The inevitable has happened and, thankfully, Tony Pulis has departed. There was a substantial degree of inevitability in the decision because he had alienated most of the crowd and the discomfort that would have been felt in facing the new season with him still at the helm would have reverberated right across Teesside. The unfortunate truth is that a manager who sets his stall out every week to avoid defeat will also find regular victories hard to come by and it’s been fairly obvious since his astonishing announcement that his team was not good enough for a top two place that that was his only ambition.
But that’s now in the past and at the time of writing we are waiting for any snippet of news to emerge from the Riverside about the direction the club will take. The same old names have been bandied about by the press but the worst thing that Steve Gibson could possibly do would be to choose any of the managers who have already tried and are now out of work because they have failed – in many cases more than once! In the past his biggest successes have involved new, exciting names who have had considerable recent experience of modern football but who haven’t picked up the bad habits that accompany ‘experienced’ managers. And it’s a little ironic that while the main exponents of that concept Bryan Robson, Steve McLaren and Aitor Karanka were big successes for us they quickly joined the ranks of the unsuccessful once they left Middlesbrough.
Two of the names that fall into the new, exciting and untried category are Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Reiziger – both ex ‘Boro players who fit the bill as far as qualifications are concerned but more importantly they already know the club well and will be aware of what is required to create a good relationship with the crowd. That is surely an important aspect of any decision that is to be made. In my opinion Woodgate remains – despite considerable competition – the best ‘Boro centre half I’ve had the pleasure to watch at the Riverside and a man whose career would have been positively sensational but for the injuries he sustained. His ability, however, could never be doubted and his presence on the field and his complete control when with the ball showed he has a wonderfully natural football brain.
Reiziger on the other hand has been an integral part of the re-emergence of Ajax’s international success and the brilliant attacking football they produced in this year’s European Champions League so once again there is potential there.
As I’ve said before, though, it’s now down to Steve Gibson and let’s hope in the next couple of weeks he makes a decision that will please everybody. There is obviously a financial restraint on whoever takes over but as Tony Pulis mentioned on every possible occasion we are in a much better financial situation now than we have been more recently and with a further number of high earners set to depart we may even get to see the true potential that the academy is still producing. Neither Norwich nor Sheffield United spent anywhere near as much as we did over the last couple of seasons which is once again proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to create a promotion winning team. Astute recruitment and clever management are much more important.
We can only wait and see what happens next but we really do have to continue to trust Steve Gibson to get it right. Here’s hoping!