Aitor Karanka will not allow himself or his players to get carried away as he attempts to manage the demands of a dual bid for promotion and FA Cup glory.
Middlesbrough’s head coach guided his side to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table on Tuesday evening by way of a hard-fought 2-1 win on a pudding of a pitch at Blackpool.
On Sunday, he will send team into battle once again, this time on the billiard table playing surface at the Emirates Stadium with Barclays Premier League aristocrats Arsenal standing between them and a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
However, whatever happens in the red and white corner of North London this weekend, Karanka is adamant that he and his players have achieved nothing yet despite their lofty position and the fourth round shock they pulled off at Manchester City.
Asked if the club’s fans could dare to dream, he said: ‘I am very, very excited. When I go home and I think about how the team was when I came here and how it is now, I am very pleased, very proud.
‘But I have to think about the future because nothing is done and the day that I think everything is done, I am making a very big mistake.
‘I can understand them, but we have to be calm. I hope they enjoy it again in the same way that we have enjoyed the last months.
‘But we have to keep our feet – and when I say our feet, I mean OUR feet – on the ground because we are at the top of the table and we are going to play against Arsenal.
‘But now we are in February and we have a very long way to the end, and we have to work together. They should enjoy this moment and hopefully we can celebrate with them in the same way as we celebrated against Manchester City.
‘But if it doesn’t happen, we have to look forward to the following game and we have three months in front of us to keep working in the same way.’
For a few days at least, the FA Cup will take precedence at the Riverside Stadium as Boro, who were beaten finalists in 1997, attempt to upset the odds once again and repeat their heroics at the Etihad Stadium by dispensing with another Premier League high-flier.
The squad assembled by Karanka is light on top-flight experience, but has among its ranks a man who has played at the top both at home and abroad.
Former England defender Jonathan Woodgate has been a largely silent partner this season as injuries have once again taken their toll on his 35-year-old body.
Woodgate made his first league appearance – and scored – at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday evening a matter of weeks after telling Karanka he was contemplating retirement.
The Spaniard managed to talk the former Leeds, Newcastle and Real Madrid defender out of it, and is delighted to have done so.
He said: ‘He is very, very important for me and I am very, very pleased to see him enjoying this moment because he said two weeks ago he was thinking about retirement.
‘I had a chat with him and I told him that he needed to enjoy his last days as a player because for me, to be a player is the best thing in the world.
‘I convinced him and now he is enjoying the moment. He is very important for the team, he is very important for the club and I am very pleased.’