What is Steve Gibson’s biggest mistake?

What is Steve Gibson’s biggest mistake

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He may be the messiah, and have helped saved us from bankruptcy and oblivion but sometimes Steve Gibson has been a very naughty boy.

Steve Gibson‘s reign can be split into almost two parts. The 20 years from 1986-2006, and the next 15 years up to present date. If Steve Gibson had gone away after the UEFA Cup final in 2006 then he would have a statue outside the stadium and be talked about on Teesside as the greatest Teessider that ever lived. But since then he has made many fans question his decisions and wonder if he is still the man to lead us. Many younger fans may also wonder what all the fuss is about as they will have grown up with us as a mid-table club. Older fans will acknowledge the great times but ultimately Boro begin Gibsons reign as a mid-table championship club with an average stadium and here we are years later with exactly the same scenario except with a top drawer training facility. Doom to Boom to Doom.

Here are some of Gibsons mistakes. What do you think has been his biggest and which has impacted the club the most?

1. Postponing the Blackburn game and having 3 points deducted.

In 1996 we were riding the crest of a wave. New stadium, top drawer players arriving, in the media spotlight, and weekly rumours of big name players coming in. Yet going into Christmas we are on a terrible run of form in the league and with a big game against another team near the bottom of the league in Blackburn Rovers coming up we are hit with a virus. Not ideal preparation for such a vital game. Can we get the fixture put off until we can put out a better team?

A recent thread discussed the full ins and outs of this but the fact remains Boro cancelled a game without speaking to the main decision makers, did not notify the other team and were subsequently deducted three points. This proves to be a costly error as come the final table, we are relegated due to the points deduction. Did heads roll? Were any Boro top brass punished? No, Gibson decided Keith Lamb took appropriate actions, blamed the FA and tried to contest the decision which at a huge cost was thrown out.

The effect is that we lost our three stars in Juninho, Ravanelli and Emerson within the next year. Rumours of players like Ince, Nadal, Roberto Carlos and Batistuta lined up to join had we stayed up will only ever remain guesswork.

2. Hiring Gareth Southgate

We had recently won a cup and completed our second successive year in Europe, culminating in reaching the UEFA Cup Final. Our profile at home and abroad had never been higher. Now was the time to attract a top drawer manager and begin a rebuild as our main stars Viduka, Hasselbaink, Southgate , Ehiogu, Mendieta etc were all almost 30+ and we needed to attract the new young stars. A huge job for even an experienced manager.

Steve Gibson decided to appoint an internal novice. He even had to fight to allow him to manage the club as Southgate had no coaching qualifications. Over time the other players who played alongside him and did not adjust to a team mate becoming their gaffer such as Parlour, Mendieta and Boateng all fell out with him and left. Poor recruitment of lightweight, half hearted individuals such as Didier Digard, Marvin Emnes, Justin Hoyte, Gary O’Neil, Julio Arca were recruited as well as the heavyweight Mido meant the squad got poorer and poorer in quality in each year of his reign. When we were relegated it was in extremely limp fashion with no battling or fight. And to top it off anyone who witnessed the Cardiff FA Cup debacle will remain angry. The day before Manchester Utd and Chelsea were put out meaning only Portsmouth remained from the Premier League. We could actually play at the new Wembley twice and win the FA Cup. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY. Many of those who witnessed that performance would argue Southgate should have been sacked straight after the whistle and it remains the poorest performance, given the circumstances, I have ever seen from a Middlesbrough side.

3. January 2017 then hiring Steve Agnew

Eight years it took us to get back up. Where some clubs keep hold of their talent and try to return instantly we sold Downing, Tuncay, Hugh and Johnson by the end of Jan and seemed almost happy to return to a Lower level. After a couple of years stabilising the finances Boro hired Aitor Karanka and suddenly found cash down the back of the sofa for Downing, Nugent, Stuani and decided to give it a good go at getting up. To this point Aitor Karanka had stabled us and built a platform and ingrained his style in his first half season, reached the Play-Off Final in his first full season, gained promotion in his second and in the week before Christmas 2016 we beat Swansea City 3-0 at home and were 14th in the table. Going into Jan it was rumoured Aitor wanted the creativity of Bojan and Gerald Delafeau to help us improve our weakness of struggling to score goals. The recruitment team gave him Rudy Gestede, a Patrick Bamford who hadn’t played for two years, and Adlene Guedioura.

