Fly Me Over the Pond: Tony Mowbray and the Spirit of '86

Stew FlatsCorrespondent IOctober 27, 2010

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tony Mowbray, manager of West Brom gives instructions as Gareth Southgate, manager of Middlesbrough looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion at the Riverside Stadium on September 27, 2008 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Emotion is a powerful thing in sports.

In fact, sports fans are among the less logical and more emotion-driven creatures in the world.  For that reason, the appointment of club legend Tony Mowbray may just be a stroke of genius by Steve Gibson.  Even the most cynical Boro fan will have a nostalgic smile at the thought of the big ugly central defender beating his "Heritage Hamper" logo-bearing chest and screaming the Boro on to another win.

Mowbray also brings with him the power of perspective.  A spoiled generation of Boro fans repeatedly trot out the phrase, "this couldn’t get any worse," and treat each Championship defeat like the end of the club's very existence.  The fact is it could be worse, and it HAS been worse. 

Tony Mowbray has stared the end of the club’s existence in the face.  Mowbray has led a team that went unpaid for periods and were forced to share Hartlepool’s ground after being evicted from Ayresome Park. 

It is a measure of the leadership of the man that the team in question did not crumble and receive a sycophantic outpouring of media sympathy like Portsmouth—no, that team went on and won promotion.  Spurred on by that success, the team recently saved by a consortium led by local businessman Steve Gibson achieved successive promotions to Division One, the old Premier League.

Mowbray’s presence will hopefully allow the new Riverside generation to study the history of the club, something Boro fans should all take great pride in.  While every player around, even Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney, will say in interviews they love a club, Tony Mowbray has PROVED it.  This alone gives him more credibility than any other manager who could have taken the job, short of Bruce Rioch.

It is true that Mowbray has his critics, but they seem to be focusing purely on one failure in his career.  If you feel one failure defines an entire management career, you should perhaps ask Leeds fans how they feel about the great Brian Clough. 

Mowbray struggled under the intense spotlight at Celtic, but Middlesbrough, despite some personnel, are nothing like Celtic.  In fact, Middlesbrough are much more similar in stature and current expectations to West Bromwich Albion and Hibernian, clubs where Mowbray had a good level of managerial success.

In his first managerial role at Hibernian, Mowbray guided Hibs to the top four and UEFA Cup qualification in both his seasons in charge.  This was the first time Hibs had achieved consecutive top-four finishes since the 1970s, and earned Mowbray Scottish Football Writers Association Manager of the Year Honours. 

Mowbray left Hibernian to take over West Bromwich Albion, and created a team that played attacking football while challenging for honours.  In 2008, not only did West Brom win the Championship and promotion to the Premier League, they also made the semifinals of the FA Cup.  This West Brom success was achieved with the help of two ex-Middlesbrough players in Chris Brunt and James Morrison.

Boro fans will hope he can have a similar galvanizing effect on the current squad.  In David Wheater, a bruising ugly local young center back, he certainly has a player in his own image to nurture. 

Boro have had ups under McLaren and downs under Southgate and Strachan, but this could be another up.  Mowbray was captain when Steve Gibson saved the club, and Mowbray is the man this very fanzine is named after.  Maybe this is how it was supposed to be all along.