Grant Leadbitter says that Middlesbrough’s 2-0 Championship play-off loss was a disservice to the Boro coaching staff.
Norwich raced into a 2-0 lead inside the first 15 minutes in Monday’s Championship play-off final at Wembley, with Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond the scorers, against a Boro team whose slow start proved costly.
The result means that the Riverside will play host to Championship football for a seventh successive season in 2015/16.
Former Sunderland midfielder Leadbitter, the Teessiders’ captain, was visibly devastated with the result and manner of the performance, repeating that the loss “hurts”.
But his biggest grievance with the scoreline is that neither he nor his below-par team-mates did justice to their manager, Aitor Karanka, and his staff.
“All the players, on our behalf, have let the staff down,” said Leadbitter, from Fencehouses.
“The manager’s top drawer, the staff are top drawer, and we’ll stay together.
“His (Karanka’s) training, his man-management, his methods, his philosophy is really, really top drawer.”
The former Ipswich player was not prepared to look at the more positive aspects of the season, a campaign that has seen the Riverside outfit take Liverpool to penalties in the League Cup, reach the FA Cup 5th round at the expense of Manchester City and achieve their pre-season aims of reaching the play-offs.
“We didn’t get promoted, so there’s no positives,” added 29-year-old Leadbitter, instead turning his attention to next season’s promotion challenge,
“Next year, we have to come back and regroup and keep the squad together.
“Boro fans have been brilliant all season and they were great (at Wembley).
“Hopefully we’ll do well for them next year and get a few more in the ground.”
Norwich’s blistering start was never undone by Boro, who were warned pre-game that they must not concede early. The Teessiders’ success this season was based on defensive resilience after scoring first.
Leadbitter, who was with Sunderland from 2003-2009, added: “We always knew that the start, the first goal, would be crucial.
“We tried to get ourselves back into the game but we rarely threatened.
“We had a couple of chances.
“Congratulations to Norwich, they were the better side on the day.”