WHEN he shares a glass of red wine with Tony Mowbray in the manager’s office at Ewood Park in the aftermath of tomorrow’s game between Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers, Tony Pulis will find himself sitting with a kindred spirit.

When it comes to sifting through the financial wreckage of a failed spending spree on Teesside, Mowbray has been there, worn the T-shirt and got a P45 as a reward for his efforts.

When Mowbray was appointed as Middlesbrough manager in October 2010, making an emotional return to the club that afforded him legendary status as a player, he found himself paying a high price for the mistakes of his predecessor, Gordon Strachan.

Costs had to be cut, players had to be sold, and while he might have had aspirations of taking Boro back to the Premier League, the reality of Mowbray’s situation was apparent from the teams he was forced to select. For his first game, a defeat to Bristol City, Luke Williams and Mikael Tavares formed the heart of his midfield.

Fast forward eight-and-a-half years, and Pulis can easily sympathise with his position. There will be no equivalent of Tavares in the Middlesbrough side that lines up at Blackburn tomorrow, but just as Strachan’s abject transfer record hamstrung Mowbray’s ability to rebuild, so Garry Monk’s squandering of around £40m in parachute payments has severely restricted Pulis’ attempts to recruit.

Like the manager he will come up against tomorrow, Pulis finds himself cleaning up the mess that was bequeathed to him. Ultimately, managers will always be judged on results, but there is surely an element of Pulis trying to pen his own epitaph when he praises Mowbray’s efforts in the face of extreme adversity.

“He spent his time here at Middlesbrough cleaning up a little bit of a mess,” said Pulis. “I’ve got a little bit of experience of that as well.

“I don’t think Tony got the justified credit for what he did. You don’t when you are doing things like that, but that’s football - you accept it and you get on with it. People don’t really know what goes on at football clubs, they turn up on a Saturday, watch a game and think, ‘That’s it, the be all and end all’.

“There’s lots of things going on at football clubs that they don’t see and it takes strong people and strong-minded and strong-willed people to get through those periods. Tony’s got all of that. I like him as a person, I think he’s a good man and a good football man as well, and apart from Sunday, he’s one person you would love to be successful because he’s a good person.”

Mowbray oversaw a host of departures during his three years as Boro boss, moving on the Scottish contingent that Strachan brought south of the border at exorbitant expense.

He also brought players in though, and his recruitment ultimately paved the way for the success that occurred under his successor, Aitor Karanka.

Mowbray’s decision to sign Grant Leadbitter on a free transfer from Ipswich Town in the summer of 2012 was one of the best pieces of business ever enacted by a Middlesbrough manager, and the current Blackburn boss also recruited George Friend in a cut-price deal with Doncaster Rovers during the same transfer window.

“He’s a proper man,” said Friend, who has evolved into one of the bedrocks of the Middlesbrough dressing room in the last seven years. “The Boro fans idolise him, and rightly so because he’s a Boro legend really.

“I had the option to go to two other Championship clubs, but I went to Middlesbrough first to look around, and as soon as I met him and he showed me around the training ground, I didn’t even bother going to the other two. That’s how much of an impact he had.

“He really started off my Boro career, and has helped me cement a place over these years. I owe him a lot and I’m very thankful to him. He plays a nice brand of football, everyone knows that, and they’re (Blackburn) a good side.

“They’ve got some good players, so we have to be ready. Of course I’m very thankful to him and his staff, but hopefully we get the points over him this time.”

Friend saw Mowbray’s attempts to deal with the financial constraints he was saddled with at first hand, and agrees that Boro’s subsequent promotion under Karanka would almost certainly not have happened without the foundations that were already in place by the time the Spaniard arrived in the North-East.

“He had a tough task, and I don’t know if he always got the credit for what he did,” he said.“I’m not talking about myself, but he made some good signings and brought in some good people.

“Grant obviously stands out, but there were others as well. He deserves a huge amount of credit for what he did as a player, but also for what he did as a manager, under a tight budget. He laid the path for other managers to come in and do well.”