What is Steve Gibson’s biggest mistake?

What is Steve Gibson’s biggest mistake

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Active member
Saying "you're hired" to Keith Lamb

The Christian Ziege buy out clause still leaves me with a sour taste, maybe my mind is remembering an old wives' tale but didn't we sign a contract in German without a German speaker present?
Regardless, who the feck agrees to a buy out clause that is basically the same as what you paid for him?! Shambolic and amateurish

The Card Cheat

Well-known member
Yeah like Indeedido I'd go for those collective decisions in the latter half of our premier league season and first season in championship.
But also agree so many good things about the club are largely down to Gibson. I was thinking the other day are we the only club except for the traditional big 6 and Aston Villa to not spend at least one season in the third tier or lower since we were promoted in Steve Gibsons first season as chairman?

I've just realised Newcastle as well, but still not many clubs have had the stability we've had in the last 30 odd years..
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Well-known member
He may be the messiah, and have helped saved us from bankruptcy and oblivion but sometimes Steve Gibson has been a very naughty boy.

Steve Gibson‘s reign can be split into almost two parts. The 20 years from 1986-2006, and the next 15 years up to present date. If Steve Gibson had gone away after the UEFA Cup final in 2006 then he would have a statue outside the stadium and be talked about on Teesside as the greatest Teessider that ever lived. But since then he has made many fans question his decisions and wonder if he is still the man to lead us. Many younger fans may also wonder what all the fuss is about as they will have grown up with us as a mid-table club. Older fans will acknowledge the great times but ultimately Boro begin Gibsons reign as a mid-table championship club with an average stadium and here we are years later with exactly the same scenario except with a top drawer training facility. Doom to Boom to Doom.

Here are some of Gibsons mistakes. What do you think has been his biggest and which has impacted the club the most?

1. Postponing the Blackburn game and having 3 points deducted.

In 1996 we were riding the crest of a wave. New stadium, top drawer players arriving, in the media spotlight, and weekly rumours of big name players coming in. Yet going into Christmas we are on a terrible run of form in the league and with a big game against another team near the bottom of the league in Blackburn Rovers coming up we are hit with a virus. Not ideal preparation for such a vital game. Can we get the fixture put off until we can put out a better team?

A recent thread discussed the full ins and outs of this but the fact remains Boro cancelled a game without speaking to the main decision makers, did not notify the other team and were subsequently deducted three points. This proves to be a costly error as come the final table, we are relegated due to the points deduction. Did heads roll? Were any Boro top brass punished? No, Gibson decided Keith Lamb took appropriate actions, blamed the FA and tried to contest the decision which at a huge cost was thrown out.

The effect is that we lost our three stars in Juninho, Ravanelli and Emerson within the next year. Rumours of players like Ince, Nadal, Roberto Carlos and Batistuta lined up to join had we stayed up will only ever remain guesswork.

2. Hiring Gareth Southgate

We had recently won a cup and completed our second successive year in Europe, culminating in reaching the UEFA Cup Final. Our profile at home and abroad had never been higher. Now was the time to attract a top drawer manager and begin a rebuild as our main stars Viduka, Hasselbaink, Southgate , Ehiogu, Mendieta etc were all almost 30+ and we needed to attract the new young stars. A huge job for even an experienced manager.

Steve Gibson decided to appoint an internal novice. He even had to fight to allow him to manage the club as Southgate had no coaching qualifications. Over time the other players who played alongside him and did not adjust to a team mate becoming their gaffer such as Parlour, Mendieta and Boateng all fell out with him and left. Poor recruitment of lightweight, half hearted individuals such as Didier Digard, Marvin Emnes, Justin Hoyte, Gary O’Neil, Julio Arca were recruited as well as the heavyweight Mido meant the squad got poorer and poorer in quality in each year of his reign. When we were relegated it was in extremely limp fashion with no battling or fight. And to top it off anyone who witnessed the Cardiff FA Cup debacle will remain angry. The day before Manchester Utd and Chelsea were put out meaning only Portsmouth remained from the Premier League. We could actually play at the new Wembley twice and win the FA Cup. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY. Many of those who witnessed that performance would argue Southgate should have been sacked straight after the whistle and it remains the poorest performance, given the circumstances, I have ever seen from a Middlesbrough side.

