Tony Pulis is emerging as a prime contender to replace sacked Garry Monk as Middlesbrough manager.
Monk was sacked on Saturday despite leading his side to a 2-1 comeback win over Sheffield Wednesday.
And it is understood Pulis is the man Boro want to take the reins as they look to mount a promotion push.
Pulis has been out of work since being dismissed by West Bromwich Albion in November. The 59-year-old is interested in the Boro job, with the Championship club ready to make their approach.
Monk, 38, who was only appointed by owner Steve Gibson in June – has paid the price for a poor first half of the campaign in which the pre-season title favourites have struggled to keep pace at the top, leaving them ninth in the table and 19 points behind leaders Wolves.
Crucially, it is thought that Gibson did not have confidence in Monk leading a revival which would end in promotion back to the Premier League.
The availability of Pulis is significant and Gibson is an admirer. Talks could even open over the coming days.
It is understood that Monk failed to win over some of the dressing-room and several senior players were unsure as to how he wanted them to play.
The former Leeds boss broke from his usually guarded demeanour ahead of the trip to Hillsborough and argued that the squad he inherited was ‘fractured’ and that confidence was ‘on the floor’.
But Monk was backed to the tune of £50million by Gibson in the summer, including the £15m club-record signing of Nottingham Forest striker Britt Assombalonga. He has scored 11 times but the team has been far from convincing, even in victory.
Jonny Howson and Ryan Shotton scored inside the last 20 minutes against Wednesday to claim a 2-1 win and, afterwards, Monk spoke of his pride in the team claining the win was Boro’s ‘best away performance of the season,’
But yesterday the axe fell after the shortest reign for a full time manager in the club’s history — 198 days. Boro issued a statement on Twitter last night. It said: ‘Middlesbrough Football Club have parted company with manager Garry Monk. The club would like to thank Garry for his hard work and dedication, and wish him all the best for the future.
‘The club’s Academy manager Craig Liddle will take temporary charge of first-team affairs during the interim period while a successor is appointed.’