IF Tony Mowbray had signed every player offered to him this summer he would have enough to field four teams in next season’s Championship.
But the Middlesbrough manager is, if nothing else, a patient man who doesn’t find it difficult to resist every agent who tells him that his player is the perfect fit for the Riverside.
Boro’s first-team squad return today to their Rockwell base and there won’t exactly be a struggle for space in the dressing room as 12 have left, with only a few new faces, including Grant Leadbitter, expected to report for training.
But Mowbray is relaxed about the task that faces him, despite the enormity of it. For Middlesbrough to flourish, they need to win promotion to the Premier League as soon as humanly possible on a fraction of the money that used to be spent.
And when asked if this prospect is daunting, the manager insisted he was ready for such a difficult challenge.
Mowbray said: “It’s not daunting, but I’m also not rubbing my hands at the thought of it. I am, however, being patient about building up a squad. There are hundreds of players out of contract at the moment. I know that because every agent who has one has called me.
“Agents in early and mid-June think they can ask the world for them and tell me that I had better bite their hands off quickly before someone snaps him up on a free transfer.
“And yet those same players are still available later and the money has come down.
“The positives about non-contract players is that you get the possibility to get them in here, sit them down for a chat.
“I like to get a feel on their thoughts on football, their past managers, what they like and don’t like. I want to get a sense of their personality to see whether they would fit into our dressing room.” Mowbray has been back at work for two weeks now after a family holiday and you get the impression he has been twiddling his thumbs as he waits for the proper stuff to begin. He said: “It will be good to get back into it. We are football people and this is what we do.
“I got away early for a couple of weeks, so I’m nice and relaxed. I am sure the players will come back in good shape. Some will be coming back and some wont be coming back from last year, so its about trying to build a new squad really and see how we go.”
Loans deals are something he would consider before the season starts.
Middlesbrough could do with someone with top-flight experience and the manager has already made some discreet enquiries. Mowbray said: “I have spoken to a few managers about players coming on loan. Managers like to start pre-season with all their players to assess them. Then when their pre-season come to an end they will allow them to go out on loan. They like to take talented lads on the summer tours, to make them feel involved and they are not that far away.”
Mowbray believes Fifa’s Financial Fair Play Regulations will have a massive impact on Championship clubs.
But he still believed that many chairman would push their budget to the limit in a bid to drag their club into the Premier League, which now more lucrative than ever following the new three-year television deal with SKY and BT.
From the 2013/14 season, even the bottom team in the top tier would earn more than Manchester City did last season from the broadcasters – £60.6million.
And who wouldn’t want to get their hands on that kind of money, even only for a year? But clubs are no longer allowed to spend more than they earn to comply with Fifa’s regulations; something that clubs would not have thought twice about in the past to get themselves out of the Championship.
The Boro boss said: “What’s interesting in the Championship this year is that all the clubs are trying to get themselves in line with the fair play regulations that are coming in.
“Yet, because of the carrot of the £3billion Premier League deal, it will be interesting to see which clubs really throw some money at it to try to punch above their weight and catapult themselves out of this league.”
Boro have made one further signing, albeit one for the future. Christian Burgess, a 20-year-old centre-back, has agreed a two-year deal after being with the development squad.
Burgess said: “This is the opportunity I have always wanted. I’ve spoken briefly with Tony Mowbray and it’s nice that he has shown some confidence in me.”