Mowbray calls for Easter rethink

First published in Middlesbrough FC: News, Fixtures, Results & Tables The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

MIDDLESBROUGH are certainly not the only team to be faced with two matches inside 72 hours over the Easter weekend but Tony Mowbray thinks such a schedule is out-dated and in desperate need of change.

Mowbray knows all about the traditions of back-to-back games at this time of year having spent more than three decades engaging in the action.

But speaking ahead of this afternoon's visit of Cardiff City, he feels there should be a rethink to keep up with the ever-increasing physical demands on professional footballers.

As soon as the full-time whistle has blown today, Mowbray is geared to send his squad straight back out on to the pitch for a warm down knowing the players are then due to travel to Humberside tomorrow.

And with Middlesbrough due to play Hull City on Monday, the boss thinks it is unfair to expect pros to meet the demands of two gruelling fixtures against rivals for a play-off place in such a short space of time.

“The intensity of the games are greater in the Championship,” he said. “The hurly burly of a Championship game is a lot more than in a Premier League game where players tend to spread out in their positions more appropriately than in the Championship.

"The ProZone systems show there is a far greater intensity than there has ever been before. Players are covering more ground than they have covered before. The stats started 15 years ago and they have massively increased in those 15 years, never mind 30 years ago.

“That's why every club has sports scientists to prevent injury. Yet we still are playing games Saturday-Monday like we did 30 years ago.

"If you want quality and you want to see technical football, good quality, then you have to give players chance to recover and the coaches a chance to prepare. It is very difficult for us at this club to prepare for Hull on Monday.”

Mowbray's biggest problem is knowing what team to pick for the trip to Hull. He might have a team in his thoughts, but once this afternoon's visit of Cardiff is completed then he could have to have a complete change of thinking.

He said: "You haven't got a clue what the team will be. I sit in my office and I pick a team for Saturday and a team for Monday, I know how the team recovers from one game to the next.

“I am trying to pick two teams but you just don't know who you will have available. We generally have a game plan for every game. I have been going to watch Hull even though we have Cardiff first. There's no time to prepare the team for Hull. We will just have to go there and see who we have available."

It is hardly the ideal preparation for two fixtures which are likely to go a long way in determining what division Middlesbrough will be playing in next season.

There are just five points separating ninth-placed Hull with fifth-placed Blackpool, who sit level on points with Middlesbrough in seventh because of a superior goal difference.

Mowbray has no fresh injury problems ahead of the visit of Cardiff, whose full-back Andrew Taylor will return to the Riverside for the first time since leaving the club where he started his career.

The Middlesbrough boss is keen to stress he will not be over-emphasising the importance of the next two games.

"All I see is two games in front of us and there are points available,” said Mowbray, knowing his team is bereft of key-men Matthew Bates and Rhys Williams for the final six games through injury.

“We don't know what other teams will do so it's impossible to say how important a game or two are.

“We have a massive opportunity. Last season we had no opportunity. We have to try to grasp it. I have to drill in to the players that the Premier League is in front of them, they have to try to grab it.

“We are in finger reach of grabbing it. We have to try not to let that slip by. I am sure every club up there is saying similar.”

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