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Mowbray keen to keep Boro talent happy
HOT prospect Luke Williams has been told to "remember" that he is loved by the Middlesbrough coaching staff even when he finds himself left out of the starting line-up this season.
Despite an impressive, goalscoring performance in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Ipswich Town, Williams is by no means certain of his place at Blackpool tonight.
And when the 19-year-old does find himself out of the team again, manager Tony Mowbray wants him to realise it is not personal and his decision will be tactical rather than anything else.
Williams is among a healthy group of forwards in the Middlesbrough squad and Mowbray makes no secret of the fact he will be rotating them as he plots his way through a 46-match Championship campaign.
Marvin Emnes , after being granted two weeks of compassionate leave to return to Surinam, trained again yesterday so is in contention to start at Bloomfield Road tonight.
And with Lukas Jutkiewicz, Ishmael Miller, Emanuel Ledesma, Adam Reach, Mustapha Carayol, Merouane Zemmama and Cameron Park also vying for roles, Williams is likely to be in and out of the Middlesbrough team.
How he deals with the situation will be key to Williams' season, with Mowbray aware of the need to keep a teenager with fantastic potential happy and focused on the challenges ahead.
"Generally with Luke I have a different tactic to make sure he knows my thoughts," said Mowbray. "Rather than going in and talking to him I will use Mark Proctor (first team coach) quite a lot because he is not too far detached from being his youth team manager. He knows how he ticks.
"Sometimes if I leave him out, or he is not travelling, playing, then rather than me pull him in then maybe Proc will do it when he is walking up the hill in training.
"We might give him a whack and say he is not playing but we give him plenty of sugar from Proc to say 'don't worry the manager loves you to bits'."
Williams has already had to cope ups and downs during his time with the first team squad. After Gordon Strachan made him the club's youngest debutant in 104 years at Barnsley in December 2009, he had to live with the immediate burden of expectation placed on his shoulders.
After Mowbray took over from Strachan in October of the following year, however, Williams' opportunities have been far more limited and did not figure at all last season.
But the Boro boss, who has disregarded the option of Aussie striker Scott McDonald for now, said: "It was hard for Luke last year. My job is to pick a team. The team was different last year. It was an attritional team which seemed more comfortable when winning the ball back. This year I am hoping we will be better with the ball and score more goals.
"From being thrown in very young and not featuring the penny has had to drop with him really of what it takes. If you get thrown in so young then it's easy to think that it comes naturally and you don't have to work at it.
"He now realises the demands of what we put on him. He played because he had looked so sharp in training. He goes past people in training like there isn't anyone there. Look at the game on Saturday, he's gone and rifled it in to the bottom corner without even thinking about it. He just smashed it. He has to try to keep it going.
"I will utilise him when it is right to utilise him. We can't expect a young boy to perform at that level in every game. He has made that jump to be in and around our squad all season but there will be some games when he doesn't feature."
Williams' opener on Saturday set up a 2-0 victory over the Tractor Boys, which made it three home wins from three at the Riverside Stadium this season.
Middlesbrough head for second-placed Blackpool a point behind them, but to leapfrog them Mowbray will need to rectify the problem of two successive away defeats in the Championship.
And with early league leaders Blackburn next up on Friday at Ewood Park, this promises to be a week of trips to Lancashire which could give Mowbray an indication of the heights his squad are capable of hitting.
"We know we have some extra work to do," said Mowbray, who has no further injury problems but did welcome Nicky Bailey back to training yesterday.
"It's been a bit stop-start for us. The weekend's team had four or five players in that hadn't kicked a ball for a few weeks, some even six weeks. It looked a bit like that as well."
"Blackburn and Blackpool are sitting one and two in the league and that's the big thing to look at. After a dozen games you can start to see how things are balancing out. If we lost the next two we could win the next three and we would be right up there, so we will just see how things go."