IT promises to be a dramatic last day of the season for Middlesbrough but Tony Mowbray is adamant no one on the away bench at Watford will be listening to radios or monitoring iPhones for news from Selhurst Park.
Boro’s only chance of making the Championship play-offs is for Cardiff City to lose at Crystal Palace. But Mowbray’s men also need to win. That is why he says he will take no interest.
“We have to win anyway so what are we doing different (depending on Cardiff’s score)?” he argued. “We’ll still be charging forward to get a goal.
“If they’re winning 2-0 am I going to say, ‘Listen lads, just forget it. Tell me our score afterwards, I’m going for a pint!’
“We might be 1-0 up after two minutes and never cross the halfway line again – do a Chelsea and put nine men in the box for the next 88 minutes. We won’t, but the potential is there!
“If it’s 85 minutes, we’re 0-0 and they’re getting beaten, you charge everybody forward to get in their box.
“The fans will transmit (Cardiff’s score) but there’ll be nobody on our bench with an earpiece in.”
It will certainly be unlike Mowbray’s first season in management, when his Hibernian side played for and got a 1-0 defeat on the last day.
“We were trying to qualify for Europe,” he recalled. “We got beaten 1-0 off Rangers and were happy to get beaten 1-0. If we’d lost two or three-nil with the goal difference we would have finished below Aberdeen.
“They were happy to win 1-0 because that got them the title. Celtic fans would have been desperate for us to get a goal so they’d win the title, but we sat in and were quite content to lose 1-0.
“I had to look after my team and our interests. The fans were dancing and happy we only lost 1-0. Do you try and get an equaliser and leave yourself vulnerable to a second or a third or sit in away and think we have achieved our goal of finishing third, which when you’re not in the Old Firm is like winning the league?”
Mowbray returned to his hometown club last season with a relegation battle on his hands. So hard though it would be to take, a seventh--place finish would represent progress.
The problem is, a brilliant first half of the season raised higher expectations.
“In any other season to get 73 points and not finish in the play-offs, it’s harsh on a team,” Mowbray said.
“We only got 81 with West Brom winning the league (in 2007-08, when Mowbray was manager). We lost 11 games. We’ve only lost 11 here.
“We set ourselves such a good platform in the first half of the season. Our media department always seemed to be telling me we’d broken another record.
“Last season we were scrambling every week to make sure we didn’t get sucked into that bottom three. We finished so strongly we finished 12th and felt relatively comfortable, yet we were looking over our shoulder.
“If we’d lost the last four games of this season we’d probably have finished 12th again. Which season would you prefer? You’d prefer to be at the top end most of the season.”
If Mowbray is not frantically checking events in south London, chief executive Dave Bausor will be.
“The amount of minutes I’ve wasted this season waiting for results to come through I can’t count!” he said. “Clearly we will be keeping an eye out.”