Middlesbrough caretaker boss targets Norwich City in battle to climb table

Middlesbrough caretaker boss Steve Agnew must try to put the uncertainty over the club’s next manager to the back of his mind as they prepare to take on Norwich City.

Boro’, clear of the bottom three in the Championship table only on goal difference, hope to inflict more home discomfort on the Canaries on Saturday after their third Carrow Road defeat of the season, at the hands of Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

But Agnew is working against a background of speculation over who will succeed Gordon Strachan, who resigned as manager on Monday – with City boss Paul Lambert appearing on some bookmakers’ list of candidates as a 16-1 shot.

Two former Middlesbrough captains, Tony Mowbray and Paul Ince, and much-travelled former Norwich boss Gary Megson are reported to be the front runners.

“I’d be interested,” Megson said. “I think a lot of people would be interested in that. It’s a big club.

“They’re obviously not doing so well at the moment. I’ve taken a club very similar to that in West Brom, a club that’s had a good past and not firing on all cylinders. It’s a job I would be interested in, but I’m sure a lot of other good managers would be as well.”

But Agnew was busy trying to prepare his squad for the trip to Norwich as they bid to climb the table and close a gap of nine points on the top six.

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“It is up to myself and Mark Proctor to work with the players and give them the belief that we can go to Norwich and pick up the points that we need,” he said. “The players have been different class in terms of what we wanted,” Agnew added after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

“Had we nicked one in the first half it might have given us that belief to get in front.

“The players have to take belief from this performance.”

Club chairman Steve Gibson has told Agnew that he is “in charge for the foreseeable future” and he agreed: “That is how I see it. As a coach I am looking forward to working with the players. It maybe a cliche, one game at a time, but I didn’t want any distractions.”

Though Mowbray is favourite to take over he is still being paid by Celtic under the terms of his “gardening leave” agreement, while Strachan’s goalkeeper coach, Jim Blyth, and assistant Garry Pendrey also on leave from the Riverside Stadium, and Gibson must sort out their positions first.

The lack of activity on the Mowbray front has led to a flurry of movement at the bookmakers with regard to Strachan’s successor. It is inevitable, given his successful 14 months at Carrow Road, that Lambert’s name will be mentioned in conjunction with top vacancies and his odds shortened with some bookies.

• Next Middlesbrough manager: Tony Mowbray 4-6, Paul Ince 7-4, Gary Megson 3-1, Phil Brown 9-1, Billy Davies, Alan Pardew 14-1, Paul Lambert, Sean O’Driscoll 16-1, Gary Neville 18-1. Odds from Ladbrokes.