Strachan favourite for Middlesbrough job

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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan could be appointed as the new Middlesbrough manager before the weekend following Gareth Southgate's shock sacking.

The 52-year-old Scot is understood to have held talks with Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson in the wake of Southgate's departure and is the overwhelming favourite for the post.

Strachan stepped down as Celtic manager in May after a spell in which he took the Glasgow club to three consecutive league titles and to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time.

The League Managers' Association (LMA) have been critical of both the reasons and timing of the decision to terminate Southgate's contract immediately following Boro's 2-0 win over Derby last night.

Gibson's explanation was that he feared the club would fail to win promotion back to the Premier League this season.

The Boro chairman 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 and 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."

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the LMA, expressed his disappointment at the sacking of a "possible future England manager", and bafflement at the timing.

Bevan told Press Association Sport: "We are very disappointed for Gareth. Middlesbrough are only one point off an automatic promotion place and I believe it is a mistake.

"It's a demonstration of the pressures now at the top and the bottom of the table showing on administrators.

"Gareth is a manager learning his trade and Arsene Wenger has said of him that he could be manager of England one day."

Gibson also pointed to disappointing home form and low crowds for his decision, but Bevan said Boro had achieved some excellent away victories and that the recession was having an impact on attendances across the north east.

Bevan added: "The claim of concerns of a loss of form at home do not take into account excellent away wins at Sheffield Wednesday, Scunthorpe and Reading.

"There was the curious situation that, after taking such a long time to consider, the decision was taken to terminate his contract at 11pm after a 2-0 win over Derby, and after Gareth had given a very positive post-match interview."

Bevan also pointed out that, according to Deloitte's figures, Southgate had coped with Middlesbrough raising £25million from summer sales and a big cut in player wages.