Gary O’Neil and Rob Edwards top Middlesbrough’s shortlist after Chris Wilder’s sacking on Monday morning. The club have two wins in 11 Championship games and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Coventry proved the final straw for Wilder, who leaves Boro 22nd in the second tier.
O’Neil, a former Boro midfielder, has impressed at promoted Bournemouth since taking charge after Scott Parker’s sacking but much depends on whether the Premier League club opt to retain him at the helm longer term.
Steve Gibson, Boro’s owner, also admires Rob Edwards. After his recent, somewhat harsh sacking by Watford after only 10 games at Vicarage Road, the highly regarded former Forest Green Rovers manager is available and is expected to be interviewed by Gibson and Kieran Scott, the head of football, this week.
Boro’s hierarchy hope to have a replacement installed before Saturday’s game at Millwall. Leo Percovich will take charge of Wednesday’s game with Birmingham at the Riverside where fellow coaches Lee Cattermole, Mark Tinkler and Craig Liddle will be alongside him in the dugout.
O’Neil made more than 100 league appearances for Boro from 2007-2011 and has been part of Bournemouth’s coaching staff for 18 months. Edwards, who like O’Neil is 39, guided Forest Green to promotion from League Two in April before that ill-starred stint at Watford.
Wilder spent 11 months at Boro but the former Sheffield United manager has never relished working with football directors and did not seem entirely happy ceding certain spheres of control to Scott and Neil Bausor, the chief executive.
Albeit subtly, a manager recently linked with Bournemouth appeared to court interest from Burnley after Sean Dyche’s sacking last spring and, even though that vacancy was filled by Vincent Kompany, rarely looked content at the Riverside.
In frequently making clear he did not believe his squad was strong enough to mount the automatic promotion challenge Gibson demanded, Wilder placed himself on a collision course with the owner, dictating Monday’s parting of the ways had been increasingly regarded as inevitable.
It appears that Gibson, having failed to win promotion with two more traditional “old-school” managers in Wilder and Neil Warnock, will recruit a “mud-on-boots” tracksuit coach happy to leave recruitment largely to Scott.