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Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 13:24 UK

Middlesbrough sack boss Southgate

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate was dismissed after his side beat Derby 2-0
Southgate had been Boro boss for three years

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has been sacked - despite the Championship club being fourth in the table and bidding for promotion.

His dismissal came in the early hours of Wednesday, shortly after a 2-0 home win over Derby.

The 39-year-old was appointed in June 2006 but last season Boro were relegated from the Premier League.

Chairman Steve Gibson said: "This has been the most difficult decision I've ever had to make in football."

BBC Sport understands Gordon Strachan and Nigel Pearson are among the front-runners to take over at the Riverside, and an appointment could be made as soon as Thursday.

Shortly before being fired, Southgate stated: "The margins are fine. We are a point off the top but it would have been very different if we had not won against Derby.

"You wonder about the consequences of defeat. You know four home defeats on the bounce would have been difficult for everyone involved with the club to accept."

Former Crystal Palace boss Alan Smith, described by Boro as a football consultant, has also left the club.

Southgate, who won 57 caps for England, joined Boro as a player from Aston Villa in a £6.5m deal in the summer of 2001.

He made more than 200 appearances for the club before he succeeded Steve McClaren as manager.

Matt Newsum - BBC Sport

"Gareth has given Boro magnificent service as a skipper and, in very difficult circumstances, as manager," added Gibson.

"I appointed Gareth in a situation that was greatly unfavourable to him. He is a good man and has all the qualities and integrity that we wanted in a manager.

"However, the time is right for change and that change has had to be made. Gareth will always be welcome at our football club. English football needs people of his stature and we feel certain that this experience will serve him well.

"Gareth deserves another opportunity once he has had the chance to rest and refresh himself."

Prior to Tuesday's win, Boro had lost three successive home games but their victory over Derby left them only one point behind leaders West Brom.

Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, said: "We are very disappointed for Gareth.

"Middlesbrough are only one point off an automatic promotion place and I believe it is a mistake.

"It's a demonstration of the pressures now at the top and the bottom of the table showing on administrators.

"The claim of concerns of a loss of form at home do not take into account excellent away wins at Sheffield Wednesday, Scunthorpe and Reading.

"Gareth is a manager learning his trade and Arsene Wenger has said he could be manager of England one day."

BBC Sport's Football League pundit Steve Claridge was also confused by the timing of Southgate's exit.

Claridge told BBC Sport: "There were times last year when he might have gone - he took an established Premier League side and got them relegated - but, having kept him over the summer, I just thought the brief was to see how things were at Christmas.

"You either sack him at the end of last season or give him the chance to take you back up - but Boro chairman Steve Gibson has done neither.

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see also
Middlesbrough 2-0 Derby
20 Oct 09 |  Championship
Middlesbrough 0-1 Watford
17 Oct 09 |  Championship
Southgate appointed as Boro boss
07 Jun 06 |  Middlesbrough
Boro chief Gibson backs Southgate
26 May 09 |  Middlesbrough
Relegation is a 'hard lesson' - Southgate
24 May 09 |  Match of the Day
West Ham 2-1 Middlesbrough
24 May 09 |  Premier League
Who will succeed Gareth Southgate?
21 Oct 09 |  People and Places

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