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Who does Gibson turn to now?
HAVING dismissed Tony Mowbray five days short of his third anniversary as manager, Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson’s search for his successor is already underway. With supporters voicing their concerns at the club’s long-term future over the past couple of days it is crucial Gibson appoints a man capable of turning the Teessiders’ fortunes around. Sports writer Steph Clark takes a look at the different options available.
THE YOUNG, UPCOMING MANAGER
In some respects, this is an option Gibson has already explored having appointed a rookie in Gareth Southgate back in 2006, but the difference here is that the candidates being mentioned in this bracket have already established themselves as promising managerial talents.
Take Karl Robinson at MK Dons, Phil Parkinson at Bradford City or even Paul Ince, now at Blackpool. You might even include Nigel Clough, too. We’re in an era now where appointing young, upcoming managers is in fashion and it’s easy to see why. Having become the youngest person to acquire a UEFA Pro Licence, Robinson has led MK Dons back up League One and twice to the play-offs where they were beaten on both occasions. Phil Parkinson has done a similar job and has shown the sort of qualities needed to turn a struggling club into promotion challengers. They will also bring a fresh approach in the world of modern day football management and will be used to working to a budget not too dissimilar to that at the Riverside.
Ince’s name is an interesting one having played on Teesside for three years and despite his relatively short time at Blackpool, he has the tangerines in the mix at the top having spent very little.
There are, of course, disadvantages to naming someone young or from the lower leagues, which Gibson will have to take into account, but with every option comes risks and it is down the Boro chairman whether this is a risk worth taking in what will arguably be his most important appointment since Steve McClaren.
THE TRIED AND TESTED MANAGER
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. This is probably Gibson’s safest option. Tony Pulis and Martin O’Neill have both emerged as early favourites for the job and it’s easy to see why. Both have track records of turning struggling teams into promotion contenders, O’Neill at Wycombe and Pulis with Gillingham and Stoke.
Right now, they seem like sensible choices that could both build the club back up to what it was, but one thing to take into account is the modern-day era. Yes, Pulis and O’Neill have both guided teams to promotion, but it came in a completely different era to the one Middlesbrough find themselves in now.
It’s becoming harder to get out of the Championship and players with the quality needed to separate a team from the rest for next-to-nothing are extremely hard to find. Since his departure from Stoke, Pulis has intimated a desire to take over a Stoke-like building job at a Championship club, but he has also been used having millions at his disposal at the Britannia Stadium, something he won’t get on Teesside.
THE OVERSEES MANAGER
Arguably the most interesting option and the only one Gibson is yet to try. Since McClaren’s departure in 2006 he has opted for youth in Southgate, experience in Gordon Strachan and most recently a local hero in Mowbray.
The Northern Echo understands that going down this avenue is a possibility for Gibson as he attempts to shake up the club he saved from liquidation in 1986. Maybe it is time the Boro chairman experimented and went for someone completely left-field in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Slaven Bilic or Rene Meulensteen, but persuading the aforementioned could prove difficult difficult. Solskjaer has guided Molde to two consecutive championships in his first managerial position, while Meulensteen has the experience of working in a successful environment with Manchester United and Bilic has played in England before.
Attendances have continued to dwindle since the club’s relegation from the Premier League and one thing Gibson will take into consideration when choosing his next leader is their ability to draw the stay-away supporters back to the Riverside.
THE FAMILIAR MANAGER
Given the reluctant situation Gibson found himself in when he realised change was needed this week, it would be surprising to see another Boro hero take over at the Riverside. Juninho, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gaizka Mendieta have all been mentioned with the former two having close links to Gibson.
However, Mowbray’s sacking has had an uncomfortable air about it and it would have been difficult to hear a section of Boro’s 2000-strong travelling support calling for the man who stuck by them in the dark days to be sacked. Nobody wanted it to end that way, not Gibson or even the most frustrated of fans and you have to wonder whether the Boro chairman would want to put himself in that position again if things didn’t work out. Then again, he knows more than anyone else that a high level of excitement needs to return to the terraces and appointing another fans’ favourite might just do that.