WITH Middlesbrough’s one-year stay in the Premier League due to come to an end at Liverpool on Sunday, Steve Gibson is considering his options for the head coach position.

Steve Agnew remains a contender for the post on a long-term basis, but Gibson is also assessing external candidates as he looks to give his club the best possible chance of returning to the top-flight at the first time of asking next season.

Who are the main options? And what are the strengths and weaknesses that Gibson will be weighing up?

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The Northern Echo:

Pros: Boasts a huge amount of top-level experience from his playing days and worked as a coach at Manchester United under Louis van Gaal. Would be attractive to potential signings – loan deals from Old Trafford could be an option – and would ensure Boro maintained a strong media profile in the Championship. Would be willing to work under a new director of football, and is available without the need for any compensation.

Cons: Has never worked as a manager or head coach before, so it is impossible to confidently predict how he would cope. Spent his entire playing and coaching career in the Premier League, so does not have in-depth knowledge of life in the Championship. Was generally regarded as an influential figure within the Old Trafford dressing room, but is still to prove he can lead on his own. Is it too early for him to take on such a big rebuilding job?


The Northern Echo:

Pros: Has gained extensive managerial experience thanks to his time at Leicester, Hull and Derby, and has already confirmed his interest in taking over at the Riverside. Was credited with starting the Leicester revolution that eventually culminated in the Foxes winning the Premier League, and is renowned as a hard task-master, which could be just what is needed to refocus the Boro dressing room. Boasts strong playing links to Teesside as he is a former Boro captain.

Cons: Gibson considered appointing him when Aitor Karanka left in March but decided against it. If he wasn’t convinced then, why should the Boro chairman be thinking any differently now? Left Leicester in controversial circumstances and made a swift exit from Derby after clashes with those above him made his position untenable. Given the need for some stability at Boro, might he be too abrasive a personality?


The Northern Echo:

Pros: Is the continuity candidate, and is clearly well-liked by the current members of the Boro squad. Stepped up when Gibson needed someone to take over after Karanka’s departure, and clearly has the chairman’s respect. Is still regarded as a talented coach, and already has his backroom set-up in place so would keep disruption to a minimum. If financial matters come into play, is also likely to be the cheapest option on the table.

Cons: His record since replacing Karanka has not been impressive, and he does not appear to have the support of a majority of Middlesbrough fans. Change is required after this season’s struggles, but in many quarters, his retention would be regarded as ‘more of the same’. Hasn’t always shown strong leadership in the last two months – why was Gaston Ramirez recalled? – and tends to be uninspiring when he speaks in public.


The Northern Echo:

Pros: Has completely transformed Huddersfield since taking over at the John Smith’s Stadium, and is regarded as an inspirational figure capable of stamping his own identity onto a club. Has proved himself as an astute, progressive coach, and gets his teams playing an attractive, expansive style of football. His recruitment record since moving to England has been impressive, and he would work within Gibson’s preferred executive structure.

Cons: Prising him from Huddersfield will not be easy, and even if he was to leave West Yorkshire, Boro would not be the only club interested in his services. Likes to work with players who suit his own style, so might well demand a complete overhaul of the squad bequeathed by Karanka. Would also demand his own coaching team, so could turn into an expensive option. Yet to prove he can handle the kind of expectation he would face at Boro.


The Northern Echo:

Pros: Has assembled an impressive body of work at Swansea and Leeds, and is regarded as one of the brightest coaching minds in the Football League. Might well be willing to leave Leeds because of the ongoing backroom issues at Elland Road, and has proved during his time in West Yorkshire that he is capable of turning around a struggling club. Tends to adopt an attacking outlook and knows the Championship market inside-out.

Cons: While Monk might be willing to move to the Riverside, Leeds’ powerbrokers are unlikely to make it easy to break his current contract. While he started reasonably brightly at Swansea, things were unravelling badly by the time he left, and for all that Leeds challenged for a play-off place this season, they were ultimately found wanting as he failed to turn around a slump in form. Might he be something of a ‘nearly man’?


The Northern Echo:

Pros: Guided Newcastle to a fifth-place finish during his time at St James’ Park so must have something about him. Has achieved a degree of success at all of his previous jobs, and boasts a great deal of experience at the highest level. Is currently out of work, and has made no secret of his desire to return to management. Tends to provide a spark wherever he goes and would challenge a Boro squad that is in need of some re-energisation.

Cons: Would be a controversial appointment given his Newcastle links, and the majority of his previous managerial jobs have tended to end badly. Left Newcastle in a poor state when he departed, and made things even worse at Crystal Palace, where relegation looked inevitable before Sam Allardyce rode to the rescue. Has been heavily linked with a job at Sheffield Wednesday, so Boro might already have missed the boat.