GARRY MONK and Nigel Pearson are set for a head-to-head battle as Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson prepares to step up the club’s search for a new head coach.

Boro will consider the credentials of Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner if the Terriers lose this afternoon’s Championship play-off final with Reading, but whatever happens at Wembley, Gibson is set to hold formal discussions with both Monk and Pearson this week.

The pair remain the strong front-runners in the race to take over at the Riverside, with Gibson and chief executive, Neil Bausor, keen to make progress this week as they look to begin the process of rebuilding for the Championship.

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Monk is the bookmakers’ favourite for the position, although Crystal Palace also remain interested in the 38-year-old, who quit Leeds United last week.

The Northern Echo:

LEFT LEEDS: Garry Monk quit his position at Elland Road last week

Monk resigned from his post at Elland Road on Thursday citing irreconcilable differences with Leeds’ new owner, Andrea Radrizzani. He is aware of interest in his services from Boro, Palace and Sunderland, and is understood to have requested a few days in which to consider his options.

Boro were happy to give Monk that time, but are keen to move things forward in the next few days as they are mindful of competition from elsewhere and want to know where they stand.

Having guided Swansea City to eighth in the Premier League during his time at the Liberty Stadium, Monk enhanced his reputation further last season, even though he failed to take Leeds into the Championship play-offs.

He dealt with the off-field difficulties at Elland Road adeptly, and is regarded within the corridors of power at the Riverside as a bright, progressive coach capable of taking Boro back into the Premier League.

Pearson boasts more managerial experience, and Gibson was close to appointing the former Leicester, Hull and Derby boss when Karanka stood down in March.

He opted against the move at the time, but remains a strong admirer of Pearson’s leadership qualities and management skills. The former Middlesbrough captain returned from a family holiday at the end of last week, and is expected to hold talks with Gibson and Bausor in the next couple of days.

The Northern Echo:

CONTENDER: Nigel Pearson is in the running to be named as Middlesbrough head coach

Those talks will go a long way towards determining whether he is appointed on Teesside, although Monk’s availability will also be a key factor.

It remains to be seen whether either is willing to retain Steve Agnew on their coaching staff, although Gibson is keen to ensure the former assistant remains involved even though he will not be offered the head coach position for next season.

Agnew won one of his 11 matches in charge after stepping up to replace Karanka, and Gibson is known to have admired his performance in difficult circumstances.

It is getting to the stage where Boro need some managerial clarity as clubs are beginning to step up their pursuit of some of the players who suffered relegation with the Teessiders last season.

Victor Valdes has already left because of a clause in his contract, while Calum Chambers and Alvaro Negredo have also departed at the end of their respective loan deals.

Marten de Roon is a player in demand, with Italian side Lazio having joined Everton in expressing an interest in his services.

Everton boss Ronald Koeman is a strong admirer of the Dutch midfielder, but Lazio are ready to offer de Roon a rapid return to Serie A.

The 26-year-old played for Atalanta before joining Boro, and having enjoyed his time in Italy, would be open to the idea of moving to Rome.

Boro shelled out a club-record £12m fee to sign de Roon last summer, and with the midfielder still having three years of his contract to run, the Teessiders will be determined to recoup their outlay if they are to sell him once the transfer window reopens.