Reboot. Rewire. Root and Branch review – all terms that have been used recently to describe what needs to go on this summer at The Riverside.However, Middlesbrough aren’t looking for an IT Technician or some sort of gardener, they’re looking for a new manager.
The only thing that needs to happen over the coming weeks is for Steve Gibson to consider his options carefully and make the right decision for the club. There’s no real need for any big inquests or to pore over what has been an absolute car crash of a season. We know the issues. We, and no doubt Gibson and co will have discussed them at length for what feels like an eternity now, and you suspect that he knows more than anyone just what needs to change.
Given his recent words he doesn’t intend for the club to stick around long in the Championship. Yes, yes, we all remember the now infamous ‘give it a go’ speech and how Boro seemed to do anything but in their awful Premier League campaign, yet rightly or wrongly I believe in what he says. I do think the club will do everything possible to ‘smash the league’ as he so delightfully put it.
The manner of his statement on BBC Tees the other week was pretty bullish, and whilst he’s a confident man, it’s rare to hear Gibson talk with such overwhelming belief at what he feels will happen.
It has no doubt got a lot to do with this season and how frustrating it’s been, not just for him, but for pretty much everyone Boro related. Of course, he shouldn’t be absolved of any blame, he deserves to take his fair share, but he’ll be hurting like the rest of us. To my mind it’ll be that hurt and frustration that’s now driving him to be more determined than ever, more focused on making sure the Championship barely has the chance to get used to us before we’re waving it goodbye once more. Those emotions were reflected in his statement to the fans.
So there’s no longer a need to delve into the past and look at what went wrong during the course of this season, we all know what happened. It’s now gone, consigned to the history books, the sort of books that nobody will ever read again – not unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
The need for change
You suspect the chairman will have drawn up some sort of managerial shortlist, a least you’d hope so anyway. For now all we have as fans is the bookies market and the rumour mill. Whoever he plumps for, there’ll be no doubt in his mind what he wants from that candidate; attractive football that brings the one thing we’ve been shy of for too long – goals.
Gibson has never been one to interfere with the day to day workings of his managers, and while Aitor Karanka’s ultra conservative approach probably didn’t sit too well with him, he’ll have been happy for the time that it was working.
What he will have expected though is Karanka to have adapted his tactics over time to different situations, that we all know didn’t happen. The absence of a ‘Plan B’ was a constant source of anger among fans, Gibson won’t want a repeat of the bore fest that this season has been.
Not saying that the Boro owner will look to meddle in team affairs from now on, but he’ll leave his chosen candidate in no doubt what he wants from a team and what he expects to be delivered.
A budget to tempt
The new manager will have the biggest budget in the Championship, surely something that would attract a lot of interest from those who might not have previously thought of Middlesbrough as their next destination. The assumption is that they will go for someone unattached or somebody who might be seeking a promotion from a lesser role elsewhere. Recent history suggests that, with the last six managerial appointments being those who were either without a club or in supporting roles at others. However, this time might turn out to be different.
The budget Middlesbrough will have just might be enough to tempt someone to jump ship from a rival, or a manager with a pedigree perhaps more in line with a bigger club. We know that they’re a big draw already due to the chairman himself and the facilities/stadium etc the club has.
If you ally that with the money to spend this summer, it could just persuade an otherwise out of reach manager to take the plunge.
Whoever it turns out to be will need to hit the ground running, we don’t want to go the way of Aston Villa and end up falling massively short due to early season woes and managerial upheaval. You’d be surprised to see Gibson dispose of someone in the manner of which Villa’s owner did, however the need for an immediate return to the top flight might just force his hand.
If the bookies are to be believed then the latest favourite seems to be my shout from last week – Slavisa Jokanovic.
Competition for signatures and the need to act fast
Having said that, the markets are an ever changing thing, and quite frankly we shouldn’t be relying on them for an accurate position on where the clubs thinking is at. After all, Aitor Karanka came from nowhere to be appointed in 2013, so there’s a chance that the preferred option might not feature on the list of bosses circulated by many a bookmaker, let alone be one of the favourites.
But you would have to say it’d be surprise to see it be a complete left-field choice (Clarence Seedorf anyone?). The likelihood is that it will be someone from the names we’ve seen bandied about so far, but not necessarily one of the current few who seem to be in the mix.
Nigel Peasrson, Garry Monk, Ryan Giggs and Jokanovic have all assumed the role as favourite thus far, but don’t be surprised to see another name head to the top of the pile anytime soon.
Situations elsewhere have all of a sudden made things that little bit more interesting. Both Sunderland and Crystal Palace have now become manager-less (who saw Big Sam going?). There’s also talk of Marco Silva heading off to Porto which would leave Hull scratching around for yet another boss too.
Whilst Middlesbrough can rightly look at themselves as perhaps the more attractive option, at least in comparison to both Hull and our North-East neighbours, there’s now competition for signatures which may force Gibson into acting fast.
In the event that the other two, plus Palace, end up approaching any of the originally appointed favourites for the Boro job, then that could leave Gibson casting his net wider. He may also have to deal with candidates playing clubs off against each other, looking to get the best deal possible, so to avoid such issues he might decide to move on from the original list and go back to the drawing board.
Whatever happens though, it needs to happen quickly. The new manager will need a good summer to prepare for the new season.
They’ll need to draw up a list of potential transfer targets, assemble their own backroom staff (assuming they don’t wish to work with what we already have). They’ll need the time to get their philosophy imbedded into the players, players who have spent so long learning how to not lose they’ve actually forgotten how to win. That mentality will need shaking.
Don’t be too shocked if an announcement is made within the next week or so. To give themselves the best chance of promotion Boro have got to act quickly, but more importantly they just have to get it right.
After this season’s debacle, not doing so doesn’t bear thinking about.