The reality of life in the Championship will hit home when Middlesbrough travel to both Swansea and Scunthorpe in the next four days. But as Tony McMahon told Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson this is no time for the Teessiders to be feeling sorry for themselves.
THIS time last year, Middlesbrough were preparing to open the Premier League season with a home game against Spurs. Twelve months on they are travelling to Swansea.
Next Tuesday, they will go to Scunthorpe instead of journeying to Anfield to take on Liverpool. Times, it is safe to say, have changed.
The difference between the status of the opposition is obvious but, according to full-back Tony McMahon, it is also irrelevant. Like it or lump it, Middlesbrough are now a Championship club, and by constantly harking back to a halcyon past, McMahon feels the Teessiders are hampering their chances of securing a brighter future.
Every time you look at who youve got on Saturday, the reality of the situation hits home, said the Evenwood-born defender, who was a member of the side that lost at West Ham on the final day of last season to confirm Boros relegation from the top-flight.
With the greatest of respect to Swansea, were going there this weekend instead of playing at Arsenal or Manchester United. But we need to start forgetting about that now.
We cant feel sorry for ourselves and we need to get the Premier League out of our systems as quickly as we can. Theres still a lot of hurt in the dressing room because we dont want to be playing Championship football this season. But the simple fact of the matter is that we are.
We are a Championship club now and we cant spend time thinking about what might have been.
Thats all in the past now and it has to stay there. The reality of the situation is simple were a Championship team and were going to have to fight for promotion. The sooner we get our heads around that, the better.
McMahon was a member of a special Championship team last weekend, with the tough-tackling defender making his way into the Football Leagues Team of the Week thanks to his performance against Sheffield United.
If I could make that team every week Id be happy, he quipped. But as long as Im in Middlesbroughs team of the week, thats all that matters.
As McMahon is willing to admit, for the past few seasons, making Middlesbroughs starting line-up on a regular basis has proved beyond him.
A combination of injury and defensive competition has restricted the 23-year-old to just 13 league starts for Boro in the last three seasons.
Serious knee and shoulder injuries sidelined him for the best part of two years, while the likes of Stuart Parnaby, Luke Young and Justin Hoyte also restricted his route to the first team.
Of that trio, only Hoyte remains, and having started last Fridays Championship opener ahead of the former Arsenal trainee, McMahon is determined to finally make Boros right-back spot his own.
I set myself a number of targets at the start of preseason, he said. And the first one was to be in the team for the Sheffield United game. Ive achieved that now its up to me to stay in the team so I can start achieving some of my other goals.
Im not going to broadcast what they are, but there are other targets Ive set myself that Im determined to match.
I went away in the summer and worked really hard in the hope of getting into the team for the first game. I got the nod on Friday, and that was a big plus for me. Now, I want to stay there.
McMahon will start his second game in succession when Boro travel to the Liberty Stadium this afternoon, and having spent the first half of last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, the full-back is one of the few Middlesbrough players with first-hand experience of the majority of Championship grounds.
He was part of the Owls side that drew 1-1 at Swansea last August, and while the Swans have lost manager Roberto Martinez and influential striker Jason Scotland this summer, he still expects the Welsh side to provide a very different kind of test to the one posed by Sheffield United last Friday.
Swanseas going to be completely different, said McMahon. Theyll go 4-3-3 and look to play football, similar to us. We like to get the ball down and play so it should be a good game.
Hopefully, there will be more holes there for us to exploit.
I played against Swansea in the second game of my loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday. It was really tough, probably one of the toughest games I played throughout the whole time I was on loan.
They get the ball down and like to play, so its going to be a tough test. Its a good footballing pitch and their former manager certainly made it clear that he wanted them to play football on it.