Aitor didn’t help himself with his reaction but it is no wonder he was miffed and his toys went out of the pram. The club had failed him in that transfer window and would pay the repercussions for a long time. When Aitor was sacked we needed an experienced head, someone who could motivate the team, someone like Terry Venables had done all those years ago. “We’re going with Agnew” is synonymous with our lack of fight going down. Gibson came on local radio and tried to defend his decision but it turned out exactly as most supporters expected. On what basis or notion did Gibson think Agnew would be the best person for the job?

4. The Teesside Tory

I don’t want to be political. Personally it doesn’t bother me but anyone can see why it would bother others. Middlesbrough, or Teesside in general is a Labour heartland and seen as area neglected by the Conservatives. For Steve Gibson to come out and use himself and the clubs fan base to win votes for the Tory party really felt like him turning his back on his background and becoming another rich man looking out for his own interests.

5. Stockton Mackems

I’m a Stockton lad myself. I went to school with almost everyone supporting Boro, bar a couple of the usual glory supporting Man Utd and Liverpool lads. There was one Mackey in my year. About three in the entire school. And after speaking with a lot of others my age it was similar in schools across Stockton and Billingham.
When discussing the supporter base and trying to promote that more local people supported the local club here more than anywhere else (a small minded view in my opinion), when it was pointed out that although Middlesbrough as a town is relatively small it does have a large catchment area from Hartlepool down to Thirsk. Gibson responded with “Most people in Stockton support Sunderland”. Middlesbrough FC is for Middlesbrough people. Not the best thing to say and a bit of a slap in the face for all those Stocktonians who have crossed the river for many years following the club.

6. Appointing Jonathan Woodgate

In April 2019 I, and many others, heard rumours Pulis was leaving and Woodgate would be the next manager. This was to the disgust of many as it felt like another cheap internal appointment. Again it was someone with no management experience. The guy did not have the best reputation with his conviction for racist assault in Leeds and his numerous sightings and attitude when out in Town over the years. He even had a reputation within the game with former players acknowledging he was thick as mince and the last person they expected to be manager. But surely with recent history on his side Gibson knew from past experience of Southgate and Agnew this appointment wouldn’t work. Even the clubs history of hiring legendary ex-players and having poor managers records (Murdoch, Maddren, Southgate, Mowbray) would count against him.

This is where many fans remain angry. A lot knew this was coming and expected it but were given hope when Steve Gibson said he would conduct a thorough worldwide search yet he came back from his exploring and still declared Woodgate to be the “outstanding candidate”. What possibly could this have been based on?
The result? Awful football, an embarrassing manager who made a fool out of the club in the media and post match interviews and who would almost certainly have taken the club into the third tier for the third time in our history had he remained in charge.

What are your opinions and do you have any more to add?
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All of the above

I voted for for appointing Southgate, as we were a side fresh from a major European final and we gave the managers job to someone who hadn’t so much much as took charge of an under 11 game ( as remember under ste max we had coaches throughout the club non were called Gareth).

we were flying high our stock had never been higher across Europe we could have a pick of the best coaches out there and we give it to one of the least qualified people at the club ( even wooody was no 2 first), in fact he was so inexperienced we had to get special permission from the fa as an exemption to appoint him.


Premiership managers are expected to possess the Uefa Pro Licence for coaching - the qualification above the Uefa 'A' Licence - before taking charge of a club.

And the BBC understands that Boro have until 12 weeks after the league season kicks off on 19 August to explain why Southgate should be permitted to manage without the required certificates.

If they are unable to make a case that is satisfactory to the Premier League, the Football Association and the League Managers' Association, action could be taken against them
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Publicly stating David Wheater was not for sale at any price and selling Huth instead



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I think the worst mistakes are made when you actually have an idea of how things might turn out badly, yet you still make the decision.

