IT has been over two weeks since it was announced Tony Pulis would leave Middlesbrough, following the expiration of his 18-month contract as manager of the Teesside side. Boro fans are waiting with baited breath to hear who will take over from the Welshman.
Cash has been exchanged and odds altered on betting sites, and all the while interviews have taken place in the North East but it seems that the search has been narrowed down to two candidates.
Ex-Fulham and Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic, and former Real Madrid defender/current Boro coach Jonathan Woodgate.
The Northern Echo reported, in an article about Stewart Downing, that Steve Gibson will have a new manager in place by Friday 7th June.
Some fans have been hoping for Lincoln’s Danny Cowley, Manchester City’s Mikel Arteta or Jong Ajax’s Michael Reiziger. It looks, however, like it will be one of Jokanovic or Woodgate.
If you look to Twitter, you’ll see many people advocating for the appointment of the Serbian manager known for his attacking football, and ability to get sides promoted.
For supporters. this looks great on paper. But, here we will take a look at why Middlesbrough may need more than that.
He provide what Steve Gibson wants
Steve Gibson has outlined the kind of manager he wants for Middlesbrough, going forward.
“It would be great to get some of our very very talented youngsters out on he pitch.
“Some of them are knocking on the door and some of them will be put into the team.”
While Jokanovic has shown a willingness to play young players, such as Ryan Sessegnon at Fulham, Woodgate has an unrivalled knowledge of the young talent coming through at the club.
After a brief time scouting for Liverpool, Woodgate returned to Middlesbrough as the under 18s coach, where he coached players like Dael Fry, Marcus Tavernier and Connor Malley.
These three will be amongst the players that Gibson wants included in his team’s future. Others such as Djed Spence, Sam Stubbs, Hayden Coulson, Stephen Walker and Bilal Brahimi are all players who had some experience of first team football last season, be that on loan or in the Carabao Cup.
If money is to be tight on Teesside, then these players will be crucial to add a different dimension to the team who finished a point outside of the play-offs in 2019.
It’s the better option financially
When Jokanovic got Fulham promoted in 2018, he had two quality attacking midfielder players in Sessegnon and Tom Cairney along side Aleksandar Mitrovic, who would go on to be a £20 million signing for the Cottagers.
Middlesbrough simply don’t have that talent the sqauad currently, so Jokanovic will want to go out and find that in the market.
As Boro fans know, that does not come cheap. Even Pulis suffered from the financial restrictions of the club.
The Daily Mail (quotes via the Gazette) reported that Middlesbrough had a deal for Yannick Bolasie all but sealed, until Aston Villa agreed to pay the winger’s full wage package of £72,000 per week. Boro, on the other hand, could afford only a third of this amount.
If Jokanovic was to come in he would want to change that squad up. This would be the fourth manager in four summer windows that was looking to bring his players into the side. Surely some who arrived under Pulis would be on the way out, too.
Due to his time and experience watching the training sessions for the past year, Woodgate would know the squad, and how to get the best out them.
This would mean Boro could, largely, keep the same squad together and improve it on the fly. Funds from likely sales of Martin Braithwaite, Rudy Gestede and Marvin Johnson would bolster any kitty Woodgate would have, and would save the club from a total rebuild.
If it all goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world
It is a high possibility that Middlesbrough will still be in this league next season. All three sides who lost out in the play-offs will be up there again next year, and the three relegated sides look ready to aim for promotion.
There are two very different outlooks for Middlesbrough if this happens. According to TeamTalk, Jokanovic asked West Brom for £2 million per year to coach their team.
If Middlesbrough were to appoint him at this price, he’d better deliver promoton at the first time of asking.
Gibson, who is reportedly in large debt as the Middlesbrough owner, can’t afford to throw away more money in the window and to a manger who doesn’t bring Premier League football to Teesside.
Woodgate’s salary demands are unkonwn, but it would be expected to be less than £38,500 Jokanovic would be paid.
Should the Woodgate project fail, Boro would not be in financial trouble as a result of the appointment and Gibson, Neil Bausor and the appointment committee could go again with another candidate.
What will Gibson do?
If Woodgate is made Boro boss, I would expect unrest from the fans of Middlesbrough. This potential appointment has been labelled ‘unambitious’ and ‘a job for the boys’ but it may just be what is needed at this time for the club.
Does Gibson think that his club is ready for promotion straight away, or does he feel prepared to play the long game with the appointment?
Only time will tell.
But which do I think would be the most beneficial for the club – looking into the future?
I’ll give you a hint – he is a red, and he hates Geordies…