After a near 20-year hiatus, Tony Mowbray, Middlesbrough's prodigal son, returned to Teesside yesterday, his challenge to lead the club back into the Premier League. His immediate short-term aim is rather more modest: to extricate the club he represented with such distinction from the Championship relegation zone.
Almost two decades after leaving to play for Celtic, the 46-year-old has come full circle. He finally settled a compensation package at Parkhead, from where he was sacked as manager in March, to take charge at Middlesbrough, whom he helped to back-to-back promotions in the wake of liquidation in the 1980s, making more than 400 appearances for the club he has supported since boyhood. He even has a Boro fanzine named in his honour.
Mowbray, who has agreed a rolling contract worth around £600,000 a year, said: "I've been a Boro fan since I was six when I stood on the terraces with my dad, so accepting the job didn't take a moment's thought. I've got a chance to steer us back to the Premier League."
Having succeeded Gordon Strachan at Celtic, he does likewise at the Riverside Stadium. It is not a hard act to follow, the Scot having overseen a wretched 12 months during which Middlesbrough, pre-season favourites for promotion to the top flight, have gone backwards.
They sit just a point ahead of bottom club Bristol City, whom they host in the new manager's first game in charge. Mowbray, who will be assisted by Mark Venus, took training for the first time yesterday. He retains lofty ambitions. "Ultimately I want to manage at the very highest level wherever that may be, let's hope that's with Middlesbrough in the Champions League in three, four, five years' time."