IT can be dangerous to make predictions in the capricious Championship, but one thing is guaranteed at the Riverside Stadiumon Saturday afternoon.
Like a select band of feted former Middlesbrough managers of old, Blackburn Rovers chief Tony Mowbray can be sure of a heartfelt and tumultous reception from the Riverside faithful on his return to his home-town club.
Their relationship and depth of feeling towards the man whom Boro supporters universally refer to as ‘Mogga’ is a strong one and while the final throes of Mowbray’s stint in charge was ignominious, the respect of the Teesside public towards him has always endured with his place in club folklore assured.
Mowbray, the on-field captain during Boro’s glorious renaissance from near-death in the mid-Eighties, will be afforded a special welcome, just as two of his precedessors in the dug-out in Aitor Karanka and Bruce Rioch were when they made their first managerial returns to Teesside with rival clubs.
For Saltburn-born Mowbray, who was sacked in the autumn of 2013, there is bound to be a lump in his throat ahead of kick-off, but ever the professional, business will take over at the opening whistle.
He said: “I look for Middlesbrough games, yes, but only because I have supported Middlesbrough since I was eight or nine.
“I followed Middlesbrough in the 70s, Jack Charlton’s team with Graeme Souness and John Hickton up front.
“I remember Ayresome Park, which is not there any more. That was where I grew up really. I remember walking up the concrete steps and seeing the oasis of grass in the middle
“My total loyalties, as always over the last 14 or 15 years, are (now) with the team I am managing.”
With Blackburn being in the vicinity of the play-offs, sentiment in Saturday’s fixture will be parked to one side come kick-off, but keeping in the respect theme, Mowbray’s opposite number, Tony Pulis, is fulsome in his praise of his rival’s managerial career, including during a difficult time at Boro when he put the club back on an even keel.
Pulis said: “I know Tony quite well, he has done good jobs wherever he has gone. I thought he did quite a good job here, but did not get the credit he deserved. He picked up a bit of a mess and worked hard to clear that out.”
I thought he did quite a good job here, but did not get the credit he deserved. He picked up a bit of a mess and worked hard to clear that out.Tony Pulis on former Boro boss Tony Mowbray