Mike Phelan and Tony Pulis represent the clear early frontrunners in the race to fill the vacant Middlesbrough hotseat after Tony Mowbray was relieved of his duties, but the former is perhaps the more likely to get the gig.
A loss to struggling Barnsley was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Mowbray’s time in charge at the Riverside, but in truth, Middlesbrough had been on the decline since halfway through their last campaign.
As the dust settles on Teesside, the club now lie 16th in the Championship after collecting just 12 points from a dozen games, the betting has taken on a decidedly two-horse feel already.
Pulis is by far and away the most experienced manager of the two candidates, having taken charge of six different clubs in the last 20 odd years, compared to former Man Utd player Phelan, who has yet to take sole charge of one.
Nevertheless, there are a few underlying issues which may well prompt Boro chairman Steve Gibson and the Boro board to go with the less experienced man.
Firstly, procuring Pulis’ services is sure to be by far the more costly option for a club that has had to keep a tight grip on the purse strings since a Gordon Strachan-propelled spending spree, before Mowbray succeeded him, while poor gate receipts have remained an issue also.
And secondly, Pulis’ much maligned physical style of play is not likely to sit well with the Boro faithful, who have an expectation to see good football played, ever since the heady days of Juninho et al.
Phelan may not have ‘managed’ a team, but his reputation as a top coach was something that led Sir Alex to make him his number two after Carlos Queiroz’ departure in 2008, and three Premier League titles were bagged before his exit alongside the Scot this summer.
Having been heavily linked with his former club Burnley’s vacant position 12 months ago, this could represent the perfect opportunity for Phelan to take the managerial leap.
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