VERY happy but equally realistic. That sums up the mood of Aitor Karanka following the opening day win over Birmingham.

"Every day we can improve, every day we know ourselves better and we need to keep going with the same intensity," said the head coach following Saturday's game.

"I have a good group but this is the first step. But if we believe we're better than we are then we know what will happen."

While Kike caught the eye win an impressive debut, it was the all-round team effort which had Karanka enthusing: "I go home thinking 'we have a team'. For me it's much better to think we have a team.

"Kike played very well, but I would not put one player above the team. The team is the most important thing, because if we get success it will be because we're a team not because of an individual.

"I am very happy. Delighted, because I could feel that my team from the first second to the 93rd minute, from the first player to the last, the day went the way we hoped. This is the first step in a marathon and a very tough race.

You think that you're ready, but you only know when you play. We were very good throughout."

The only blemish was a hamstring injury suffered by Ben Gibson after just 30 seconds.

"That was unfortunate for Ben and we'll have to see how he is, but we have other players to play there." The man who took Gibson's place on Saturday was Kenneth Omeruo, starting his second - and season-long - loan spell at the Riverside.

"Ken is growing every single minute," says Karanka. "He came here seven months ago and didn't play too many games. But now he looked like he has played 10-15 years at this level. I'm very, very happy with him."