Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock has opened up on his tight-knit relationship with club owner Steve Gibson and believes the latter knows he’s doing the best he can with his current squad at the Riverside Stadium, speaking to the Teesside Gazette.
These comments from the 72-year-old came just before the Daily Mail’s report yesterday evening, stating that he could potentially face the axe if his side fall to a defeat at the hands of promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion today.
Going into this afternoon’s round of Championship matches, the Teesside outfit currently sit in an underwhelming 14th place, a position they wouldn’t have wanted to be in when setting their expectations at the beginning of the campaign.
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However, this current standing doesn’t tell the full story. Just four points currently separate Boro and fifth-place Queens Park Rangers at this stage, with everything to play for at this stage and Warnock’s men climbing into the play-off spots after their 2-0 victory over Cardiff City as late as the latter stages of last month.
But recent losses against Birmingham City and Luton Town have consigned them to their current position and after investing in 12 players during the summer transfer window, the second-tier side’s board look poised to sack the promotion-winning manager with a defeat at The Hawthorns today.
Boro’s boss didn’t hint at friction between him and the manager though in his pre-match press conference ahead of this tie, saying to the Teesside Gazette: “We (him and Gibson) always talk a couple of times a week.
“After every game we have a ten-minute chat the next day. It’s good.
“He’s quite knowledgeable about football. He’s not one of these where as you’re talking to them you think, ‘what the hell do you know?’
“I’ve had a few chairmen like them over my career.
“But Steve is very knowledgeable. He does see the other side of the coin about some of these lads.
“It’s always interesting talking to Steve. And I think he knows I couldn’t do much more than what I am doing at the moment with what’s at the club.
“We’ve just got to persevere and come out of the other side of this, hopefully at the other end of the break, and get these players back. That’s why it’s important to try and get something on Saturday.”
This seems like a very strange situation. Whether Warnock is hiding something remains to be seen – but he and Gibson seem to have a fairly open and transparent relationship so he should be the first person to know if a sacking is potentially coming down the tracks.
On the surface, everything seems calm at the Riverside Stadium at this stage and there’s every reason not to panic considering there are still plenty of games left to go in the 2021/22 campaign. The gap between them and the top six isn’t huge either – and the veteran can be forgiven for his slow start to this term considering the number of players that arrived.
Speaking on recruitment, there seem to be similarities between Warnock at Middlesbrough and Chris Hughton at Nottingham Forest. The recruitment didn’t match the manager at the City Ground in the summer, ultimately leading to the Irishman’s sacking.
And the same could happen on Teesside, although the integration and success of Martin Payero will be a relief after initially struggling to find his feet at the club.
But in the end, is Warnock’s ‘best’ good enough? That’s the question that will ultimately decide his future – and is definitely food for thought for the Boro board.
A sacking just a few months into the season would feel harsh though.