gave defender Jonathan Woodgate a late cameo from the bench after a month out of the team.

Woodgate, 35, is uncertain of his Boro future with his contract set to expire this summer, and his warm reception from the hometown faithful was a moment Karanka enjoyed.

"I wanted him to finish the season playing on the pitch," the Spaniard added.

"He's an idol here, the fans love him and he loves the club. Now we have to speak and find out what he wants.

"He's captain, a legend here and he brings experience to the team."

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