Woodgate in line for Middlesbrough job after Pulis exit

Club missed out on Championship playoffs by a point earlier this month

Tony Pulis has left Middlesbrough after the Championship club announced his contract would not be extended. Photo: Ian Hodgson/PA Wire

Tony Pulis has left Middlesbrough after the Championship club announced his contract would not be extended. Photo: Ian Hodgson/PA Wire

 

Jonathan Woodgate is in strong contention to become Middlesbrough’s manager after Tony Pulis’s departure following 18 months in charge at the Riverside.

Middlesbrough’s announcement that Pulis’s contract would not be renewed came as no surprise in the wake of the team’s narrow failure to qualify for the Championship play-offs.

The former Stoke and West Brom manager’s exit, confirmed by the club on Friday, proved highly amicable and was finalised over a dinner with Steve Gibson, Boro’s owner, in London on Wednesday.

Given the context that he had sold almost £50m worth of key players in Adama Traoré, Patrick Bamford and Ben Gibson in order to comply with financial fair play regulations, Pulis could argue that Boro’s seventh place finish – one point behind Derby, who face Aston Villa in the final – was hardly disastrous. Indeed Gibson has made a point of thanking the outgoing manager for leaving Boro in a “strong and stable” state.

Yet the 61-year-old’s uber-pragmatic style of strictly no-frills football had alienated Boro fans who were desperate to see the back of a manager widely regarded as a dated tactician. As the months passed the atmosphere at home games became increasingly toxic with fans frequently labelling the manager “Jurassic”.

Pulis succeeded Garry Monk in late December 2017 and led Boro to last season’s play-offs, where they lost to Villa in the semi-finals, forcing Gibson to initiate some drastic cost-cutting. “I’d like to thank Tony for his hard work and commitment over the past 18 months,” said Boro’s owner on Friday. “He has been a joy to work with and a complete gentleman.

“Two years ago we invested heavily in the squad in terms of transfer fees and salaries in an attempt to regain our Premier League status. This happened before Tony’s arrival. Over the past 18 months Tony has been proactive, not only in the ambition to win football matches and promotion to the Premier League, but also in addressing our financial position in order to comply and respect the Championship fair play criteria.

“He has ensured that the club is stable and strong for the future. He leaves us in excellent condition.”

Middlesbrough do not expect to make an imminent announcement about a replacement but Woodgate, first-team coach at the Riverside, is under serious consideration.

The 39-year-old Teesside-born former England central defender would be a popular choice with fans but Gibson is expected to consider alternative options including Chris Hughton, recently sacked by Brighton. Although former Boro manager Aitor Karanka is believed to be keen on a return to the Riverside such a comeback seems unlikely. – Guardian

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