Football League Expert & Columnist
Mowbray the messiah
Peter Beagrie says a club legend has used the spirit of '86 to revive Middlesbrough's fortunes.
Last Updated: 08/09/11 11:13am
It seems Mowbray is the Middlesbrough messiah.
Tony is an old friend of mine and was best man at my wedding 25 years ago when he was Boro captain.
In fact, I remember one occasion when one of the managers, who shall remain nameless, told me I shouldn't keep his company because he was refusing to sign a new contract. I pointed out that even though he didn't want to sign, he never gave anything less than 100 per cent when he pulled on the red shirt.
He was one of the club's youngest ever captains and, like much of the squad in those days, he was Middlesbrough born and bred. Eventually I left the club because I'd been promised a contract that wasn't forthcoming and while I went on to have success, thankfully so did the club and so did Tony.
He led the club from liquidation back to the top division. Within a few years they had players like Juninho in the team and were playing in European finals! However, they couldn't reach the next level and become a fixture in the top seven and they were relegated in 2009. They've had to cut their cloth accordingly ever since.
Mowbray was always going to return as manager one day. He had great success at Hibernian and West Brom, but didn't have such a happy time at Celtic, his other big passion.
But he's done a remarkable job at the Riverside since returning last season, even though he didn't have as many resources as his predecessor Gordon Strachan. They had a horrendous start to last season, despite a huge wage bill, but Tony transformed them and has them playing in a way the fans like.
More importantly, they are producing results now. After a great finish to last season they're unbeaten in five games this term and sit in fourth in the table. He has balanced the books and injected pace into the team without compromising his football principles.
He's offloaded Didier Digard and Kris Boyd and injected the spirit of '86 into his new-look Middlesbrough. Local youngsters such as Matthew Bates, Tony McMahon and Joe Bennett have been complemented by the versatile Australian Rhys Williams, who is the jewel in their crown right now.
Malaury Martin, who has played in the France youth ranks, is a great acquisition from Blackpool, while Julio Arca is enjoying a second coming at Middlesbrough. Also, the 25-year-old Faris Haroun looks a good box-to-box midfielder and likes to arrive from deep to score goals, as he did against Birmingham.
There's a lot of quality in there, but it is a small squad and they lack numbers, especially in the centre-forward area. Scott McDonald has picked up an injury, which shows why it was so important to hold onto the on-fire Marvin Emnes.
It was rumoured they were chasing Ishmael Miller before he went to Nottingham Forest, but maybe it's good they missed out because he's possibly too similar to Emnes.
It also seems he wouldn't have fit into the new wage structure, which has been implemented for the good of the club's future. As was shown under Strachan's tutelage, you can't guarantee success by throwing money at it.
Everyone was looking at this as a season of stabilisation when Mowbray would have to slash the wage bill, but they've had a terrific start. They have an excellent academy and he isn't afraid to throw young players into the team if he thinks they're ready.
They had a brilliant win at Birmingham, but haven't been totally convincing at home yet. They let a lead slip twice to Portsmouth on the opening day and also drew with Coventry in their last game.
Middlesbrough have very demanding home fans and it's a harsh place to play sometimes, but they do like talent and hard work - principles that Tony's teams always adhere to.
If the supporters are patient I'm sure they'll turn their home form around.
What else we learned this week
Spare a thought for Conrad Logan in the Rotherham goal... he chipped several teeth and will be missing for several weeks with a broken nose. He didn't deserve to be on the losing side against Swindon.
Good news for Leeds fans... Luciano Becchio played and scored in a reserve game and they need him to regain match fitness as soon as possible.
It's a big week for the Blades... A big club with a point to prove, but it's all about getting points on the board and overtaking MK Dons. They travel to Scunthorpe, who beat them twice last year, and then entertain Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield on Tuesday.
The other Sheffield club have a big one too... Wednesday play leaders MK Dons in a key clash on Saturday.
I must mention Jim Bentley... the Morecambe stalwart has made a seamless transition into management. I was with him at Man City and I'll watch his career develop closely.
Crawley may have a bigger squad and budget than Morecambe ... but at the moment there's nothing between them. That'll be a great game in League Two this weekend.
Peter's Picks of the Week
League One Performance: MK Dons
The 3-1 dismantling of Carlisle, never an easy place to go, kept the Dons top of League One in style. Charlie MacDonald managed to get his third in three games too.
League One Game: Stevenage 4-2 Rochdale
This was a six-goal thriller that swung back and forward and Rochdale were never fully out of the game.
League One Player: Chris Beardsley
The player of the week operated in the game of the week and Chris Beardsley gets the nod for his two goals, the second one an absolute cracker.
League Two Game: Swindon 3-2 Rotherham
There's never a dull moment with Paolo Di Canio. After the fracas against Southampton there was no chance of a quiet afternoon. Three goals, two red cards, a melee in the dugout and a row between the managers. The ineffective defensive displays were great for the neutral, as Rotherham lost their 100% record.
League Two Performance: Crawley Town
The league leaders continue to set the pace with a 4-1 win over one of the pre-season favourites, Bristol Rovers, who keep showing their defensive deficiencies.
League Two Player: Tyrone Barnett
He scored twice in Crawley's 4-1 win over Bristol Rovers to take his tally to four goals for the season, all in the league.
Manager of the Month Shortlists
Championship: Gus Poyet (Brighton), Nigel Adkins (Southampton), Nigel Clough (Derby), Tony Mowbray (Middlesbrough)
League One: Karl Robinson (MK Dons), Chris Powell (Charlton), Danny Wilson (Sheff Utd), Les Parry (Tranmere)
League Two: Andy Scott (Rotherham), Jim Bentley (Morecambe), Steve Evans (Crawley), Graham Turner (Shrewsbury)
Player of the Month Shortlists
Championship: Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough), Luke Steele (Barnsley), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Kevin Phillips (Blackpool)
League One: Steven Quinn (Sheff Utd), Graham Alexander (Preston), Ryan Lowe (Bury, now Sheff Wed) Luke Chadwick (MK Dons)
League Two: Tyrone Barnet (Crawley), Mark Arber (Dagenham & Redbridge), Doug Loft (Port Vale), Izale McLeod (Barnet)
Is there anyone the Football League has missed? Let us know in the comments box below...