PLAYING the role of sports psychologist has been high in Tony Mowbray’s thinking in the hope he can lead Middlesbrough out of their recent slump and lead them back towards the Premier League.
In the past renowned mind guru Bill Beswick was a prominent figure around the corridors of the club’s Rockliffe Park training base where he was a key member of Steve McClaren’s backroom team.
But Mowbray has not been turning to outside help in an attempt to revive Boro’s ailing promotion push after losing four Championship matches in a row since the turn of the year.
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Middlesbrough head in to this afternoon’s visit of Barnsley knowing three points and a further win at the Riverside against Leeds United on Tuesday should get things back on track again.
But he will not be looking anywhere else other than himself and the staff he already has around him to repair the dented confidence following such a frustrating run of form.
“Bill Beswick was more for Steve McClaren’s mental preparation than for the players, I would suggest,” said Mowbray. “Yes, Bill will have done certain things with certain players who wanted it.
“But I personally don’t think players want an outsider coming in, I think they laugh really, they think it’s funny. It’s a joke to the players in my mind.
“Certain individuals get a lot out of things like that. We are human beings, all different, psychology is an individual thing and that’s not something I go down the route of.”
So without a doctor in the house to focus on players’ minds, Mowbray will be putting his own work in on the training ground and in the dressing room to get Middlesbrough ticking again.
“It’s a confidence issue, that’s all,” he said. “Marvin Emnes is a classic case. Last year he scored 18 goals and looked every inch a top quality footballer. At this moment he is going through a spell where his confidence is down.
“You have to work through it. There’s not a button to push that says ‘strikers start to score again’. It’s about chemistry on the pitch, balance in the team, how many attacking players, defending players do I choose? Is it about keeping a clean sheet this week or going on the attack? When you lose you have got it wrong and when you win everything is great.
“Confidence, mentality, that’s why you have a staff and why you bounce around views and ideas. Sometimes my mentality might switch from being positive to negative. I might want to go with more defenders in the team than attackers. Then you come back and say I need to get more attackers in. Your balance is about not over-committing and leaving yourself open.”
While worry among supporters has started to grow during the four defeats in a row, Mowbray points to the fact his team are just six points shy of an automatic promotion place as a genuine reason to be optimistic.
And he remembers the bad runs he went through during his own playing days to help conjure up a way of recapturing better form and performances.
“We have an opportunity this week to get six points with two home games and if we can do that we could fire things up and ease the negativity. We haven’t done well enough in the last month but we now have opportunities to put things right,” said Mowbray.
“Personal experience does help. You have to work through difficult periods. We can’t carry on in this vein. This weekend we will need an honest, hard-working, serious performance from us.
“It doesn’t mean Barnsley won’t pick a pass or score from a set play and we go one down. It’s how you fight yourself through that. I’m aware of the statistics, the performances in the game, some have been good, some have been poor.
“We have to find a way to win even if we are not playing well. Then if we can come out of Leeds with another we could have turned the situation around. We could head to the trip to Crystal Palace in positive mood.”