Promotion fears prompted Southgate sacking

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson today said he sacked Gareth Southgate because he feared the club would fail to win promotion back to the Barclays Premier League this season.

Southgate was fired following a string of bad results - and despite last night's victory over Derby which took Boro to one point off the top of the Coca-Cola Championship.

Gordon Strachan, the former Celtic manager, is the clear favourite to replace Southgate.

Gibson told the club's website: "When I sat down and considered our start to the season, I felt that the league table was actually more favourable than some of our performances.

"Then I looked at the important games against the teams immediately around us, and took those results into account.

"In general the results and the performances have not been to the level I would have hoped for.

"Before last night, our five home games had brought in seven points. That will not get us promoted - and promotion is the only objective for the season."

Middlesbrough have already lost four times this season, and against some of their main promotion rivals - West Brom, Bristol City, Leicester and Watford. The club had suffered a run of home defeats without scoring that was the worst for 77 years.

Gibson added: "As difficult a decision as it was to make, the decision was made before last night's match.

"One good result wasn't going to change that decision."

Strachan could be in position by tomorrow - Gibson revealed that plans to appoint a new manager had begun before Southgate was sacked.

"We already had a strategy for Gareth's replacement," said Gibson. "The timing of Gareth's sacking was determined a little by the implementation of that strategy."

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