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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Boro blues for Robbie

Keane and Woodgate under pressure

TOUGH GOING: Robbie Keane’s job at Boro is turning into a nightmare. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
TOUGH GOING: Robbie Keane’s job at Boro is turning into a nightmare. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

For Robbie Keane, the position of assistant manager at Middlesbrough was a means to an end, a staging post along the way to something greater.

After all, he has seen contemporaries from his Premier League years such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard go on to manage, with some success, a road that Keane is hoping, expecting, even, to travel.

But just four months into his time at Middlesbrough, it's all in danger of unravelling. Today, Boro are fourth from bottom in the Championship, thanks to a return of one point from the last five games.

Drop

Should Huddersfield win at home to Boro tomorrow, Jonathan Woodgate's club will drop into the bottom three, though should Stoke win tonight Boro will already be in the relegation zone before Woodgate's side has even played.

English football history shows that panic buttons can be pressed by club owners very quickly and many on Teeside feel that the Woodgate/Keane team cannot survive many more defeats. One more loss and Boro would drop to their lowest position in the league since 2010.

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

West Brom became the latest club to inflict pain on Boro, the Baggies winning 1-0 at the Riverside last weekend, leaving Woodgate's men with a paltry two wins from 12 games this season.

WBA boss Slaven Bilic, a man who knows what it's like to get the dreaded phone call from a club owner, had sympathy for those under pressure in the Boro dugout.

"Middlesbrough are fighting for their lives at the moment. I strongly believe in them having two legends of the pitch in Jonathan and Robbie, they are warriors. They have done everything in their life. They have a good team," Bilic said over the weekend.

"Middlesbrough are not confident and what they all need is a couple of wins. That's not easy. They are fighting hard and they gave us a hard game. If they continue then they will be out of trouble very soon and I have no doubt they will do it."

Woodgate has already said he believes his side can climb up the table, but in stating that Boro are "just six points off 12th" while ignoring that they are only three points off the bottom shows Woodgate as a glass-half-full guy and not much of a warrior.

If the axe falls, it will land on Woodgate but Keane will be collateral damage and getting the boot from his first club role in this part of the world (he did manage a club in India for a spell) would be hard to take for Keane, especially when friends from the Ireland squad are on the up in terms of coaching (Damien Duff at Celtic, Steven Reid highly rated with Scotland despite their results).

What would Keane do then? If sacked by a biggish club like Boro, the only way is down and he may have to revise his ambitions, be prepared to graft at a lower level for a lot less cash than a salary at Middlesbrough.

A handful of Irish-born coaches are successfully carving out a living as first-team manager in the UK: Graham Coughlan (Bristol Rovers) and Brian Barry Murphy (Rochdale), while Daryl McMahon is in charge of League Two outfit Macclesfield Town, the 36-year-old Dubliner more successful (so far) in terms of results than his predecessor, Sol Campbell.

Former Arsenal man Campbell went to Macclesfield with a big name and high hopes but it didn't work out and remains out of work since his sacking in August.

Keane needs time to develop his coaching career but Boro may well be out of time and as Campbell knows, work isn't always easy to find after a failure, no matter how big the profile.

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