TONY PULIS has admitted he will be looking to cut the Middlesbrough squad next month after losing his first match in charge this afternoon.

Boro lost 1-0 to Aston Villa when Rob Snodgrass’ 75th minute header proved enough to separate the two teams at the Riverside.

It was Pulis’ first official game in charge having taken over on Boxing Day when he watched the victory over Bolton from the stands.

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Now he will head to Preston on New Year’s Day looking to start 2018 with a win and then he will look to offload a number of players after the transfer window has opened.

Pulis has not had much time with the players to work on the sort of shape and approach he would like. He was disappointed with aspects of the display against Aston Villa and has revealed that he could be offloading players next month to help with his selection dilemmas.

Pulis said: “I thought Villa did well, they played with a back four and five in front and never let us get in behind. I wanted to play with two forwards, see what Gestede and Assombalonga were like together with Downing and Braithwaite and the quality they’ve got you’d hope we’d create opportunities.

“I just thought we were very, very slow at times. We needed to move the ball quicker and Adama Traore when he came on livened it up. He carried the ball and he livened the crowd which is important in home games. He was definitely a plus.

"This squad is a bigger squad than the one I left at West Brom, too many in my view some you know and some you don't know. I need to assess the group. Steve (Gibson, the chairman) spent an absolute fortune in the summer and out of respect to him I really have to be prudent with what I do and don’t. Not make rash decisions.

“If it takes a bit of time it takes a bit of time but I want to be fair to Steve because he's spent a lot of money on the squad.

"There's players within the group that I've got to find out about. I've got a chance to watch a lot of games quickly. The squad is definitely too big. I don't like big squads.”

Villa boss Steve Bruce thinks Middlesbrough have appointed a top manager so he was glad to get one over him.

Bruce said: "We've been in management a long, long time and for years we've been competing against each other.

“He's a very good appointment, he knows what to do, how to get teams promoted and he's a good man, too. I'm delighted to beat him, because he was out to beat me but we'll have a glass of red wine now and I'll welcome him to the North-East.

"We knew we'd have to defend our box well and I think we did just that. Our defenders dealt with Middlesbrough's physicality, they must have had seven players who were six feet four so we had to stand up to the challenge. It's a decent end to December, which has been difficult for us.”