Boro Set For Bootroom Buzz?

IS STEVE Gibson planning to add an Anfield style ‘bootroom’ to Hurworth? Is it the main man’s grand vision to lay down the foundations of a coaching culture that can foster a golden age of sustained success? Are we to cultivate our own leaders and managers as well as our own players? Certainly that appears to be the picture emerging from the smoke that surrounds Boro’s dug-out dynamo recruitment drive.
There has been no public comment on the managerial position from the club at all but while that might fuel the rumour mill and send the jumpier element of the crowd into a Pete From Big Brother style bout of emotional Tourettes, the pieces that have come to light make the outlines of an interesting picture.
It seems that Gibson is being very specific about the criteria his prospective manager must meet and is setting down strict structural parameters that many established bosses may find it hard to work within. That is a high risk strategy – but the potential rewards if the gamble comes off could transform the club.


The chairman is quite clear about what he wants. He will not be seduced by big names or a CV that shows fleeting success built on shaky foundations. Outlining the job description he told the Gazette:
“He will have to fit into the culture of this football club, our integrity, the way we deal with agents, our Academy, our fitness regimes. The Academy will not be touched. We want to progress on Middlesbrough Football Club’s terms. We want our philosophy and our methods to be followed.
“Our infrastructure is as good as it gets. Look at the kids coming through and the challenge for a new manager to make them better. It’s a great opportunity. We have got to pull a manager out of the top drawer. We have got to get it right and make it a seamless transition.
“The club is in a fantastic position, we have a wonderful infrastructure, we have a fantastic academy and we have some wonderful young players coming through that we have to treat very delicately and make sure we get the best out of them. We can’t rush them. They must be given time to develop. We have so many good things going for us and that will help us move forward again.”
He also put a great emphasis on continuity and the need to keep individuals with knowledge and passion and who shared the vision within the set-up. There would be no throwing the baby out with the bathwater, no boom and bust cycle of new managerial set-ups purging the staff and starting afresh. Specifically Gareth Southgate and Colin Cooper were noted as having a future contribution to make while the Steves Round and Harrison were also marked down as assets to be retained.
It is a laudable aim but many – most – managers would not accept that. Most have their own chosen staff who they have worked with succesfully for years. Often the team comes as a package. Martin O’Neill for instance would insist on bringing Steve Walshaw and John Robertson, the coaches he has worked with since Leicester and who share his philosophy and can make concrete his tactical and technical demands. That was one of the sticking points in the talks. Boro knew that but must have thought there was a way to resolve the problem or the mooted move wouldn’t have got off the ground.
The attraction of first refusee Venables was presumably that he was willing to work on a medium term contract and brought no baggage – not in the form of preferred staff anyway – and was considered willing and able to slot into the existing coaching structure. He was considered ideal to provide interim leadership and tactical nouse while not wanting to rip apart the fledgling hot-house.
But it will be hard to sell that package to would-be bosses. ‘Top drawer’ managers achieved their success through implementing their own vision and using their own staff. They are used to having total control of every aspect of the football side. Many get results by taking short-cuts, changing tack suddenly to suit their needs and using the chequebook and would not take kindly to having their hands tied by a corporate structure or anything so whimsical and principled as a vision.
Nor would many accept a ‘future manager’ lurking in the background, a Shearer like figure marking time and looking more like a successor with every defeat. It takes a special kind of steel and self confidence to tolerate, to encourage and to develop a would-be usurper in such a cut-throar and results led industry as football.
But there will be such people about. Men who will see the potential, buy into the vision and accept the challenge of making it a reality. Boro is a club structured for success. The facilities are in place and the support of the chairman – financially and politically – are unquestioned. The stage is set for a hero, a leader and a legend. The problem is finding the right man, and quickly.
Boro fans who know their own history will be aware that Boro once before came tantalisingly close to snapping up a man who could create such a dynasty. In the late 50s they interviewed a passionate young coach bursting with ideas and enthusiasm and convinced that Boro could be great but turned him down in favour of a big name, David Jack. The rejected coach, a young Scot called Bill Shankley joined second division rivals Liverpool and carved out an empire while Boro flounderd around in obscurity for almost two decades.
Getting the right man now is possibly the biggest decision Steve Gibson has yet had to take. Get it right and we can build on the legacy of Europe and push onto to really make a mark. Get it wrong and Boro could easily slip back among the makeweights for a generation and the Riverside Revolution will be dead.
It rests on getting the right man, a manager who can sympathetically build on the foundations being laid. For my money O’Neill remains THE man for the job. He has the motivational qualities, the tactical nouse and the winning mentality to push Boro on to the next level. I believe he could be the alchemist to turn base metal into gold. He could be our Brian Clough or Bill Shankley figure that transforms a club brimming with potential into a powerhouse. I hope that the possibility is not completely dead.
If not O’Neill then Sam Allardyce, although not the most popular among Teesside fans, strikes me as the next best British candidate. He is a keen advocate of the appliance of science and has shown a willingnes to utilise his own academy and praise Boro’s. The England applicant is a strong personality and a shrewd tactician and has taken Bolton to three successive top eight finishes and hints at more. Beyond that Gibson must relax his stipulation that the boss shoud be English and look further afield. At Louis Van Gaal and Ottmar Hitzfeld for instance.

