Aitor Karanka has got his Peaky Blinders cap, is watching the TV show – but just misses the fans on the street.
Birmingham City boss Karanka has always enjoyed immersing himself in the local area of any club he has worked at to really “understand the philosophy” of the supporters.
Clearly, that has been difficult during the coronavirus pandemic but Karanka is hoping that he can help oversee a major upturn in fortunes at Birmingham this season in time for when the supporters do return.
Karanka was given the cap by lifelong Birmingham fan Steven Knight who created the hit BBC show Peaky Blinders which is set in the Midlands in the first half of the 1900s.
Former Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough boss Karanka said: “I knew that Steven Knight was from here, I knew he was a big Birmingham City supporter and the present arrived on only the second or third day after I arrived.
“I’m watching it now. It’s a nice watch. The accent is a bit difficult! But then the Middlesbrough accent was difficult and, after 18 months away, I need to start again with my English so hopefully I’ll get back to my level again.
“Now with this situation, it’s difficult to go out on the street, difficult to go into restaurants but I like to be with people because you can understand the philosophy, know what they want and what they feel. It’s good to understand their feelings and try to give them what they want.
“In Nottingham, it was just Forest. The same at Middlesbrough. But here you have West Brom, Villa, Birmingham and all the rest so it’s difficult. Sometimes here, people look at you in a good way, sometimes not so good…”
Karanka, 46, is energised from being back in management after leaving Forest in January 2019 and is also itching to get back in even though during lockdown he organised a hugely successful virtual coaches conference and has committed himself to a charity game.
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But Karanka knows a tough task lays in wait at Birmingham as they only stayed on the final day of last season, they sold prize asset Jude Bellingham in the summer and the club’s ownership has gained a reputation for being difficult to work with.
“When I had the meeting with the CEO, I was completely convinced,” said Karanka of Birmingham chief executive Xuandong Ren. “He was open, honest and everything he told me would happen is happening now.
“He has said that he does not want a head coach or a manager. He wants a partner to be working with him and both of us want the same so I hope we can keep going as far as possible.
“You can feel an improvement at the training ground, everybody is happy and everybody can feel things are changing. I’ve said since I arrived that we need to move forward together to achieve something.”
Karanka had no hesitation in taking the Birmingham job and immediately got a goodwill message from his long time friend and fellow manager Jose Mourinho. But Karanka is also urging caution.
“Jose was happy because he told me that I’m one step closer to him in London! We can meet a bit more often,” said Karanka, the ex-Real Madrid defender and three time Champions League winner.
“Three things are important: where we are coming from, where we are and where we want to be. So, when you think that we want to be in the Premier League, be in the play-offs, people should remember that we were only safe on the last day because Charlton lost at Leeds for example.
“The Championship is such a tough, tough league. You have 16 or 18 clubs thinking they can get promoted or reach the play-offs. So I’m calm this year because our aim is just to finish as high as possible without that pressure because we’re not ready yet.
“But you know me a little bit… so if we’re mid-table then I won’t be happy because I want to be as high as possible.”
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