3. January 2017 then hiring Steve Agnew

Eight years it took us to get back up. Where some clubs keep hold of their talent and try to return instantly we sold Downing, Tuncay, Hugh and Johnson by the end of Jan and seemed almost happy to return to a Lower level. After a couple of years stabilising the finances Boro hired Aitor Karanka and suddenly found cash down the back of the sofa for Downing, Nugent, Stuani and decided to give it a good go at getting up. To this point Aitor Karanka had stabled us and built a platform and ingrained his style in his first half season, reached the Play-Off Final in his first full season, gained promotion in his second and in the week before Christmas 2016 we beat Swansea City 3-0 at home and were 14th in the table. Going into Jan it was rumoured Aitor wanted the creativity of Bojan and Gerald Delafeau to help us improve our weakness of struggling to score goals. The recruitment team gave him Rudy Gestede, a Patrick Bamford who hadn’t played for two years, and Adlene Guedioura.

Aitor didn’t help himself with his reaction but it is no wonder he was miffed and his toys went out of the pram. The club had failed him in that transfer window and would pay the repercussions for a long time. When Aitor was sacked we needed an experienced head, someone who could motivate the team, someone like Terry Venables had done all those years ago. “We’re going with Agnew” is synonymous with our lack of fight going down. Gibson came on local radio and tried to defend his decision but it turned out exactly as most supporters expected. On what basis or notion did Gibson think Agnew would be the best person for the job?

4. The Teesside Tory

I don’t want to be political. Personally it doesn’t bother me but anyone can see why it would bother others. Middlesbrough, or Teesside in general is a Labour heartland and seen as area neglected by the Conservatives. For Steve Gibson to come out and use himself and the clubs fan base to win votes for the Tory party really felt like him turning his back on his background and becoming another rich man looking out for his own interests.

5. Stockton Mackems

I’m a Stockton lad myself. I went to school with almost everyone supporting Boro, bar a couple of the usual glory supporting Man Utd and Liverpool lads. There was one Mackey in my year. About three in the entire school. And after speaking with a lot of others my age it was similar in schools across Stockton and Billingham.
When discussing the supporter base and trying to promote that more local people supported the local club here more than anywhere else (a small minded view in my opinion), when it was pointed out that although Middlesbrough as a town is relatively small it does have a large catchment area from Hartlepool down to Thirsk. Gibson responded with “Most people in Stockton support Sunderland”. Middlesbrough FC is for Middlesbrough people. Not the best thing to say and a bit of a slap in the face for all those Stocktonians who have crossed the river for many years following the club.

6. Appointing Jonathan Woodgate

In April 2019 I, and many others, heard rumours Pulis was leaving and Woodgate would be the next manager. This was to the disgust of many as it felt like another cheap internal appointment. Again it was someone with no management experience. The guy did not have the best reputation with his conviction for racist assault in Leeds and his numerous sightings and attitude when out in Town over the years. He even had a reputation within the game with former players acknowledging he was thick as mince and the last person they expected to be manager. But surely with recent history on his side Gibson knew from past experience of Southgate and Agnew this appointment wouldn’t work. Even the clubs history of hiring legendary ex-players and having poor managers records (Murdoch, Maddren, Southgate, Mowbray) would count against him.

This is where many fans remain angry. A lot knew this was coming and expected it but were given hope when Steve Gibson said he would conduct a thorough worldwide search yet he came back from his exploring and still declared Woodgate to be the “outstanding candidate”. What possibly could this have been based on?
The result? Awful football, an embarrassing manager who made a fool out of the club in the media and post match interviews and who would almost certainly have taken the club into the third tier for the third time in our history had he remained in charge.

What are your opinions and do you have any more to add?
Great post. You've tried to be impartial.
Southgate shouldn't be on the list. Yes it ended badly, but the first 2 and a half seasons with him as manager were fine. There was highs as well as lows. The 8-1 vs City for example.
That was the first time in that season we scored more than 3 goals in a game.

The biggest mistake was the reasoning for appointing Southgate in the first place. Slapping a load of long term contracts on McLaren’s staff when he was England bound anyway, and then saying to any managerial candidate that they have to work with them was a bad call.

Boro in Devon

Well-known member
I would have thought the appointment of Monk and Strachan should be up there. Complete waste of money even though their tenure was short.
I am more comfortable in trying to give a new manager a chance, but there should be more support from an experienced mentor.
The three points, was a decision taken in good faith and although subsequently a disaster wasn't taken with the knowledge of the consequences.
I think there is a lot of problems behind the scenes. Such as recruitment, how many seasons can we see lack of attack, creativity and pace. Either our scouting or recruitment or coaching has not been able to address the issue. Should these functions be replaced by a team that can do the job.