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6 thoughts on “Boro Set For Bootroom Buzz?

  1. Vic,
    Reading your peice and all of the other hype from every source imaginable regarding our new manager elect, whoever it might be, draws parallels from my own profession as a senior engineer working on many projects over the last 30 years or so.
    Employers and clients often over emphasise the “job description” when they are in a recruitment drive, and this leads to some prospective candidates either not applying at all or some feeling as though they fall short of the mark, a sort of filter to ensure the dross don’t get through.
    In most cases it is either a candidate who is known by exisiting employees, with a good reputation, who has the nearest qualification and experience that get’s appointed. I have never yet seen any job candidates who statisfies every condition of employment.
    This is where I believe Steve Gibson shows a lack of experience. He has a high regard for an existing organisation, he doesn’t want to rock the boat or risk wholesale change, but he is only seeing things from within based on what his minions are telling him.
    A new broom inevitably wants to sweep clean and therefore whoever he appoints as manager must be allowed to stamp his own brand on the product.
    Gibson cannot be so insular as to expect prospective experienced professionals who have confidence in their own ability to be suffocated by an overly strict regime that offers no freedom to improve what is already in place.
    The evidence is there that he has painted himself into a corner with possibly no way out other tha a massive climb down, or sticking with what he knows and trusts best and promoting from within. I do not think he will change his tack, we wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for his single minded, hard nosed application to the job.
    But if Gibson wants to see this club progress, and I believe he does, he has to look outside the box a little instead of sticking with his dogged self induced, self styled principals for a “home grown” talent that none of his potential candidates can live up to.

  2. Vic and Neil
    Amen to all of that – particularly the van Gaal or Hitzfeld bit.
    I think the circle could be squared, particularly with the money reportedly on offer and particularly with va Gaal, by negotiating a 2 year deal. The managerial culture van Gaal is used to doesn’t expect or demand long contracts – he’s managed in Spain for goodness sake. He’s used to results now or you’re out.
    He could give us very high calibre input for 2 years whilst the in-house dynasty of Gate and Coops get up to speed, get qualified and ready to take the reins. Make helping that part of van Gaal’s job description.

  3. The problem with overseas coaches is their perception of us and their own expectations.
    People like Hitzfeld and Van Gaal have their own agendas and with the world cup arriving shortly may want to keep their powder dry and wait to see what arises come early July.
    The one drawback may be lack of european action, they are certainly used to shorter contracts abroad but also want to be visible across europe. We think we have the strongestleague and that the whole of europe sits up to watch MOTD. Last season we had loads of exposure, in the coming season it is likely to be Charltonesque.
    It is a very tricky situation and all we can do is leave Gibson and Lamb to work it out.

  4. Ian
    We are having to leave Gibbo and Lamb to sort it and I trust Gibbo to do the right thing – but we can try to shape his thoughts though.
    I take what you say about the other downsides for van Gaal and Hitzfeld but Gibbo and £2m per annum can be quite persuasive!
    Take what you say about the Prem but so far as top dog league it’s between us and La Liga with them having this year’s bragging rights – it’s certainly not the Bundesliga or Eredividse and I don’t see either of them heading for Spain.
    A lot of the big Euro national sides (I don’t take either of them to be for Africa, Asia or S. America) have relatively newly appointed or re-appointed managers so there may not be too active a merry go round after the World Cup
    Didn’t quite finish my last posting – premature e-mailulation; a common problem in men of my age – Gibbo could present Gate and Coops apprenticed to van Gaal or Hitzfeld (which is clearly what he was doing with El Tel) as not English dynasty paradise lost but paradise deferred.

  5. John
    I am long past premature e-mailulation but take on board your other points. The main problem for us is that we dont know what is going on so we have to speculate.
    In the case of Hitzfeld, he has been touted for Manu so a spell at Boro cutting his teeth on prem football wouldnt come amiss.
    Van Gaal does have a history in Holland for player development so would be suited.
    We will just have to wait.

  6. Ian, John, I think we are all basically saying the same thing: trust Gibbo (not so sure about Lamby). How can we not?
    But I do believe he is suspicious of foreign coaches, possibly borne from his no doubt intimate knowledge surrounding Sven’s antics.
    I would like to see someone of Van Gaal’s undoubted knowledge help to bring on the likes of Southgate, Coops maybe Mowbrey too, to set up an English based Boro dynasty within the club that will rival anything else that exists in the PL at the moment.
    And I don’t think that’s too far short of Gibbo’s vision, it’s just who he gets to fill the hot seat now that his first two choices have given him the thumbs down.

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