HE’S bidding to get out of the Championship for the second time in his managerial career, but Tony Mowbray finds it difficult to compare his Middlesbrough side to the one he took to the title with West Bromwich Albion five years ago.
Mowbray’s Baggies side gained promotion to the Premier League playing an attacking style of football which became the Saltburn-born manager’s trademark style, but Middlesbrough fans have seen little evidence of that free-flowing football since he took charge at the Riverside Stadium three years ago.
This summer has allowed Mowbray to bring in the likes of Kei Kamara, Jacob Butterfield, Albert Adomah and Dean Whitehead, who have all slotted into the first team, with Boro starting to show signs of being an exciting, attacking force.
Defensive errors have undermined some encouraging performances, but Boro can build on a 4-1 win against Yeovil Town with a victory at Barnsley today.
“It’s not a finished team, we rarely ever get to the finish point, we always try and add better quality in every area if finances allow that,” said Mowbray.
“I think we have, with great credit to the chairman, brought in Albert Adomah, Muzzy Carayol was always going to be a longer-term project yet he has fantastic ability, Kei Kamara has hit the ground running.
“We still wait for Luke Williams to re-emerge, Adam Reach is out on loan, they’re both talented young boys at the club. In the attacking areas, we’ve got Jutkiewicz and Emnes, we’ve got options.
“Hopefully it can be an exciting, attacking team that can score goals, and can excite supporters. Those sort of teams can make you a bit edgy as when you’re attacking you have to try and keep the back door shut. That’s always a fine balance.”
When Mowbray replaced Gordon Strachan, who resigned as Boro boss exactly three years ago, the expectation was that Mowbray’s hometown team would start to play the exciting football which saw Mowbray win League Managers Association’s Manager of the Year award in 2008 when at Albion.
But while West Brom benefited from Premier League parachute payments and the sales of Diomansy Kamara and Curtis Davies, Mowbray has not had anywhere near those resources to build a team at Middlesbrough, but feels that progress is slowly being made.
“That team was put together with a fair few quid. We sold a whole team to buy a new team, basically,” explained Mowbray, who brought in 14 players at The Hawthorns in the close season of 2007.
“To buy Morrison for £3million and Brunt for £2million, we haven’t done that here. We haven’t gone out and been able to get young, high-quality footballers, we’ve taken Albert from Bristol City, George Friend from relegated Doncaster, Carayol from League One, they’re not Morrison from Premier League Middlesbrough. Brunt came from Sheffield Wednesday, but was destined for a higher club.
“But the process is the same, we’ve got a scouting network which is working hard behind the scenes, we’re trying hard to identify the right players, we know how we want to play, we know how the team will fit together.
“I’ve talked about certain parts of the team not functioning as we’d like, we’ve got to get that balance right and trying to build it. The signs are good, but the team does need to gel together. I’m excited by the talent we have at our disposal.”