Gibson gambles again
Graeme Bailey assesses Steve Gibson's latest attempt at getting Middlesbrough back to the Premier League with the appointment of his first foreign manager in Aitor Karanka.
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @graemebailey
Last Updated: 13/11/13 5:30pm
With the appointment of Aitor Karanka as new Middlesbrough manager, many an eyebrow has been raised around the country as if nothing else it is something of a gamble, but hats off to Steve Gibson, the Boro chairman.
This is the man who has guided an unfashionable provincial Yorkshire club to unprecedented success in his tenure - yet he still isn't willing to settle and play it safe, when that would clearly be the easiest thing for him to do.
From bankruptcy in 1986 to a European final in just 20 years, Gibson has seen and felt almost ever emotion and feeling you could at the helm of a football club.
But recent times have seen Gibson, and every other Boro fan, pushed to his limits and few could have forgiven him for wondering whether he should follow club legend Tony Mowbray out of the club. Thankfully for Boro he is not one of the vast numbers of fans that have deserted them in recent seasons.
Mowbray's failure was devastating for anyone and everyone connected to the club. It really should have worked - but it just was not meant to be. Since the bankruptcy in 1986, there could have been few moments as low as when Boro's own captain fantastic was forced to abandon ship.
With Mowbray gone, Gibson had much to think about - but the only real question he had to ask himself (after deciding not to walk away) would have been; 'Do I play it safe or not?' In the end you get the feeling he has taken a quick look back at the past and decided to gamble...again, as his hunger for Premier League football clearly remains.
Looking back at Gibson's history of managerial appointments, since he took on the chairmanship in 1994, there is a trend which runs through but particularly for the two real successes during his time - Bryan Robson and Steve McClaren. Both untested at managerial level, but both recorded previously unseen levels of achievement on and off the pitch for the club.
Speaking at Karanka's unveiling Gibson even alluded to the fact that he focused on Boro's past appointments. "You can look back to Jack Charlton, Bruce Rioch, Bryan Robson and Steve McClaren - they all took their first jobs in football with us."
And whilst Gibson will be praying that Karanka's arrival has all the hallmarks of his own Robson and McClaren appointments and those of Charlton and Rioch before them, he will be hoping with all his might that he does not go down the path of his other untested appointment in Gareth Southgate - although you could very well argue the Southgate appointment was thrust upon him somewhat, promoting from within.
And that is what really did for Mark Venus in this whole situation. Promoting from within had not worked for Gibson before and although the safe option would have been to give him the job, he has taken his time and gone for the exciting untested man, just like in the case of Robson and McClaren, and there is a real sense of 'why not' amongst the Boro fans.
Even with the other failures as manager, Gordon Strachan and Mowbray, there was clearly more of a logic to both of those appointments to that of Robson and McClaren, and perhaps it is that which has thrust Gibson towards Karanka.
Yes Gibson's close relationship with the likes of Peter Kenyon and Jorge Mendes has played its part in Karanka's arrival and the recent link-up with Atletico Madrid is a clear sign of Boro's future plans - but with Premier League Crystal Palace also hovering, this is not an appointment that has been thrust on the Boro chairman, indeed he has had to work hard to convince Jose Mourinho's former assistant to take on the challenge - just as he had to do with Robson and McClaren.
And you cannot downplay the part played by Mourinho. Gibson likes a good CV and a good reference to go with it. Robson and McClaren winged their way in with Sir Alex Ferguson praise gushing all around them, and equally Mourinho has been quick to sing the praises of one of his disciples - of which he is now the fourth to be managing in England, following in the footsteps of Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Andre Villas-Boas.
"Jose Mourinho told me to get him," said Gibson, while Karanka was quick to confirm that he had spoken to the special one more than a dozen times in recent days in the build-up to the appointment.
Gibson has taken a number of weeks to clearly assess his options - a proud man, and one who loves his hometown and its football club fervently, it is hugely important that Karanka is a success. It must also be pointed out that Karanka will be the first foreign appointment in their 135-year existence, again something that Gibson will have given serious thought too.
"Would I like a squad full of Middlesbrough-born players? Yes, of course, but it wouldn't get us very far.
"Football isn't foreign any more, it's global, we're all one," he added - but the fact he has chosen not to play it safe, is sure to resonate with Boro fans whose passion he is so desperate to revive.
"We needed to freshen up," said Gibson as he stressed that he had chosen the best candidate from 100 people who expressed an interest in the job, which will have shown the Boro chairman that the club has the potential that he obviously believes it has.
But Boro fans need to remember that perhaps unlike with other options such as Venus and many more like him, Gibson has not taken the safe option. This appointment has been made to try and get the club back to the Premier League. Founding members and now absent from the Premier League for four years, Gibson wants his place back at the top table.
The people of Teesside now need to back Steve Gibson, they need to trust him, they need to believe in him and in return he is just asking for them to join him again on a footballing adventure...the destination, he hopes, the Premier League.