TONY Mowbray is adamant his Middlesbrough side will approach their FA Cup derby with in-form Sunderland holding “no fear”.
The grounded Boro boss is not prone to making bullish statements about his team’s prospects but admits he was riled before the Tees-Wear rivals first meeting by the way his team were written off in some quarters.
Highlighting the dominant personalities that he believes can help drive his team to a surprise win, Mowbray is certain that his team call pull off an upset in front of a packed out Riverside crowd.
Mowbray may have to partner new signing Lukas Jutkiewicz with teenager Curtis Main as injuries bite in his threadbare squad but whatever happens he knows his side aren’t short of self-belief despite Sunderland arriving in Teesside on the back of a remarkable winning run.
He said: “I genuinely thought before the game that we would match them. Having been a Premier League manager, sometimes you go into the game fearing for your team. I didn’t fear for it the other week.
“I thought we had some personalities in our team that would want to show people that we ain’t canon fodder.
“I was in the car that morning on the way to the bus that would take the team up to Sunderland and the radio station I had on were totally dismissive of our chances, and it just gives you that extra motivation when you talk to your team. You let them know that this is what people think of you.
“Like I say I had no fear beforehand. I didn’t sit in the dressing before it started thinking ‘Christ this could be anything today’ whereas sometimes you do. But I knew we could rise to the occasion and we did.
“Sunderland have got some very good players who at times could push us back yet we managed to see them off and ask questions of them on the break.
“It was an interesting game. It was a bit drab for 20 minutes where both teams competed with each other and stood their ground. But then it was worthy of a Tees-Wear derby. Let’s hope Wednesday’s the same.”
Taking the time out of the build-up to reveal just how tough life is as a football manager, Mowbray admits the “all-consuming” nature of the job makes it difficult at times.
Their barren run has not been enjoyable for Riverside regulars and the Boro chief admits the poor form churns him up at times.
He said: “I’m not sure people enjoy football management. There’s a perception you can enjoy it if you’re winning games but you deal with the problems that footballers give you every day. Football has changed over the years. Back in the day, footballers were generally more submissive and just got on with what they were told to do.
“Things are fine here. I’m working hard as I possibly can to try and stay in the top end of this table and try and get us back into the promised land.
“I enjoy coming into work every day. Saturday though is the pressure day. You don’t love Monday to Friday when you’ve got certain issues to deal with with certain players.
“Whether they be footballers or board members. It’s an intense job. You have to try and win and the buck stops here. We have had two players give away goals with two bad back passes in the last two games and all the inspiration and perspiration goes out of the window in the space of a couple of seconds.”
Football, he admits, is his life.
He continued: “Every club I’ve managed at, it’s been the same,” he said. “In football, you need to win games and I want to win every one. Lose it’s sad but not anger. You might have not been the one to miss an open goal or a penalty kick but it’s your preparation, your job and your life.
“But if you’re not driven to go and win the next match you shouldn’t be here.”