Appointing Jonathan Woodgate would be a big gamble for Middlesbrough but fans must back their former defender
When Jonathan Woodgate was immediately inserted as the clear favourite for the Middlesbrough manager’s job, the news was initially met with a large degree of scepticism.
Yet talk of appointing a managerial rookie didn’t exactly renew much optimism either, despite Woodgate's familiarity at the club.
Perhaps that was unfair on the former centre-back, who joined Boro's coaching set-up in 2017 and was part of Tony Pulis’ backroom staff last campaign.
That’s possibly why many fans were quick to question the Woodgate reports. Could someone who was part of the previous regime really reprogram a conservative squad to play a more engaging, and ultimately winning, brand of football?
Former West Brom boss and Pulis’ former assistant Darren Moore showed it is possible, after initiating the Baggies' promotion charge with an attacking style last term. Ultimately, though, fairly or unfairly, Moore was sacked in March with West Brom sitting fourth in the table.
In a similar position, Woodgate would probably get more time under the watchful eye of Boro chairman Steve Gibson - though Garry Monk’s short tenure shows there are no certainties in football.
Slavisa Jokanovic, the man who won promotion from the Championship with Fulham and Watford, certainly raised the excitement levels when it was revealed Boro had spoken to the Serb.
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Yet Jokanovic's odds have drifted significantly in the last few days, amid reports he would cost too much. That is a slightly concerning considering the 50-year-old is out of work.
But following Gibson’s complaints regarding other clubs and the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules, it would go against the chairman’s morals to launch another summer spending spree like in 2017.
On the financial front, Woodgate represents less of a gamble. It would be unfair to label him the cheap option, given his rapport with the squad, positive coaching reports and knowledge of the club, yet it’s obvious an internal appointment would be far more efficient.
That won’t be the only factor Gibson will consider though, and the Boro chief has a reputation for giving young managers, like Steve McClaren and Aitor Karanka, their first chance in the dugout.
Yet, following Premier League relegation in 2017 and with an expensively-assembled squad at their disposal, there will still be huge pressure on the new manager to challenge for promotion. For that reason Woodgate represents a big gamble, but must get the fans' backing if he's to succeed in the dugout.