MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray says he will never give up on his principles should he guide his men back to the Premier League.
Mowbray’s side are third in the table and travel to Championship leaders Southampton today, which will be a firm indicator of how strong their promotion charge is.
The Boro boss’ liking for an expansive game is not hidden, but while his last top-flight outing when in charge at West Bromwich Albion won many admirers of their style of play, they were nevertheless relegated.
This season’s Premier League new boys Norwich and Swansea have continued with their own expansive philosophy.
Mowbray admires that, but concedes that free-flowing principle will be sternly tested for those looking to pass the ball in the top flight.
He said: “My general philosophy on football is always to try and play an expansive game and get technical footballers to do it.
“It is great credit to both Norwich and Swansea they do trust their players with the ball and play a passing game.
“To be fair, it did not need selling to me that they would do OK.
“I look back to my West Brom team when we were in the Premier League.
“For long spells that season, we more than held our own and played very attractive open football.
“The test for those teams is where they are after 38 games not where they are now after eight or nine, because there will be stages in the season where they will lose four or five on the bounce.
“It is how they react to criticism from all angles and whether they keep playing in what they believe in.
“There is a fine balance between winning and getting results but also educating players and allowing them to express their talent.
“Nobody wants a team which looks great – as Arsenal supporters every day on the radio say they just want winning football now.
“For me, the balance has to be, do not lose your principles but win.
“On the other hand you have seen teams like Stoke over the years be successful doing it a different way and them trying to find a balance.
“Tony Pulis has brought in (Matthew) Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, who are talented, technical footballers to sort of dilute the directness of their game.
“For me, the team with the best balance usually wins.
“Look at Manchester City, who have a Nigel de Jong sitting behind David Silva and protecting the back four.
“You get the balance right, then you have a good team.”
Mowbray also insists it is vital for English football that coaches practise an expansive game.
England’s failures at the highest level since their World Cup win of 1966 have been debated extensively this week and, while some like Chris Waddle feel penalty shoot-out hang-ups are the main cause, Mowbray believes the problem is more deep-rooted and can be traced to how the game is played at club level.
He called for more bosses to be brave and open up and expand their style of play.
He added: “At the moment, and for the benefit of English football and English footballers, the more brave coaches you have in the English Premier League who allow their players to express their talents can only be of a benefit to the game.
“I don’t think we can on the one hand criticise the national team for not being able to play against Germany and Spain and then laud a very direct game which wins one-nil and expect international footballers to play a different type of football.”
Meanwhile, Carl Ikeme will not be returning to the Riverside after his loan-spell from Wolves was ended by injury.
Mowbray said: “Carl has damaged his finger and has gone back to his parent club to get fit. He kept five clean sheets on the bounce, which is a real accolade. “