Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray takes inspiration from opponents Chelsea ahead of FA Cup tie
Middlesbrough host Chelsea with both teams believing an FA Cup run could galvanise their season
The Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray spelled out the harsh reality of life outside the Premier League as he prepares to face Champions League champions Chelsea in the FA Cup.
It is nearly four years since Middlesbrough were relegated to the Championship and the battle to restructure the club without the huge financial rewards of the top flight is at a huge contrast to Roman Abramovich’s football club.
“I can see it in their eyes,” says Tony Mowbray. “The girls in the office, the woman in the laundry. The sooner we get to the Premier League, the more secure their jobs are.
"You take ownership of the club you're at. You take ownership as a manager, you take ownership of the staff. The buck stops here with football managers."
These are not the words of an interim manager.
Tonight Mowbray will face the Chelsea manager operating in such an improbable and impossible position. Two men from different worlds, in different worlds, but both sensing the FA Cup could ignite their seasons.
"We're making a team, not with £50 million centre forwards or £40 million midfielders. but with free transfers at a level we can afford," adds Mowbray.
"On top of that there is the expectation of a fan base who have been in the Premier League for 11 years. Back there we are trying our best. I will keep doing it. You have to try to be clever. You have to find good players for very little money. You need to find free transfers who are better players than those you already have got who might have cost you £2m. It's not easy, especially if you didn't have a scouting system, it becomes hard. I can't tell all the critics everything that goes on all of the time. You would like to bring them all in and show them that you get in here when it is pitch black, you go home at night when it is pitch black - and yet your centre half on a Saturday doesn't mark the guy who scores and you are losing 1-0. It's back to the drawing board, you take the flak and that's the game. It's easy when you are winning."
Middlesbrough have won one of their last nine games. Mowbray has given up the chocolate he craves for lent. Benitez emerges instead from one storm, straight into the eye of another.
"I think it is unfortunate what has happened to Rafa and you have to go back to the reasons," he says. "It was the semi-final of the Champions League and it was Jose Mourinho's Chelsea against Rafa's Liverpool. They were two teams who you could not divide and it was decided on a controversial goal. It was a very emotional time.
"But the decision to take that job was Rafa's. He has won leagues everywhere he has worked and the Champions League and he is a good football man. I've been in his company and he loves to talk football and tactics and I have a lot of respect for him. It is a very tough job but he seems very professional and he is long in the tooth.
"Every manager at times feels the wrath of supporters and you have to be very single minded to be a football manager in 2103 because of the rise of social media. Everybody thinks you can do your job, but Rafa has shown he will just get on with trying to win games. In the eyes of some fans, whenever he loses, it is his fault and when he wins, nothing is said. You should assess his success or otherwise at the end of the season. That's what football managing is these days and you do need a tick thick. Anyone who tells you criticism doesn't hurt, you're human beings. You have to detach from it a little bit but you have to understand. You are the guy making the decisions. You hope to get more right than wrong.
"For instance, you make decisions for your family. How are you going on holiday. Are you going to take the car or the train, or will you fly? Your'e making decisions all the time. If you decided to go in the car and hit a ten hour traffic jam on the M6 it doesn't look like a good decision but you didn't know that was join to happen 10 hours ago. You make your decision, you stick by them and if you get beat, yes, you beat yourself up, everyone will tell you what you did wrong but you've made the decision for the right reasons.
"I've had criticism at every football club. Show me a manager who hasn't. Look at Jose Mourinho, one of the best managers in the world, a great coach and manager but there's 78 per cent of Real Madrid fans who want Michael Laudrup as their next manger. How is Mourniho feeling today? What's he telling his mam?"
Mowbray will draw inspiration from Chelsea in his quest to beat them tonight at the Riverside Stadium.
"I won't be too disappointed if Chelsea have 500 or 600 passes if we have 100 and win 2-1," he says. "That's football. There is an anxiety in the crowd at the moment. We have to find a way to win football matches. That is my job, I'm not finding the answer, the players are not finding the answer. It is a one off game, Chelsea will have more of the ball than we will. Will they get behind us? Will they hurt us? Will they have counter attacks? Will we score when the chances come? Will someone get a head on a corner? I don't know, but we will be doing our best.
"Take for instance Chelsea in those Barcelona games last season. How on earth did Chelsea win? With 10 men against the best team in the world, the best team for decades and still managing to come out on top. They found a way, so can we find a way on the night."
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