Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson has put his faith in the vast experience of veteran Neil Warnock after dismissing rookie Jonathan Woodgate in the midst of a desperate relegation scrap.
Gibson turned to the 71-year-old on Tuesday three days after seeing Woodgate’s side slip to within goal difference of the Sky Bet Championship drop zone after a humbling 3-0 defeat by Swansea at the Riverside Stadium – their first match since the season resumed.
Warnock, who has been out of the game since leaving Cardiff in November last year, has eight games in which to drag the Teessiders to safety and will take charge for the first time at Stoke on Saturday.
A club statement said: “MFC can confirm that head coach Jonathan Woodgate has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.
“Jonathan was relieved of his role on Tuesday morning and will be replaced by the experienced Neil Warnock. Warnock will assume responsibility immediately.
“The club would like to place on record its thanks to Jonathan for all his work in the role of head coach.”
Warnock arrived without fanfare as Gibson moved swiftly in the wake of a worrying display at the weekend and it remains to be seen how long his reign lasts and whether or not he will work with Woodgate’s staff or bring in his own.
The trip to Stoke, who are only two points better off, will be followed by another to Hull, one of the three sides currently below Boro, next Thursday with his former clubs QPR and Cardiff also among their remaining opponents.
If Warnock has proven to be something of a promotion specialist – he has eight to his name – during a lengthy managerial career which began in 1980 at non-league Gainsborough Trinity, he has experience too at the other end of the table.
Four years ago, it was he who oversaw an unlikely 11-game unbeaten run to keep Rotherham in the Championship after he was parachuted in with the club sitting inside the relegation zone when he arrived in February.
Warnock’s curriculum vitae also includes spells with Scarborough, Notts County, Huddersfield, Plymouth, Oldham, Bury, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace QPR and Leeds, and he demonstrated his enduring ability by guiding Cardiff into the Premier League at the end of the 2017-18 season, although ultimately he could not keep them there.
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Woodgate is understood to have been shown the door after turning up for work as usual on Tuesday morning having won just nine of the 41 games for which he was in charge and only one of the last 14 in all competitions.
Gibson appointed him in June last year after being impressed by his ideas during the interview process, but his hopes that the former Boro and England defender might follow in the footsteps of fellow new boys Bryan Robson, Steve McClaren, Gareth Southgate and Aitor Karanka on Teesside never really came to fruition.
Saturday’s abject first-half display, which saw his side trail 3-0 just 34 minutes into their return to action, proved the final straw for a chairman whose loyalty is well-known, but who has in the past shown he has few qualms over wielding the axe when necessary.
Woodgate later admitted his disappointment in a post on his Instagram account.
He said: “Today was a day that I hoped would never come, but I’ve been in football long enough to know that these things happen.
“To be given the chance to manage my home-town club – the club that I love – is something I will never forget and I will always be grateful to Steve Gibson for the opportunity.
“There is no-one more disappointed than me at how things have gone, and believe me, there hasn’t been one moment when I’ve ever stopped thinking about the job and how to improve and make things better.
“I’d like to thank the players for their efforts, in very difficult circumstances at times, and I’d like to thank all the staff at the football club, many of who will remain good friends.
“I’d like to thank the fans for your backing. I know it hasn’t been easy for you, but the support you have shown and the backing you have given is something I will never forget, and has meant so much to me.
“I’d also like to wish Neil Warnock every success. I’ll always be a Boro fan, it’s my football club, and I hope Neil and the players can finish the job this season and keep the club in the Championship. I have every belief that will happen. Thank you.”
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