11:50pm Monday 21st October 2013
By Paul Fraser
STEVE GIBSON is considering domestic and overseas options to become the next manager of Middlesbrough after Tony Mowbray’s three-year reign at the Riverside Stadium came to an end last night.
After putting his players through their paces for one last time at the club’s Rockliffe Park training base yesterday morning, Mowbray was sacked in a relatively short afternoon meeting with Gibson.
It has left the playing squad in a state of shock and sadness, but the chairman felt he was left with little choice but to seek a change after seeing just five wins in the Championship since the turn of the year.
Mowbray’s assistant manager Mark Venus will be in temporary charge and will definitely be controlling first team affairs for this Friday’s televised home fixture with Doncaster Rovers.
A club statement read: “The club would like to place on record their sincere thanks to Tony Mowbray for all of his substantial efforts, dedication and integrity. He leaves with the very best wishes of all at the club.”
Venus has been installed as one of the early-front runners for the job on a full-time basis, although it is understood that the boardroom are drawing up a list of contenders for the job.
The likes of Nigel Clough and Stuart Pearce are under consideration, while foreign names such as Roberto Di Matteo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Slaven Bilic are also being mentioned.
But sources close to the club insist there is nothing imminent and that interesting applicants have been cropping up ever since the news broke of Mowbray’s departure.
Former Stoke boss Tony Pulis, ex-Sunderland managers Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, as well as Gary Megson and Paul Ince’s names have also been floated.
Intriguingly former Middlesbrough players Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho are another two after Gibson had strengthened links with the pair in recent months.
But the Middlesbrough chief is determined to explore all avenues in the hope of landing the man capable of finally returning his beloved club back to the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2009.
Despite a dreadful slump in the second half of last season when promotion hopes disappeared, Gibson was keen to stick by Mowbray throughout the summer.
And while Mowbray slashed the club’s wage bill, he was still allowed to bring in more of his own new signings in the hope of fielding a team capable of playing in his preferred style.
Despite improvements in front of goal and in possession, results have still not been of the standard demanded by fans and Gibson. Just two wins from an opening 12 league games was more relegation than promotion form.
Gibson’s decision has rocked a dressing room still very much behind Mowbray and Venus must try to galvanise deflated spirits ahead of the visit of Doncaster.
His future has been under greater scrutiny in recent weeks and the 4-1 win over Yeovil Town before the international break earned him a reprieve.
But falling three goals behind to bottom club Barnsley on Saturday – despite two late goals from Albert Adomah – led to sections of the 2,000-strong away following at Oakwell turning on their local hero.
There was further deliberation over the weekend and Gibson acted yesterday after Mowbray had suffered the 55th defeat of his 153-match tenure. He won 61 of those games.
Having been allowed to take training yesterday morning, Mowbray was going about his business as usual at Rockliffe Park preparing for the visit of Doncaster.
But at a time of the day when it seemed he would get one more game to deliver a third win of the season, he was called in to the meeting with Gibson and his time in charge came to an end.
Gibson, who still claims Middlesbrough have one of the largest wage bills in the Championship, was unhappy to see his club sitting ten points adrift of the play-offs after collecting just two wins and 12 points from the opening 12 league games of the season.
While last season’s results mean nothing now, a statistic of just five wins from 33 games in 2013 is a statistic Mowbray has been repeatedly hit with.
Friday’s match has been dubbed the ‘Spirit of Teesside’ by the club and there are a variety of ticket offers available for fans in the hope a crowd of more than 20,000 turn up for the first time this season – even without Mowbray.
Almost a year ago Middlesbrough tried a similar ticketing offer and more than 28,000 supporters watched them beat Sheffield Wednesday to climb to the top of the Championship.
Such a lofty position has seemed a million miles away this season and Mowbray has seen his team concede 22 goals in the ten matches since winning 1-0 at Charlton on August 10.
He has had to tinker with his back four more than he would have liked this season, with Ben Gibson and the fit-again Seb Hines the latest central defensive pairing to be used in the Championship.
Jonathan Woodgate, who had to miss his third game in a row on Saturday, and Rhys Williams could be fit for Friday but it will be Venus rather than Mowbray calling the shots.
* A Middlesbrough Under-21s squad lost 3-1 at Norwich City yesterday. After Luke Williams opened the scoring, the Canaries went on to win with a Cameron McGeehan goal sandwiched in between a double from Josh Murphy.
Middlesbrough: Coddington, Bennett, Burn, Jackson, Meling, B Halliday, Jones, Park, Fewster, Kitching, Williams. Subs: Fryer, Okosieme, Waters, Rhoden, Kneeshaw.
NEXT MIDDLESBROUGH MANAGER ODDS
Tony Pulis 7/4
Mark Venus 11/2
Martin O’Neill 6/1
Nigel Clough 10/1
Roberto Di Matteo 16/1
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 16/1
Stuart Pearce 16/1
Alex McLeish 20/1
Gary Megson 25/1
Terry Butcher 28/1
Paul Ince 40/1
Graeme Souness 33/1
Fabrizio Ravanelli 33/1
Slaven Bilic 33/1
* Selected contenders
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