Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Gibson backs Southgate

Gareth's the man for Gibbo

Steve Gibson today gave Gareth Southgate his firm backing. The Boro chairman accepted the team's form was a cause for concern but said he had no plans to sack the manager in a statement published on the club's official website.

With relegation a bigger threat than it has been at any time since 1997, questions over Southgate's future have inevitably arisen. Gibson's levels of patience with his managers is well known and it seems unlikely the chairman will be doing anything to change that image any time soon. Hopes/fears Southgate would retain the job next season even in the Championship can only be heightened by Gibson's words.

While acknowledging the growing unrest amongst fans, Gibson stated "the magic wand in our situation isn't sacking Gareth Southgate...if I was to sack Gareth now, how would it help the situation?". Gibson does have a partial point - having stuck with Southgate through the bulk of a tough campaign, there would be little to gain from bringing in a new man with little time to work with the team and no scope to recruit new players. Even if Southgate were to go, the choice would be limited. It would be virtually impossible to attract a manger already in employment. Even those without a job may baulk at a taking over a team staring relegation in the face.

Whether Gareth is the man to lead us through a challenging future is harder to argue. Southgate has been under strain in recent weeks with the growing crisis having visible effects. With Stewart Downing almost certain to leave in the summer, and others likely to follow, whatever division Boro are in next season promises to be another difficult campaign.

If the great escape is pulled off, the manager will have to remodel a squad which has struggled for months into one capable of winning Premier League matches with minimal resources. Turnover will be even higher in the event of relegation, with vital importance attached to building a new squad to tackle a gruelling 46 game campaign. Unlike last time, there will not be £5m to blow on a talisman like Paul Merson. The final eight games of this season will not be the end of these challenging times.

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