It’s a good thing Gordon Strachan has a sense of humour. Known for his witty put downs as well as his coaching abilities – it’s been a season that’s given the Scot little to smile about.
Nor have Middlesbrough fans enjoyed this season – one of constant upheaval and transition on and off the field. Next season can’t come soon enough for the Teessiders.
Indeed, eyebrows were raised when Gareth Southgate was relieved of his managerial duties in October by Steve Gibson – a man well known for showing loyalty and support to his managers. Boro were sitting pretty in the playoffs at the time – just a point off the top of the table.
For a man renowned for his patience, it was a ruthless decision. On current form, it hasn’t necessarily proved to be the right one.
Boro now find themselves in 11th position – eight points off the playoffs and lacking any kind of forward momentum. With the teams above them having games in hand, it appears the Teessiders may have to settle for a mid-table finish. Clearly, it hasn’t been the kind of season that Gibson envisaged.
It’s not hard to see where it’s all gone wrong for Middlesbrough this season. Inconsistency has blighted the club’s progress under Gordon Strachan – the club have only recorded back to back wins once during his tenure. Indeed, a return of 25 points from 23 games is a poor one compared to Southgate’s haul of 23 points from the opening 13 matches.
It’s been something of a revolving door at the Riverside too. Turning to his former club Celtic, the 53 year old signed the quintet of Scott McDonald, Willo Flood, Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Stephen McManus in January.
Others have come and gone. Signed by Southgate on loan from Preston with a view to a permanent deal, Sean St Ledger was sensationally sent back to Deepdale, and Mark Yeates and Mohammed Shawky, also Southgate signings, have since departed the club.
Then again, he’s always done things his way. Known for his inimitable style and unique anecdotes, many were surprised when he took the job in the first place. Yet it was the challenge that drew him to the Riverside, not to mention the patience of his chairman – a man who has only sacked two managers in his 15 year spell in charge of the club.
Strachan’s previous experience at this level saw him leave Coventry by mutual consent after an unsuccessful spell in charge. Now, as a better and more experienced manager, the pressure will be on the Scot to deliver promotion next season.
Then again, a return to the Premier League is the requirement for so many clubs in the Championship. For Middlesbrough it’s a task made even harder with Gibson’s tightening of the purse strings at the Riverside. The days of £12million pound signings are over for Boro, and its hard work and endeavour that will see them reach the top-flight again. It’s something not lost on the flame haired Scot, who realises the challenge that lies ahead.
The acid test will come next season for Strachan, with a full pre-season to mould his own team. For the outspoken Scot, it’s time he let his team do the talking.
More from Shaun on his excellent football blog.