LOCAL hero Tony Mowbray has discounted any notion that Middlesbrough should be suffering from an inferiority complex when they head in to tomorrow's FA Cup meeting with neighbours Sunderland.

More than 30 coaches of Boro supporters will make the half an hour journey up the A19 to Wearside in the morning in the hope of witnessing their Premier League counterparts dumped out at the fourth round stage.

Fortunes have changed considerably in the last few years at the two clubs, with Sunderland's improved status and financial backing coinciding with Middlesbrough's expensive fall in to the Championship.

With both Sunderland and Newcastle occupying places in the Premier League's top ten, it could be easy for Middlesbrough's supporters to dwell on the memories of the success of the not too distant past.

Having followed up the Carling Cup triumph in 2004 by reaching the UEFA Cup final two years later, Middlesbrough have since spent the last two-and-a-half seasons in the Championship, which has forced a serious rethink in the club's financial outlay.

"I don't feel like we are the poor relations at all," said Mowbray. "Never have done, never will do. The people of Teesside are very proud of where they come from and their football club. I think it is a moment in time you are talking about. Football's cyclical. It depends who you ask.

"With Boro, when this club was in the UEFA Cup, where were the other two? I honestly don't know. At this moment in history, we are in the Championship and yet in three or four years time who is to say Boro might be in the Premier League and the other two back in the Championship. It's not so long ago that Newcastle were in there."

Mowbray has every intention of knocking a Premier League team out of the FA Cup tomorrow, regardless of the Wearside roots of their opponents.

He has his selection problems, with Jason Steele, Merouane Zemmama, Nicky Bailey all out through injury and both Kevin Thomson and Julio Arca suspended. He is, though, not concerned.

"Things can change very quickly and we are striving to join Sunderland in the Premier League," said Mowbray, whose side's excellent start to the season has been followed by a recent run of three league games without a win.

"We are underdogs because we are playing a Premier League side and rightly so. But let's see how the game goes. Let us hope Sunderland feel we are the underdogs and we go there and compete."

Mowbray has the utmost respect for Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill, having faced one another a number of times during their managerial careers. During Mowbray's time at Hibernian, he actually inflicted the defeat on O'Neill at Parkhead which contributed to Celtic missing out on the Scottish Premier League title in 2005.

"We have come across each other a fair bit," said Mowbray, whose West Brom team also faced Aston Villa. "His career speaks for itself and so do his achievements.

"He is a very charming intelligent man who knows how to get results. He never gets caught out saying the wrong thing. He knows when to get his team to gamble and when to sit tight and when to press. He is very good at it."

Either side of the FA Cup tie at the Stadium of Light, Mowbray is continuing to pursue a loan signing, which could be completed after the transfer window closes on Tuesday night.

He said: "I do not know if there will be any outgoings, although one or two clubs are asking questions. But they are not getting anywhere near to where we would want them to get to.

"There's no chance of us buying anyone but if we could bring in a player on loan, at the right price, the right deal, there is a chance we could do that, but nothing big. No big signing."