Monk is gone. In the end, the decision was inevitable given the way the season was going, but the timing is questionable to say the least.
Sacking a manager following victory is not that unusual, if the chairman has not been happy with what he’s seen over the course of the season.
According to the Gazette, Monk had apparently been having discussions with Steve Gibson and probably saw this coming. It seems like Gibson’s mind might have been made up a while ago, but if that’s the case why did he wait until after a win to pull the trigger? Why did he wait at all? What was he expecting to see in the Sheffield Wednesday game that would have changed his mind?
And most importantly, why sack a manager the day before Christmas eve with another big game in 2 days’ time? Even if he has a new manager lined up as many believe, it’s not like that new manager will have any time with the squad before Boxing Day. So that leaves Craig Liddle in charge of a match that will be key to gaining momentum in a stalling season. And if any new manager is announced this week, there will be minimal opportunity to have an impact on the team before the crunch games with Aston Villa and Preston. By the time he really gets his feet under the desk, the play-offs could be out of sight.
However, this decision should not come as a surprise. It is the latest in a long line of bizarre decisions and behind the scenes drama at the club in the last couple of years. During this time the club have become one of those basket case clubs like Newcastle, Leeds or West Ham who I used to look at and think “thank God Boro are not like that”. It started with Karanka’s tantrum last March, evidence of behind the scenes tensions that were boiling over.
Nothing was done to address the situation then, and in the summer the poor management continued in the summer with the scattergun signings of substandard European players who had neither the quality or the fight required to survive in the Premier League. Marquee signings Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo were exciting at the time, but in hindsight only created imbalance and rifts in the squad.
Then in January, the drama came to a head again when Gaston Ramirez fought to escape and the club failed with a string of high profile pursuits of attacking players. Ramirez went AWOL for a couple of months, and Karanka publicly criticised the club for failing to land signings. Then Karanka turned on the fans following a 3-1 defeat to West Ham, and that was seemingly the last straw. His sacking in March was understandable, the appointment of Agnew less so. With all the chaos behind the scenes, hardly anybody noticed that Boro had actually been relegated without a win for 6 months.
The summer was a chance to start fresh, but the chaos and confusion continued. Agnew clearly could not continue as manager, but his position was never clarified. Victor Orta and his signings were ushered out as the the club tried to consign the whole period to the history books. Garry Monk came in and the club looked to rebuild, but again there was little method to the madness. They just threw money wherever it would stick, without a clear plan of how the team would fit together.
The squad problems continued – Stewart Downing was frozen out, with Public Enemy No.1 Gaston Ramirez welcomed back into the fold. Meanwhile, the club banned two Gazette journalists which resulted in a surreal stand-off between the two parties. This has created somewhat of a disconnect between the club and the fans, with many using The Gazette as their insight into all things Boro. Like the situation with Agnew, this has hung like a dark cloud over the whole season.
Now, Monk has been sacked the day before Christmas Eve with no immediate plan in place, throwing the season into further madness and chaos. Whoever comes in will presumably use the transfer window to bring in new players who fit his style and ship out those who don’t. Maybe he’ll get frustrated by the lack of signings, maybe he’ll get frustrated at the players not following instructions, maybe there’ll be further divisions in the squad. Whatever happens, make sure you stay tuned for the latest episode of the Boro Soap Opera.