The Curious Case of Steve Agnew

The Curious Case of Steve Agnew

As the disappointment and despair of last season begins to fade and we become entranced by the challenges of the new season.

There remains, an outstanding consequence from last season, which is the mysterious circumstances surrounding Steve Agnew.

We have bid farewell to the Spanish contingent, which in various ways were complimentary, sincere in their appreciation of their time on Teesside.

With regard to Ramirez, wisely, silence prevailed. Even Leo Percovich made an impassioned expression of his affection for the club and his supporters.

When we come to Steve Agnew, however, silence. It is only a matter of weeks since Steve Gibson made a clear public statement of support for Steve Agnew. Gibson was fulsome in his praise of Agnew’s integrity and respect for his character and abilities. So much so, that he hoped Agnew would be at the club next year and the year after.

I will admit that on hearing this, my heart sank at the possibility of Agnew becoming manager of the club. I felt uncomfortable and guilty, that Agnew, universally regarded as ‘a nice guy’ and a top class coach, would possibly become manager. This likelihood filled me with dismay.


In truth, I cannot offer a plausible explanation beyond the vague observation that he can coach but not manage. Furthermore, as supporters we will all come up with different explanations of why some people in football like Agnew, can coach but not manage and vice versa. I believe Bryan Robson could not coach but he could manage - well up to a point!

Nonetheless, there was a widespread view that fans did not want Agnew as manager for ill-defined reasons. His record as manager of the club was minimal until he accepted the poisoned chalice of managing the club for the remaining twelve games of last season.

That period of interim management sealed his fate in the minds of supporters; that he could not motivate players, his tactical knowledge and acumen was noticeably no better than Karanka’s. The final nail in Agnew’s coffin was luck of which he had none. This being an underrated value that some managers are blessed with and others are not.

Agnew has had two spells with the club, working hard and diligently. His arrival from Hull City two years ago was greeted with enthusiasm. Steve Bruce, the Hull City manager bemoaned the prospect of losing him to Boro.

It is hard to assess Agnew’s tenure as coach under Karanka over the last two years. It would appear self-evident, that he contributed to the high level defensive skill set that Boro adopted under Karanka. Players respected him, even wanted him as manager, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that he meekly went along with whatever Karanka wanted. Moreover, once Victor Orta arrived the impression is given that Agnew became marginalised, as Orta sought more power and influence within the club.

Agnew is not responsible for the club’s relegation, but he did fail to stabilise the club or arrest to some degree, the decline that set in after Christmas. It is an open question as to whether Agnew has been unfairly treated by the club.

Fans have reached the conclusion that he was too tinged by his association with Karanka, to ever be able to manage the club.

On that prospect Agnew never seemed convincing nor authentic; wanting to be a manager and being a manager are two entirely different possibilities.

Where are we now in regards to Agnew and does it matter to supporters?

I think it does. The secrecy and bizarreness of the situation raises questions, such as, if he was so highly regarded by Gibson. Why has there been no statement from the club regarding his position?

At the risk of appearing conspiratorial, is there a link to Agnew’s position and the continued exclusion of two Gazette journalists by the club? It should be noted that the paper did make an enquiry in July, regarding Agnew’s position. This was met with silence.

Thy mystery continues but we should respect what Steve Agnew did for the club whilst he was here. He made a significant contribution to our promotion and we became a side that was hard to be beat and feared.

Agnew appears to have been consigned to the wilderness or set adrift. If there has been a departure then he, unlike others, has not had the benefit of appreciation or recognition of his coaching talent from supporters that he deserves.

Denis Barry

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