Middlesbrough are sitting second in the Championship table, level on points with top place Leeds, and are looking like the main contenders for promotion.
While they could well be in the Premier League next season, that should not mean that manager Tony Pulis’ job is secure.
Owner Steve Gibson has been merciless with his managers in the past, quick to fire them if they aren’t meeting his standards. While Pulis may bring a style to earn promotion back to the Premier League, Gibson may have greater aspirations if his team makes England’s elite again.
Despite earning promotion to the Premier League in 2016, manager Aitor Karanka didn’t last the full season with The Boro, and his successor for the next season in the Championship, Garry Monk, didn’t last either. Neither manager was producing the results to match Gibson’s ambition, and were shown the door.
In the past few seasons, there has been a new wave of thought amongst newly promoted sides, whereby attack is the best form of defence. This has been shown by Wolves and Fulham, who are intent on playing attractive football in their first season back in the Premier League. Likewise, Brighton and Huddersfield had similar approaches last year. The days of defensive, negative football with the hope of eeking out the odd draw or win here or there are gone.
Unfortunately, Pulis’ days as a manager in the Premier League are renowned for that slightly more negative style of football. He never got relegated, but he never enthralled fans and pundits. That may just be a style that Gibson doesn’t want if his side were to return to the top.
However, it is unfair to say that Pulis has adopted that approach this season in the Championship. He has great firepower up front, and he has used it well this season, playing some attractive football at times. But the standard in the Premier League would be so much tougher, that that the Welshman may well revert back to his old ways.
It seems unfortunate that a manager could earn promotion to the Premier League, but fail to retain his job. But it is a question that Gibson will have to ask himself as to what style of football he wants his team to play next season, Premier League or not.
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