STEWART DOWNING thinks Tony Mowbray deserves a warm reception when he returns to Teesside on Saturday – a little over five years since he left Middlesbrough.

Mowbray lost his job in charge of his hometown team in October 2013 after a run of just one win from ten games had left Boro 16th in the Championship.

Since then, after more than a year in charge of Coventry City, he has taken Blackburn Rovers up to the second tier and has guided them to tenth.

Mowbray encountered a difficult period at Boro because he had to cut costs following an unsuccessful spell under Gordon Strachan following the departure of Gareth Southgate and relegation from the Premier League.

He was unable to guide Boro back to the top-flight, but supporters like Downing fondly remember the way he started his playing career at the club, captaining them through liquidation and he helped them back to the top tier in 1988.

Middlesbrough-born Downing said: “He is a legend at this club for what he achieved during difficult times. He played and stayed, he will get a very good reception.

“And he should do because of what he also achieved here as a manager. He was well thought of. He gave his all for this club when he played and managed and he should get a good reception. Hopefully he leaves a bit sad at the end of the game on Saturday though.”

When Mowbray left after a defeat at Barnsley, there was a feeling that he had come to the end because he looked a broken man as he left the pitch.

But Downing feels there should be enormous sympathy for him given the way that he was in charge of Boro at a time when chairman Steve Gibson was having to cut costs.

Rather than have the sort of cash to invest in the squad like Strachan did, or Southgate before him albeit with the Premier League cash, Mowbray had to look at the bargain buys.

And many of those he persuaded to head for the North-East along with his assistant, Mark Venus, remained part of the club’s rise again under Aitor Karanka – and are still key figures under Tony Pulis.

George Friend, Daniel Ayala, Dimi Konstantopoulos and Grant Leadbitter are among those and Downing feels that Mowbray’s work should be respected and valued greatly at the Riverside.

The winger said: “He is a good manager, he did very well for Middlesbrough. A lot of the lads who played for him here speak highly of him. They really liked him.

“He took over in difficult circumstances, he didn’t have a big pot of money to spend. He did very well with what he had and the resources he had. I have met him a few times and he is a very nice fella too.

“He knows what he is doing. I have never heard anyone speak bad of him, he likes to play in the right way.

“He just seems to have been unfortunate in that he has never had that big pot of money wherever he has been.

“If he had had that big budget somewhere then how well will he have done? He obviously did well at West Brom, without that much to spend. He has done very well as a manager and was a very good player too.”

Mowbray amassed 348 league appearances in a nine year spell at Boro. He retired as a player in 2000 and returned as manager in 2010 after spells with Hibernian, West Brom and Celtic.

In his first season after taking over from Strachan he led Boro to seventh in the Championship before slipping down the table the following season.

Blackburn head to the Riverside under him on the back of a 4-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. That lifted them to tenth and has former Boro players Jayson Leutwiler, Richie Smallwood and Danny Graham at Ewood Park.