STEVE Gibson kept it short and sweet on Radio Tees as he drew a line under the ill-fated Strachanovite Revolution with a public declaration: “We got it wrong.”
The chairman was on air barely 20 minutes (you can listen again here) but in that time he ticked a lot of boxes. He was humble. And contrite. And dignified. A lot an angry and frustrated fans may have wanted some blood-letting and recrimination but most just wanted some honesty and a coherent explanation – and the prospect of change.
Briefly, Gibson said Strachan had offered his resignation in a frank meeting today and that further, he ripped up his contract and did not seek compensation.
Gibson was gracious to his departing boss saying: “It is a sad day. Gordon is a man of great integrity. He has torn up his contract and walked away without compensation because he felt it was in the best interests of this football club.
“There are very few managers who have ever done that but that is the mark of the man. It would surprise you with some manager but not with Gordon.
“He has given it everything. He has worked hard. He has had a lot of sleepless nights. He feels he has given it everything he has got here but it hasn’t worked out and he has taken full responsibility for that. He kept saying he had let the fans down, that he had let me personally down and Keith Lamb down. I think he was quite tortured at the end.
“He knew that first team results weren’t anything like as good as we had hoped they would be and he agreed that the change had to be made. The obvious change to make was to change the manager. Gordon made that decision. He offered his resignation and I accepted it because right now it is the best thing for the football club. I’m grateful that he made that easy for me. He went himself. He was not pushed.”
The chairman revealed he had spoken to some senior players about his decision, naming local lads Matthew Bates and David Wheater and also, crucially, Strachan’s hand-picked signings Barry Robson and Stephen McManus.
“The response from them was fantastic, very professional,” he said. “They know the difficulties we have had and they know we needed change and they had told me they are determined to knuckle down and get us out of this situation.”
Steve Agnew and mark Proctor will take charge of the trip to Forest tomorrow while Boro start work on recruiting a new boss. Gibson declined to comment on possible candidates – and said his phone has been red hot with agents touting their own men – and stressed that the key thing was to make sure the next appointment is right.
“We are now working on a shortlist of potential candidates as Gordon’s successor,” he said. “Obviously a lot of names have been bandied around but there is no preferred name. We start with a blank sheet and we won’t be rushing. It is crucial we put the right man in charge so I will not rush into a decision.”
An important moment came when the chairman admitted the appointment had been a mistake. “We got it wrong,” he said. “We thought Gordon had the right approach, we thought we had brought in the right sort of players, we thought we had put the thing sin place for a good crack at promotion but it hasn’t come off for us.
“In the close season we were about seventh or eighth biggest spenders in the country. We were the biggest spenders in the Championship and we spent more than a lot of Premier League clubs too. I expected, like many supporters, that we would be up there and challenging for promotion.
“That hasn’t been the case. There is no one reason for that, there are a lot of reasons but we had to make a change. And that change has to be sustainable.”
Gibson went on to acknowledge the supporters’ frustrations that led to wide spread chanting for Strachan’s head in the Leeds game and admitted that club had been on the slide for several seasons.
“It has been bloody awful for two and a half, three years,” he said. “I understand why supporters feel the way they do. Your enthusiasm gets battered of course it does, mine just like supporters. We’ve lost half of our supporters in two years and there is a lot of frustration out there and I share that.
“It is frustrating to watch the team dominate games and get nothing from them. It is even more frustrating and annoying to see the team fail to compete against and be beaten by teams who frankly we all probably think are inferior.”
And he finished with a rallying cry to the supporters and an appeal for the club to show some old fashioned qualities to get out of the current rut.
“We need the fans. Without them there is no point. This town is nothing unless it is united around the football club.
“And yes, we have made mistakes but we need the fans to be a bit forgiving of us. We got it wrong. But we need to be in this together to put it right. The fans have been very patient with us. We need them to stick with us, stay behind us and keep showing the faith and together we can get out of this.
“This season is not over yet. We are well adrift of the top two but not of the top six. There are a lot of points to play for and there is no reason we can’t still be challenging.”