Mark Venus will be given the chance to state his credentials as Middlesbrough’s next permanent manager while the Championship club look for Tony Mowbray’s replacement.
The former Hartlepool United defender takes charge of tonight’s game at home to Doncaster Rovers, where Daniel Ayala is also set for his Boro debut.
Nigel Clough and Tony Pulis were two of the initial candidates to replace Mowbray, sacked on Monday, but Sheffield United and Crystal Palace respectively moved quickly to discuss their own vacancies with the pair.
So chairman Steve Gibson will takes his time looking for the right man to take on “an attractive proposition for any manager,” giving Mowbray’s former assistant the chance to push his own case.
Jonathan Woodgate’s calf injury makes him a doubt tonight, but the arrival of former Spain Under-21 international Ayala on loan from Norwich City will go some way to off-setting that.
Sixteenth in the Championship, Boro are far closer to the relegation zone than the play-off positions.
Mowbray had to significantly cut costs while he rebuilt his squad this summer.
But Gibson, who has a well-earned reputation as one of English football’s most loyal chairmen, does not think he will be short of candidates for the vacant manager’s job.
“Boro are a vibrant, healthy club with excellent facilities and as much ambition as ever,” he insisted.
“Make no mistake, Boro remain a very attractive proposition for any manager worth his salt.
“Any manager that comes into Middlesbrough Football Club will be taking over a club that is superbly structured and geared up for success.
“We have a modern stadium, a state-of-the-art training complex the envy of most Premier League clubs and the basis of a decent squad that we believe has every chance of pushing for promotion this season.
“We are debt-free, we are among the top six best-resourced clubs in the Championship and as we saw on deadline day, there is money there to bring in the right players.”
Former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan, Ian Holloway, Martin O’Neill and Royal Antwerp manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink are now considered front-runners, but Venus’ claims will also be taken seriously.
Gibson has not been afraid to give novice managers a chance, having done so with Gareth Southgate, and Venus has nine years’ coaching experience having followed Mowbray to Hibernian, West Bromwich Albion, Celtic and the Riverside.
While he never played for Boro during his career the fact he is a Teessider will do him no harm either. Ultimately, though, none of that will count for much if he cannot back it up with good results during his spell as caretaker manager. Demoralised Boro have just three wins this season, and took 24 points from their last 33 league games under Mowbray.
They are unbeaten in their last five home games, albeit only one of those actually ended in victory.
Meanwhile, Matty Dolan’s loan to Hartlepool has been extended by another month.
The 20-year-old has impressed playing in central midfield for the League Two side, scoring his first goal for the Victoria Park club in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Wimbledon, their fifth in a row.
“I’m delighted we’ve got things completed with Matty coming for another month,” said Hartlepool’s manager, former Boro defender and coach Colin Cooper.
“I was pleased to have 10 minutes with the Middlesbrough chief executive to sort that out.
“They obviously have their own stuff going on at the moment, but it’s important for us we got Matthew again.”