BRACE yourself for a fact which may shock you - this is the same Boro team which played themselves into being playoff certs just weeks ago.
This is the same Boro team which stormed to the top of the Championship with a run of six wins, the same team which deservedly sent a reeling Sunderland into a Capital One Cup black hole and the same team which matched the Premier League’s tip-tapping and cup final ready Swansea for 80 minutes before a cruel deflection brought an abrupt end to any harbouring Wembley dreams.
Those days seemed a long time ago.
In terms of personel, yes, the squad remains the same - if not strengthened slightly by the return from injury of flying winger come forward Muzzy Carayol and Rolls Rhys Williams.
But when they get out on to the pitch they look more like strangers - a far cry from the team who matched away-and-gone Cardiff blow-for-blow until Christmas.
So what’s gone wrong?
In December we had already lost three or four more games than all of our promotion rivals but even our performances in defeats left punters and experts alike raving about the Boro’s free-flowing style.
We played Cardiff off the pitch, didn’t let Birmingham have a kick until we conceded a daft penalty and dominated against Leeds - but left all three trips with no points.
Since Christmas the point output on the road has remained the same but the level of performance has dropped - significantly.
It’s a run which is concerning. It’s actually relegation form.
But the fact that it has caused some people to even contemplate - never mind calling for the head of Mogga - is nothing short of ridiculous.
Radio call-in lovers rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of airing their “Mogga has lost the dressing room” or “Gibbo has ran out of cash” moans.
Those same ‘fans’ reckon it’s time the Boro were subject to a takeover from abroad. I’m guessing they haven’t spoken to Nottingham Forest or Leeds fans on that matter.
The fact remains that Mogga has taken us from an adopted-Jock League 1-bound struggling side to the quarters of the League Cup, last 16 of the FA Cup and sixth in the Championship - even after this shocking run.
As the gaffer so perfectly puts it, Boro is “in the blood”.
He breathes Teesside. He could bathe in and drink the waters of the Tees and come out fighting.
And he’s a fighter, a leader.
Regardless of what happens at Burnley tonight and for the rest of the season for that matter, Mowbray will stay in charge and he is the best man for the job.
We have lost six out of seven and remain in the play-offs, we’ll stay there no matter what happens in tonight’s game. That fact alone demonstrates perfectly the quality of the teams around us.
A run of wins would get us firmly wedged back in the top four or five again.
And it is possible - because this is the same team that did exactly that earlier in the season.
- Dominic Shaw