Woodgate comes into this category, but possibly not the 3 points.
For the interest of balance. Can we have his best decision

I nominate free beer for SC holders
Will do another day. This is not meant to be a bashing. Just acknowledging his mistakes. Will definitely do a best decisions, despite there been a clear number 1. Maybe next week. My fingers are hurting from typing at the minute haha.


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I think the worst mistakes are made when you actually have an idea of how things might turn out badly, yet you still make the decision.

Woodgate comes into this category, but possibly not the 3 points.

Think that's fair. I voted for the 3 points but maybe it's just the most naive example on the list.

Surely putting Agnew in charge of our attempt to stay up is the most "this obviously won't work" decision on the list. :unsure:


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I guess it would have been unpopular at the time, but (with the benefit of hindsight) he should have parted company with thanks to Karanka when we got promoted, and brought in an experienced top flight manager.


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Was the 3pts really his mistake? I doubt he was involved in the decision not to play. If he had sacked Keith Lamb in the aftermath it wouldn't have changed anything. The other "mistakes" are mostly just hindsight and we don't know the full back story as to why each individual decision was made. Take the appointment of Agnew. Firstly do you agree with the sacking of Karanka? Might we not have been better served taking the decision to rebuild under Aitor? Secondly, there was a rumour that he had been courting David Wagner who at that point had Huddersfield on the verge of the play-offs but who subsequently got them promoted and left us without a plan A? Sometimes plans go wrong.


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Heaven knows I have not been his biggest supporter over a plethora of subjects - many cited in this thread. However in these very challenging times I am thankful of his support - like many chairmen- losing millions of pounds on the lockdown. As such I don’t think the timing of such a thread is good order.
Heaven knows I have not been his biggest supporter over a plethora of subjects - many cited in this thread. However in these very challenging times I am thankful of his support - like many chairmen- losing millions of pounds on the lockdown. As such I don’t think the timing of such a thread is good order.
Understand. As put earlier I will do a “best decisions“ soon. The timing is only because I have a day off work and decided to have a waffle. Not intended as a Gibson bash. Just to acknowledge tongue in cheek that the messiah has at times been a naughty boy and it’s worth a discussion as to what people consider his biggest error of judgement.


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I am not sure how you can compare them against each other, they all have elements in their own way that were terrible decisions with catastrophic consequences. We don’t have the full context nor the background and reasoning behind these decisions though.

The 3 points probably was the biggest negative looking at each with the benefit of hindsight, but how foreseeable was it?

The failure to provide creativity and pace in Jan 2017 was a blatantly obvious mistake that would entirely predictably lead to relegation.

The appointment of 🦖 Pulis to oversee change after the spending of tens of millions of £’s on players a few months earlier was mad. Especially as these players were totally unsuited to Pulis’s style of play. This mistake is missing from the list and should frankly be up there.
The 3-points definitely for me - the rest are mainly a consequence of that. Mind you, it may not have been his mistake? It dragged the club through the gutter and I don't think we've ever recovered frankly.


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Sacking Karanka (having not backed him adequately in summer 2016 or January) then putting Agnew in place.
Appointing Monk and approving the worst spending of over £50m and parachute payments.
Appointing pulis after that disaster.

Bad things come in 3's and that is by far the worst triple he has done.

Woodgate appointment was a joke, but the real damage had already been done.


The Club is still afloat and functioning; the Academy is perhaps better than for a decade; the current manager is a belated stroke of genius; there is better connection between fans and club than since the run to the last promotion; we have players who clearly want to be at the club and who we like to watch; we still have a very good stadium and outstanding training facilities; we still have our memories of the Riverside early years, our trophy and our European adventures.
The Club may be in more debt than ever before, have no revenue and so seemingly in an endless loss spiral, but I am more optimistic than I've been since April 2016.
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All absolute shockers, but I went for the 3 points debacle. Had we stayed up that year, who knows where we could have gone. We'll never know what we could have been.
I'm not sure we'd have got to the level we did under McClaren, but it's all guesswork