MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray has stressed how vital it is for the Teessiders to win promotion – because otherwise it could be some time before the Riverside hosts Premier League football again.
A run of six games without victory has left Boro outside the play-off places and, with four matches left, Mowbray’s men need to win three of them in order to book their spot.
Even if they do that, it would be imperative for them to win the play-offs and promotion as well because the alternative could well have them looking in from the outside at the Premier League for some time to come.
After being relegated from the top flight back in 2009, failure to win promotion after some lavish spending from Mowbray’s predecessor Gordon Strachan has come back to haunt Boro this season.
Mowbray has had to do the impossible – cut the cloth and get into the Premier League and for the best part of this campaign, he was certainly looking good to do that.
But now their hopes are hanging by a thread and if they can’t salvage them and reach their ultimate goal, the exit door for some of their higher earners will be revolving once more.
“If we don’t get out of the league this year I think the squad will get weaker, not stronger because of the financial implications,” admitted Mowbray.
“That’s where we are doing everything we can do give it our best shot this year. That’s why the likes of Seb (Hines) and Marvin (Emnes) rarely train, so they can play.
“Let’s go back a year to the team I inherited. We are doing OK. We haven’t got (David) Wheater, (Gary) O’Neil, (Didier) Digard, (Leroy) Lita, (Kris) Boyd. Even Mikael Tavares, Andrew Taylor, Tarmo Kink. They might not have impacted on the team at that time but they could have come in and done a job.
“They were capable of first-team squad status. We might have Malaury Martin, Bart Ogbeche, Curtis Main, yet in my mind I know what the cost of the football club in comparison.
“Moving forward that will reduce even more.
“I didn’t realise we would lose so many high-earning players when I took over. We couldn’t afford a local lad like David Wheater. When the offers came in we needed to address it financially. We still address financially where we can move forward and move on.
“When Leroy (Lita) left I said we were fine. It is not quite as simple as that. Until contracts expire, we have to get on with it and do the best we can.
“I don’t want that to be a negative, the salaries are from a different era. We might have to wait two years for that to happen.
“If we can sneak in to the Premier League, the finances, the problems, disappear.
“You can easily then cover the salaries you already have and then add. We would really like to sell to relieve the financial position of some of the higher earners so that we are at a level we are comfortable with.
“If we don’t sell then I’m pretty certain the players will still be giving everything to get a result for Middlesbrough.”
Given that a lack of depth in their squad will probably be the main factor stopping them from making the leap back into the top flight with injuries hampering their campaign.
Mowbray added: “Unfortunately for us, when we got our best players back, others got injured. It comes down to the strength in depth of what your squad has.
“Manchester United have 24 or 25 footballers, so when they get injured you don’t see that much of a change. Jonny Evans might not be a Rio Ferdinand or Vidic, but he is a full international who will do the job.
“Ultimately, how many Rhys Williams, Matthew Bates or even David Wheaters or Gary O’Neils do we have?
“The squad has become weaker over the last 18 months.
“The squad deserve huge credit for where they are at the moment and how far they have come.
“There are certain areas of the pitch that we have not been able to maintain the consistency we showed earlier in the season.”