Tony Mowbray says Rovers must have a plan of how they are going to get out of the Championship, and he will continue to implement his philosophy of how that is best done unless owners Venky’s want to ‘start everything again’.

Mowbray has now been in charge of Rovers for four years, but dates the start of this current journey back to the start of this season, his second cycle of looking to progress the club following their season in League One.

He believes the club is in a much better position than when he first joined, a younger team with more sellable assets, and he feels that sales along the way could help facilitate Rovers’ progress if the money is reinvested well, stressing the importance of recruitment.

Mowbray accepts that Rovers have fallen short of their top six aim and that results will be king, but he does see that progress has been made over the course of his time in charge.

“Where are we? I think we’re further on that when we came. I think we have got a lot more assets at the football club, we’ve got a much younger team that we don’t want to sell on, but if the market came that we could sell, we have some assets,” Mowbray said.

“Sometimes you have to sell to improve, to move on and get better and let’s wait and see what this club decide it wants to do and what the bigger picture for the club is.

“If the ambition is to get out of this league and get to the Premier League, at whatever stage, it has to have a plan to do that, and my belief is good recruitment, developing your own Academy players, having an identity and structure to the way you play and you have to develop over a period of time.

“Then hopefully you get the results you want over a period of time.”

The current campaign, played without fans and one month shorter than usual, is one Mowbray has continued to describe as like no other in his 40 years in the game.

The pandemic prevented his annual trip to Pune last summer to meet with the club’s Indian owners, but he says communication over Zoom and phone hasn’t made that an issue.

At the end of this campaign, Rovers will see their five loan players return to their parent clubs, while a host of senior players are out of contract, alongside the interest in top scorer Adam Armstrong.

Asked about the upcoming summer, Mowbray said: “I think every summer is pivotal, what are you going to do, are you going to recruit, are you going to sell, how many players does the manager want, where are the weaknesses in the team, where’s the flaws, where do you need to improve? That’s what you do every year.

“That’s why I keep saying that recruitment is the key to taking your team where you want it to be and having the identity that you want it to have.

“I think ultimately the picture for the football club is how do they see the future, how do they see this club getting out of this league? You have to have a plan in my opinion, unless you get very fortunate and have a one off year where everything clicks, everyone stays fit, someone catches fire and scores bags and bags of goals and you find a way of playing that suits the team.

“For me, we were developing a way we were playing but as I’ve said, it’s been a pretty inconsistent selection because of the situation we’ve faced this year, with the lack of preparation, not just us, everyone.”

Over the course of the last 18 months Rovers have seen a number of their stalwarts from the League One promotion winning season, and first year back in the Championship, move on, and with that, Mowbray has looked to develop a more possession-based style.

He says that belief stems from his success in achieving promotion with West Bromwich Albion in 2008, as well as the current Championship table, seeing a correlation between possession statistics and chances created, and the league standings.

Mowbray feels injuries have created inconsistency in selection, and made it difficult to sustain the identity he has looked to create this season, with Rovers having fallen out of play-off contention.  But he maintains that is the right way forward for the club in their bid to end what next year will be a decade out of the Premier League.

“That plan has already started in my mind, it started 32 games ago, that’s how in my opinion we were going to develop this football club,” he explained.

“I talked long and hard about my ambition to try and make the play-offs this year and try and get us out of this division that was going to give us more possession, create lots of chances, score lots of goals, and I think that would be the continued plan.

“I think that’s been scuppered this year because of the loss of some key players, and as I’m finding out at the minute, players who’ve been out for long periods of time, three, four months or even a year, they don’t come back and hit the ground running. It’s hard to get them up to speed.

“The plan, I always just work until you’re asked not to work, and you work off the plan that you’ve got. Why did we change from what the plan was coming out of League One and into the Championship? Some pretty important, key footballers, it was time to move on, whether it was age or other reasons.

“The dynamic of the squad has changed and when we took that opportunity to change we wanted it to make it more technical and dominate the ball more. If you look at the league now, all those teams are the teams with really high possession. There’s only really Cardiff who are hitting a real purple patch that are threatening that top six, the rest are all ball orientated. They all play with the ball, dominate the ball, have more shots, and their identity gives them more opportunity to win more games. That’s where we were trying to go.

“I feel as if it’s been scuppered, but as I’ve said along, it’s whether they want to carry on with the plan, or whether they want to throw that away and start everything again with a different idea.”

In the space of a six-game winless streak, Rovers have fallen to 15th, having started February in eighth following an unbeaten January. Rovers are now closer to the relegation places as they are the top six, but Mowbray says his mindset remains a positive one.

“At no stage this season have I looked over my shoulder, if we lose the next two or three, I might not be here to look over my shoulder, and if I am here, will I look over my shoulder? I’ll just believe that we can win the next game and always be positive and send that message to the team.

“It should be about development and growth and where you’re going and I try and keep negative thoughts, I don’t see the negativity and let it affect my life, I just stay positive.”

Asked to clarify his comment about possibility of losing his job, Mowbray said: “I have just been in football years and managers have to win, as I say repetitively after the games you have to find a way to win, and we’re doing our best within the beliefs we have, the way we play.

“I think the philosophy is what gets you there. If you’re an attack minded team, if you score goals, I understand the philosophy of keeping clean sheets and adhere to that as well, but I would prefer to defend by attacking and that’s how I’ve always done it and managed to get a team out of this league, winning this league, by scoring over 100 goals.

“You can do it and that’s the way to do it in my opinion.”