This week marked the 1 year anniversary of the appointment of Tony Mowbray as Middlesbrough manager. The turn around he has overseen in such a short space of time has been nothing short of remarkable.
Despite having to deal with slashing the wage bill by 40% and getting rid of key players, Mowbray has taken a team who were languishing in 23rd when he took over to the verge of the automatic promotion places.
The team Mowbray inherited from Gordon Strachan last October was one that was suffering a crisis of confidence and had dangerous splits in the dressing room with players Strachan brought in from Scotland on one side and everyone else on the other. The previous manager had also alienated the fans and certain players through baffling press interviews.
So how has Mowbray turned around a team in turmoil? Firstly he brought players who were frozen out under Strachan back into the fold including Joe Bennett and Marvin Emnes. Both players were deemed surplus to requirements by Strachan and made available for transfer. Bennett was seen as too lightweight to be a viable option at left back and was made available for just £150,000. However since Mowbray took over he has become a vital part of the team and is now a much coveted England under 21 international. Emnes was totally frozen out by Strachan and sent on loan to Swansea until Mowbray recalled him and he hasn’t looked back since. 9 goals in just 15 starts this season tells its own story.
Mowbray has been able to impose his own expansive style of play on the team. They now play slick football with thoughtful passing and sharp movement which mirrors that of the West Brom side that Mowbray also managed. Middlesbrough also boast the meanest defence in the Championship having conceded just 8 goals in 13 games. It is in stark contrast to Gordon Strachan’s Middlesbrough where much more emphasis was put on powerful hard-working players and grinding teams down through an attritional style.
Mowbray has also had to contend with the sales of several key players including Gary O’Neil, David Wheater, Kris Boyd, Leroy Lita, Andrew Taylor and Didier Digard. These sales amongst others meant Boro cut their wage bill by around 40% to a much more sustainable level. Since taking over Mowbray has spent no money whatsover on transfers to replace these players, this makes the turn around even more impressive.