Middlesbrough part ways with Tony Pulis - what next at the Riverside?

In the frame - Middlesbrough coach Jonathan Woodgate (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)
In the frame - Middlesbrough coach Jonathan Woodgate (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)
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From young, ambitious and unfailingly ‘on message’ managers to old stagers, exotically named continental proteges to local heroes - Middlesbrough have tried the lot.

Each differing variety has had their varying degrees of success in the Riverside Stadium dug-out.

Monk to Mowbray, Strachan to Southgate.

As for the next name in the Boro dug-out after the departure of Tony Pulis, place your bets as the club seeks to find someone with the equivalent of the X-Factor.

Some reports suggest first-team coach Jonathan Woodgate will replace Pulis and what a huge job he would walk into.

The appointment is of critical importance. The chosen one will be assigned with rebranding the club’s collective identity on the pitch, reconnecting with significant sections of their fanbase and putting entertainment back on the menu for many bored supporters.

Middlesbrough have parted company with manager Tony Pulis (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

Middlesbrough have parted company with manager Tony Pulis (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

And be successful as well. Not so easy given a belt-tightening era and the financial parameters of Financial Fair Play and an ageing squad which is top-heavy with under-contract and well-numerated players who will be hard to move on.

Some might venture with justification that this represents a case of ‘right club, wrong time’ for many prospective candidates.

But Boro chairman Steve Gibson, highly respected across the land as one of the best in the business, can be persuasive and has been known to successfully pull the odd rabbit out of the hat.

It was perhaps most spectacularly manifested almost exactly 25 years ago when recently-retired Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson relit the Teesside flame of hope after Lennie Lawrence’s fraught final season of 1993-94, when there was acrimony at the direction of the club in the Ayresome Park stands.

The chosen one will be assigned with rebranding the club’s collective identity on the pitch, reconnecting with significant sections of their fanbase and putting entertainment back on the menu for many bored supporters.

Leon Wobschall

Now Boro fans are once again holding out for another hero to reinvigorate the club. Not easy.

After some golden sunshine brought in from Iberia by Aitor Karanka, clouds have swirled over the Riverside for the best part of three-and-a-half seasons.

This has not been a happy club during that time.

Even during the club’s promotion season of 2015-16, the tension under the surface was all too obvious towards the tail end of a campaign.

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson celebrates winning the Carling Cup back in 2004 (Picture: PA)

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson celebrates winning the Carling Cup back in 2004 (Picture: PA)

Only the sheer force of will of a group of touch-tight players scarred by the Wembley play-off final heartache of the previous campaign - admirably led by a fine captain in Grant Leadbitter - got Boro over the line after ‘Karanka-gate’.

The following Premier League season was meek and unsatisfactory, with dressing-room fissures occurring between homegrown players and a group of Spanish-speaking recruits. Some lamentable recruitment exacerbated the situation.

Then came the ill-fated Garry Monk era and the disastrous summer of 2017 when a small fortune was paid out on a group of players who have, by and large, underwhelmed.

A brief hiatus during the Adama Traore-inspired second-half of 2017-18 provided a false dawn under Pulis and with that stardust lost, Boro were stodgy and largely unconvincing throughout the season just gone. More especially on parched home soil.

Some optimism does pervade in the shape of Academy talents Dael Fry, Marcus Tavernier and Nathan Wood and non-league recruit Lewis Wing, allied to a decent core of senior players who may yet be energised by the ushering in of a fresh footballing approach after the safety-first Pulis era.

But it will represent a big job for his replacement and it will be fascinating to see which way Gibson goes.

Yes, several previous appointments have backfired, but some have been inspired during the lifelong supporters’ eventual 25-year tenure as chairman.

Read Karanka, Robson and Steve McClaren as affirmation of that.

How Boro require their main decision-maker to come good again or a spell in the doldrums could beckon.