Aitor Karanka accused Middlesbrough supporters of having short memories, but they are unlikely to forget his latest outburst in what has often been a strained relationship with the club's followers.
The Spaniard, largely one of the most anodyne head coaches in the Premier League, went against type, going on the front foot to risk reopening old wounds after previous verbal barbs aimed against those with the club close to their hearts, rather bizarrely claiming fans made for an 'awful' atmosphere and disrespected his players, as two goals from a revitalised Andy Carroll helped to condemn his side to a latest defeat.
Karanka was clearly upset by the way the home crowd urged his side to revert to long-ball tactics in their ultimately fruitless attempts to salvage a draw from a highly entertaining contest played out in front of more than 30,000, and he left Riverside regulars in little doubt as to his feelings in the wake of a defeat that leaves the Teesside club four points above the drop zone after one victory in eight games.
"If you look at where we are this season and where we were two or three seasons ago, these players deserve more respect," Karanka said after Carroll inspired the visitors to a fifth win in seven games. "Are fans expecting too much? Yes. When I don't know how many thousands of fans at the end are asking for long balls, you have to play long balls. It's a style we don't know and we don't play well.
"It's a thing we have to fix because while I'm here we're not going to play long ball. They (supporters) have short memories. They're leaving the stadium with five minutes to go when three years ago the club was going to league one. They have small memories. The fans knew this season was going to be tough but they mustn't forget where the club was two thee four five seasons ago."
"I was really upset with the last 10 minutes. We didn't play in the way we have to and in the way we need to, and it was because the atmosphere was awful today. The fans demanded a lot from the players to play in a certain way which we don't know how to play (long ball). Playing that way we didn't create one chance."
Middlesbrough would no doubt have benefited from their belated long ball tactics had they been able to call upon the aerial talents of Carroll, the game's outstanding performer who shaped his side's victory with two first-half goals before being taken off as a precaution 25 minutes from the end to protect a groin strain.
The 28-year-old's towering header from Manuel Lanzini's ninth minute corner was a throwback to a bygone age of centre-forward play, while the former Newcastle forward reacted first to convert the rebound after Victor Valdes saved a shot from Michail Antonio on the stroke of half-time.
In-between, Cristhian Stuani swept home a cross from Calum Chambers to reward some enterprising forward play from the division's lowest scorers, who deserved a share of the spoils and came close to levelling in the second half when Darren Randloph kept out Marten de Roon's header, and when Stuani's close range effort bounced back off the bar.
Substitute Rudy Gestede came close to a stoppage-time leveller when his volley bounced inches wide, before Jonathan Calleri sealed victory at the death when his shot found the net thanks to a hefty deflection off Adam Clayton.
After seeing his side climb into the top half, Slaven Bilic confessed to having some sympathy with Karanka's concerns. "A lot of times it's easier to play away," the West Ham manager said. He added: "I wouldn't say the atmosphere was awful, but if you concede a goal at home, then at any ground you're in trouble."
Karanka professed the visitors a better side with Carroll in their ranks, the England forward more than making up for the absence of Dimitri Payet. Asked for an update on the French forward's proposed move to Marseille, Bilic added: "There's 10 days to go in the window so it's going to finfish in 10 days. Two outcomes are possible, for him to stay or leave us for another club. He's a great player and to say you'd not miss a brilliant player like him would be ridiculous." It is a potential transfer which appears to be moving at a glacial pace, and Bilic added: "We're asking for less than his market value. We're not asking for anything crazy."
Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Valdes; Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Friend; Clayton; Traore, de Roon, Forshaw (Gestede 83), Stuani (Bamford 80); Negredo. Substitutes: Guzan, Fabio, Leadbitter, Downing.
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Byram, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble (Fenandes 54), Obiang; Feghouli (Collins 83), Antonio, Lanzini; Carroll (Calleri 67). Substitutes: Adrian, Fletcher, Oxford, Quina.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
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