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Middlesbrough made a mistake by appointing Tony Pulis

Middlesbrough
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Championship

Middlesbrough made a mistake by appointing Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis has experienced a disappointing start to life at the Riverside Stadium.

Middlesbrough are at risk of missing out on the play-offs after a disappointing away loss to Sheffield United this week.

The defeat means that Tony Pulis’ side have taken only five points from their last five fixtures.

At this stage of the season, momentum is a huge factor and the Teesside club have lost theirs.

Meanwhile, Millwall have won nine of their last 11 matches and haven’t lost in the Championship since the first day of the year.

This season was all about promotion for Middlesbrough and their summer recruitment highlighted that.

The relegated club spent just over £50 million, according to transfermarket.co.uk, and started the season as the favourites to win the Championship.

It is a thankless task to return at the first attempt and only five clubs have managed it during the past five seasons, with only two of those finishing in the automatic promotion places.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Although Middlesbrough have been competing in the top half for the majority of the season, they haven’t stood out as one of the better teams in the division.

They are currently 23 points behind league leaders Wolves and that is a testament to the challenges posed by the division.

Tony Pulis was appointed in December and it was an appointment made with the view of becoming an established Premier League club as he has never been relegated as a manager.

However, he has only won promotion from the second tier once and that came ten years ago.

As years past, managers become pigeonholed as specialists at certain jobs and his spell at Middlesbrough suggests that the Welshman is better suited to fire-fighting at the bottom of the top-flight rather than challenging for promotion to it.

That is in contrast to managerial peers Neil Warnock and Steve Bruce.

Neither have managed to have Pulis’ success in the Premier League, but they have both become renowned for thriving in the Championship.

During his 20-match spell at the club, Pulis has led the club to nine victories.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

To put this into context, his win percentage of 45% is only fractionally higher than the 42.86% he managed with Crystal Palace when fighting relegation.

Considering the quality in the Boro squad and ambitions of the club, to win less than half of the matches in charge is disappointing.

It is interesting to note that Middlesbrough have kept only six clean sheets in that period of matches and that is a worrying sign for Pulis.

He is a manager known for making teams difficult to beat and it appears that he is struggling to marry that while threatening in attack.

In his previous jobs, there has been less pressure to play attacking football as the objective was to remain rather than progress.

The team selected to play against Sheffield United showed the quality that remains at the club.

Ben Gibson, Jonny Howson, Stewart Downing and Adama Traore were all in the starting eleven among others.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Traore has been a revelation this season and benefitted from a season outside of the Premier League, but a better coach would be able to get more from him and the rest of the attack.

They have four matches remaining and their fate remains in their own hands, as they have Millwall left to play at the Riverside Stadium.

That is shaping up to be a huge match during the penultimate week of the regular season.

At the time of writing, there is only one winner on paper and that isn’t Middlesbrough.

There was logic behind appointing Pulis. He is an experienced Premier League manager who is very good at stabilising a team in the top flight.

In time, Middlesbrough will need this, but he isn’t the right fit for the club right now and that will be clear if they miss out on a play-off position.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

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