Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough have parted company with head coach Aitor Karanka after falling into the relegation zone.
Karanka took over at the Riverside Stadium with Boro sat 20th in the Championship, but led them to promotion in his second full season in charge.
Last season’s promotion campaign was not without its hiccups, Karanka was reported to have fallen out with senior players at the club, as well as the board over transfer policy.
It was thought the former Real Madrid defender and assistant would leave the club when he did not take charge of a fixture at Charlton Athletic last March.
And almost exactly a year on from that row, he has gone, with Steve Agnew stepping up from number two to lead the team for the foreseeable future.
Reports of fractures on the training pitch have resurfaced in recent weeks, with Boro having dropped into the bottom three for the first time this season after losing 2-0 at Stoke City on March 4.
— Aitor Karanka (@Karanka) March 16, 2017
A club statement read: “Both parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of the club to make this change.”
Agnew’s first task in temporary charge is to prepare for Sunday’s home match with Manchester United, with Boro three points adrift of safety and without a Premier League win in 2017.
Karanka’s cautious style has caused concern on Teesside, with Boro having scored just twice in eight league games since the turn of the year, but the coach hit back at an “awful atmosphere” at the Riverside, which did little to ease tension at the club.
The Spaniard said in a statement: “I’d like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future.”