After winning 2-0 on Tuesday night, Gareth Southgate was relieved of his duties as manager hours after the game. Despite being quite a popular player for the club, Southgate could never quite get the same level of support in his time as manager; despite a number of hardships being put on him such as the sale of top striker Yakubu. It may come as a slightly surprise that the Boro board decided to sack Southgate moments after a win rather than Saturday where the club, at the time, suffered it’s 3rd straight home defeat at the hands of a Watford side currently struggling for form. It is most likely that Gibson and the Middlesbrough board had only fully committed to a change in leadership on the Monday.
An outsider to the championship may wonder how a manager who’s team sits 4th in the 2nd tier table can be sacked but Steve Gibson’s proclamation Wednesday afternoon certainly suggests that it has been building up for some time; and anyone who follows the club can relate to that. One of the most notable things in Gibson’s decision may well be the constant dip in attendance. Even though the club has been relegated and would expect smaller crowds, Boro’s home form has been woeful and left a lot of fans questioning the point in turning up to
You could feel some sympathy however for Southgate. Steve McLaren was a tough act the follow after all of his success. McLaren’s bid to gain success for the club cost the team, and despite selling a number of key players to balance the books on Southgate’s arrival, the club still suffered heavily from debt. Southgate, even recently in the championship, has been forced to field a number of players who have came through the clubs academy. Despite Boro having one of the strongest youth teams in the country, it was hardly surprising that they were relegated from the Premiership.
It can’t be denied however that Southgate had no resources. He could be accused of putting all his eggs into one basket when signing Alfonso Alves for what is believed to be almost £13 million. Alves turned out to be a poor piece of business, lacking the finishing touch that the likes of Yakubu and Viduka had brought before him and was largely lethargic in his Boro days. Many questioned the price tag before he had even signed. Alves abandoned ship just before the close of the summer 2009 transfer window; his lacklustre attitude may be better suited to the sweltering heat of the Middle East. He could happily retire early with the amount of money I imagine he is making out there.
After the clubs relegation, they opened the Championship campaign with a 0-0 home draw to Sheffield United and were booed off the pitch by the supporters. Many people criticized the fans for this, but it wasn’t just about the result; fans had already lost confidence in Southgate and a 0-0 draw all but justified this. Southgate never appeared to have a charismatic edge as a manager and sometimes seemed too accepting in defeat. Many within the game saw him as a bit of a push over and someone who could easily cave in.
I myself consider Steve Gibson one of the best Chairmen in the country, a patient man who doesn’t hit the panic button at the first time of asking. He is one of a dying breed in world football; an owner who was brought up in the local environment supporting his club. Boro fans will always have a gratitude of debt towards the man, as Gibson is one of the men that saved the club from Liquidation when they almost folded towards the end of the 20th century. His decision to let Southgate go was the correct call and I believe it has come at the right time. Gibson wants the club to bounce straight back the Premiership at the first time of asking, most likely to help the club balance the finances once again. He gave Southgate every possible opportunity, something most managers don’t get. The club is sitting in a great league position and the right appointment can help give the club an initial boost and help the club realise it’s ambition of promotion at the first time of asking.
The only problem is who will take the job? The objective is clearly to get the club promoted this season as another season in the Championship may result in the club needing to make more cut backs. Gordon Strachan’s name has once again been churned out by the bookies as a favourite – an ideal candidate for the club, but is Boro an ideal opportunity for Strachan? If any manager is tasked with getting promotion they are going to want resources to do so and Boro lack a lot of funding. Their young squad lacks experience and any high profile name manager will want to bring in tried and tested players. If it is to be Strachan then Gibson and the board would have to take a massive gamble, put whatever they’ve got left into the club and pray that he can get the job done.
Milan Mandaric has ruled out the fantastic Nigel Pearson, but you can never say never in football. I’m a big fan of Pearson and I’m not surprised that the Leicester chairman is so keen to keep hold of him. Kevin Keegan is the bookies 2nd favourite to take the job (maybe becoming a Toon heretic?) as well as Alan Curbishley being up there. However, these are two managers who would demand they’d be given resources; particularly after their most previous employers relieved them of purchasing duties.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Gibson takes his time with this appointment, as mentioned before he is a man with a lot of patience and likes to be 100% sure before his makes a big decision. Middlesbrough’s situation makes their next managerial appointment a difficult one to call, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being an intriguing appointment. One of the best things about Steve Gibson as a chairman is that he has the right mix of being a fan and an owner, so whoever he and the board decide on is most likely to be someone the fans can put faith in.