Well-known member
Saying "you're hired" to Keith Lamb

The Christian Ziege buy out clause still leaves me with a sour taste, maybe my mind is remembering an old wives' tale but didn't we sign a contract in German without a German speaker present?
Regardless, who the feck agrees to a buy out clause that is basically the same as what you paid for him?! Shambolic and amateurish
My recollection of that is the buy-out clause only existed to allow Ziege to return to Germany in case he got homesick.
Except the wording was not specific enough and it ended up just being an unqualified buy-out clause.


Active member
The three points issue is overstated, i believe.

Everyone takes it as such a **** up because, supposedly, from our position of needing these points to remain in the league at all, we were all but guaranteed to transform into league winners over the next couple of years. But, to me, this honestly seems the least likely outcome.

We were such an amazing team that we were relegated. Had we avoided the drop that year we might've splashed out again only to get relegated the next year. With a huge financial hole.
Maybe we went bust, or had to be sold. Maybe we just went sideways. Maybe Steve got bored.

In this timeline Eindhoven never happened.

Plus its provided for decades of what if???? And wild rumours abound about which galactico we were going to sign (who knows which ones are true - i wager not many)

The mythology it has created is probably better than the reality would have been, imo. Its usually the case.


Well-known member
Top 3 for me:

1. Woody!
2. Strachan (although I still believe it could have worked).
3. Pulis - Attention should have been paid to what the fans felt at WBA and others

Boro in Devon

Well-known member
I find it strange that we criticise Gibson for giving Southgate and Woodgate a chance of management, and I agree they werent a success.
However we dont criticise him appointing Robson, McClaren and Karanka, none of whom were experienced managers. Yes they may have had more experience as a number 2. Success makes us blind.


Active member
Saying "you're hired" to Keith Lamb

The Christian Ziege buy out clause still leaves me with a sour taste, maybe my mind is remembering an old wives' tale but didn't we sign a contract in German without a German speaker present?
Regardless, who the feck agrees to a buy out clause that is basically the same as what you paid for him?! Shambolic and amateurish

Obviously horseshit. Just think about it.

And theres more than one party to a contract. I blame Football Manager for the endless unrealistic discussion amongst football fans concerning buyout clauses and sell on fees. No appreciation for the real life wants of players.

the boro - "Ziege were a side below your level in an undesirable part of the world, but were willing to pay you top whack to secure your services."

Ziege- Sounds good, but i dont want to get stuck there, i need a reasonable out. Im not signing without this clause.

This presents two options, really:
have a great player for at least a short while with a clause that, although it removes potential upside, at worst enables you to recoup costs in full.
Alternatively not have the player at all.


Well-known member
I can understand the logic in all of his appointments (well, maybe not Agnew). Chairmen appoint managers who mostly end up getting the sack because they don't achieve their targets. The first year or two under Southgate we were decent, but we still had the likes of Boateng, Viduka, Yakubu etc. Strachan and Pulis were experienced managers who were brought in to steady the ship, but both ended up being a disaster. He obviously had faith (abeit blind) in Woodgate, but didn't give him any money and Woodgate thought he could do it without an experienced assistant.

However, for me, letting Monk throw so much money away was criminal. We wasted everything we earned by getting promotion two years earlier in what must be record time.


Well-known member
Everything has come from the Southgate appointment, he had an acceptable first 18 months although a let down from what came before but the side was broken up with inferior replacements. This all led on to the Cardiff fa cup game which really was the start of all that was to come, in reality we have never recovered from this.


Well-known member
Being from Middlesbrough. Anywhere else in Britain he'd be lauded by the fans of the local club for pouring his own money in. On Teesside all he gets are people criticising him and cataloging mistakes. Even when times are good - like a UEFA semi final - the ground wasn't full.

It seems to me there are a lot of people on Teesside want their cake for free, and to eat it and another slice too.

You should appreciate him more, because when he's gone there won't be another waiting to take his place.

Boro in Devon

Well-known member
It depends upon what the definition of success is. If it is to be safe and secure in the Premiership, rather than chasing competitions or flirting with relegation, then maybe it is backing McClaren. The combination of all the big names and the age of the players meant that the European adventure resulted in a team we couldn't afford and leaving Southgate to disband the team and replace with a more affordable version.
The European competition gave us all the most excitement, but was it worth the cost. Do we want to survive in the premiership or ride the wild rollercoaster that we have been on since.


Well-known member
I also think not sacking Southgate or Karanka whilst in a relegation battle.

To be honest we've had it pretty good👍. I find it very hard to criticise a fantastic chairman.

No chairman ever has got the majority of things right. He gave us those glorious late 90s and 00s the likes of we will never see again.