Belfast Telegraph

Steve Agnew unsure of Middlesbrough future as players leave for summer break

Steve Agnew sent his Middlesbrough players off for their summer break not knowing if he will be there to greet them on their return.

The man asked to step into head coach Aitor Karanka's shoes in March held a meeting with the squad on Monday morning, a day after a season which delivered an instant return to the Sky Bet Championship drew to a close with a 3-0 Premier League defeat at Liverpool.

Some of the players will not be back - Valencia striker Alvaro Negredo and Arsenal defender Calum Chambers have returned to their respective clubs after their loan deals drew to a close, while Brad Guzan is to join MLS side Atlanta United and much-decorated fellow keeper Victor Valdes seems unlikely to stay for life in the second tier.

However, those players who do report back to the club's Rockliffe Park training headquarters for the start of pre-season training do not yet know who will be in charge when they do so.

Chairman Steve Gibson handed Agnew the chance to stake his claim for the job when he decided against bringing in a new head coach for the final 11 games of the campaign.

The 51-year-old, who has steadfastly avoided talk of his future throughout, has the support of the dressing room, but a return of just one victory during his brief tenure to date has done little to persuade the doubters that he is the man to succeed Karanka permanently.

Gibson has drawn up a shortlist of potential candidates and while he will not rush to make an appointment, he will not dally either with a decision anticipated inside the next fortnight.

Leeds boss Garry Monk, who is out of contract at Elland Road next month, has replaced Ryan Giggs as the bookmakers' favourite in recent days - the former Manchester United star is not understood to have been on the chairman's list - while former skipper Nigel Pearson and surprisingly Karanka himself have expressed an interest in the vacancy in recent interviews.

Gibson has hinted that there will be marked change at the Riverside this summer as he attempts to "smash" the Championship.

Whoever does hold the reins when hostilities resume will at least have a core group of players who know the division with many of them having played a part in the club's promotion campaign 12 months ago.

But a team which managed just five league victories and scored only 27 goals in 38 league outings will need to undergo significant adjustment if it is to prosper once again.

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