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11th March 2018

There have been recent discussions on Teesside as to whether or not Garry Monk might have done better than Tony Pulis had he remained in charge at The Riverside, a pointless argument as we'll never know. One thing that seems certain though is that there will be many more changes at the club at the end of the season.

It was always going to be difficult to change things round mid-season when the respective managers had such differing styles and some of the personnel inherited by the Boro's new boss appeared to be different to what he ideally wanted.

After the dissatisfaction at the inconsistencies of the first five months of the season, some felt that the victory at Hillsborough might have been the catalyst for a promotion push, but clearly within the club, Steve Gibson and his advisors thought otherwise. That was a major shock to the outside world as Gibson has gained the reputation for being as loyal an owner as there was in football. The timing of his decision may have been a shock but the fact that it was made perhaps tells a tale of how things were at the club that is unlikely to ever be made public knowledge.

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His remit was to look into the entire running of the football side of the club and to build for not only the immediate but also long term future. In a perfect world this would have been done close season, with signings and methods honed during the weeks leading up to the August kick off.

It was always going to be difficult to change this immediately but the experienced campaigner quickly wielded the axe with several players leaving the club either permanently or temporarily. Results initially could have been better but that was as much down to glaring missed opportunities during games rather than the different playing style adopted by Pulis.

The early season confidence of supporters in Boro "smashing the League" has been drastically revisited, some even doubting whether or not the club and indeed the manager want promotion this season.

I would have thought that whatever happens in the forthcoming weeks, the revolving doors at Hurworth will be swinging to and fro, even more than they were when Monk completely revamped the squad last summer.

Whilst a Wembley play-off victory still remains a possibility, and with the tactical nous of Pulis you can't totally dismiss it, the players in the forthcoming games are most definitely playing for their futures at the Riverside.

Shortly after his arrival Pulis declared that he felt the squad was too big; both Monk and Karanka had followed the practice of having two senior players for each position. Ideal in planning but very difficult in practice. Too many players were left kicking their heels or alternatively the starting line-up was chopped and changed game after game. Pulis wants a few youngsters training with his squad and fighting for a first team place; the only downfall to this is if injuries and suspensions bite into the reduced numbers.

With previous managers you weren't confident that everyone was getting a chance. Pulis quickly assessed the personnel at the club and with his vast experience made decisions on players. Not everyone will agree but you know that he will have the courage of his convictions and that price tags and reputations count for nothing.

It was surprising that unlike almost any other manager he didn't rush to sell Gibson in January and ask for cash to splash, a sign that he wanted to take his time and build solidly for the future. The time to invest will be this summer and at a level dependant on where the club will be playing next season.

No one could have thought that Pulis would get such an early opportunity to pit his wits against Monk. That came at Birmingham on Tuesday evening with the former Boro boss taking charge of the relegation threatened Midlanders. It was victory for Pulis and his 'new-look' Boro side but it was the performances of individuals who weren't really given a chance under Monk that told the tale though.

Traore was perhaps not at his brilliant best in Boro's 1-0 success but he has been inspirational after Pulis took him under his wing and is the man who is thrilling fans and making things happen for Boro. Shotton enjoyed a very good game against his former side and is another who has benefitted by the confidence shown in him by Pulis.

In any walk of life you need a little luck and probably if it had not been for the injury to Rudi Gestede then Patrick Bamford wouldn't have been given a chance up front. His recent purple patch of goal scoring is built on confidence and again Pulis must take credit for that.

Tony Pulis has gained perhaps an unfair reputation with some fans over the years but within the game his reputation is very high, especially with those that have played for him. Callum McMananman apart that is!

You get the distinct impression that the task given to him by Steve Gibson is well under way.

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