Next Middlesbrough manager: Sunderland's Championship rivals make decision over managerial 'contender'

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Gary O’Neil is unlikely to return to Middlesbrough as Chris Wilder’s replacement as the club searches for its sixth boss in less than five years.

Former Boro midfielder O’Neil, currently interim manager at Bournemouth, is understood to have come under consideration when the Teessiders drew up an initial list of potential candidates, and was swiftly installed among the bookmakers’ favourites following Wilder’s departure on Monday.

However, the PA news agency understands chairman Steve Gibson is looking elsewhere, with Rob Edwards, whose 11-game reign at Watford came to an untimely end last week, featuring prominently in the current thinking.

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Boro have also been linked with Chelsea coach Anthony Barry, who was touted for the vacancy at Huddersfield last month, and Nottingham Forest head coach Steve Cooper, whose presence at the City Ground has come under scrutiny following a difficult start to life in the Premier League, which continued with a 4-0 defeat at Leicester on Monday evening.

Chris Wilder.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images).Chris Wilder.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images).
Chris Wilder. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images).

O’Neil’s name was raised with the club considering up and coming talent – Gibson has previously turned to the likes of Gareth Southgate, Aitor Karanka, Garry Monk and Jonathan Woodgate with mixed results – after opting for experience in the shape of Neil Warnock and Wilder in the last two incumbents.

However, the Riverside Stadium hierarchy will have noted the negative reaction of fans on social media to mention of the 39-year-old, who made 120 appearances for the club between August 2007 and January 2011 with relations souring as his stay drew to a close.

O’Neil admitted in an interview following his departure that he had deliberately picked up a 10th booking of the season, during a 4-1 Premier League defeat at Bolton in April 2009, to ensure he was suspended for two games and could therefore watch the US Masters golf on television as his team-mates fought a survival battle.

Boro took four points from the fixtures he sat out, but were ultimately relegated at the end of the campaign.