THERE is something exciting happening at Middlesbrough, now Aitor Karanka just has to make everything tick.
For the first time since, arguably, relegation from the Premier League in 2009, Boro have strength in depth. Karanka’s options are extensive, so he knows if one player suffers an injury he should have the men in reserve to slot in.
Three defeats from seven so far this season hardly suggests Championship winning form, but the bigger picture could well be that since the transfer window closed Middlesbrough have won back-to-back away games.
With the exception of possibly one further addition, Karanka has pretty much got the squad he wanted and the signs are extremely positive going in to a run of league games against Brentford, Charlton and Blackpool: all matches that supporters, and players, would expect to win.
Confidence is high, the additions of Patrick Bamford, Jelle Vossen and Yanic Wildschut before the September 1 deadline has given the rest of the squad a real lift and that has shown in their last two outings.
There has been a change to a more orthodox 4-4-2 system and that has helped make Middlesbrough more dangerous going forward, now they just need to work on capitalising the chances they are creating.
At both Huddersfield and Cardiff, Karanka suffered a nervous finish despite seeing his side dominate for long periods but struggle to turn chances in to goals. Crucially, though, they claimed maximum points from both.
It is the options which the Spaniard has that are most heartening. There is an argument that Middlesbrough’s starting line-up at Cardiff on Tuesday was one of the best, if not the best, in the division.
Whether that assertion is right or wrong, there can certainly be no disguising the quality that Karanka also has at his disposal to slot in.
In South Wales he was able to throw on Bamford, Emilio Nsue and Lee Tomlin, while Wildschut, Dean Whitehead and Ben Gibson, not to mention goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, did not even get on.
Then there are the likes of Jonathan Woodgate, James Husband, Emmanuel Ledesma and Luke Williams who were not even involved and that is before Mustapha Carayol and Rhys Williams are even considered because of long term injuries.
Karanka has stressed the importance to chairman Steve Gibson about having two players for every position since taking over 11 months ago and he has pretty much got that now.
What he does not have at this stage is consistency, but the early signs in September are that progress has been made.
If that progress can continue, Middlesbrough could well finally be capable of maintaining a genuine promotion charge. It’s long overdue.