When Tony Mowbray took charge of Rovers in February 2017 he hadn’t spoken to the club’s owners.

His first face-to-face meeting with the Rao family came in the summer of that year, after relegation to League One, with the club preparing for their first season in the third tier for 37 years.

Mowbray signed an 18-month contract after replacing Owen Coyle, but wanted assurances from the owners that it would possible to launch an immediate assault on promotion from League One before committing his long-term future.

He returned from India armed with a new contract and a budget that saw him bring in talents such as Bradley Dack, and key components of their successful promotion campaign such as Richie Smallwood, as well as retaining the services of Elliott Bennett, Darragh Lenihan, Charlie Mulgrew and Danny Graham, stalwarts of the 2017/18 campaign.

More than two years on, Mowbray is looking, with a new-look side, to push for a return to the Premier League, where the club was when the owners took charge in November 2010.

In that period, since the sacking of Sam Allardyce shortly after taking over, the owners have hired seven managers, with Mowbray the longest-serving. He has overseen arguably the smoothest period of Venky’s reign, but accepts that the position the club finds itself in now isn’t where it was when they took charge.

He said: “I can only judge on my time. I can picture the history of it, Blackburn

Rovers around the top half of the table when that takeover happened and Big Sam in charge. Where are we now? We’re not halfway up the Premier League.

“History will show that there has been a decline. In my opinion, we’re trying to get back to that sort of level. The Premier League over that period has changed quite dramatically in that time and the gulf between the top

division and the Championship is so big.

“The key for any club is to get back into the Premier League, even if it’s just a year and you can become like West Brom did for a while, jump up and down, you still have huge finances to build the infrastructure behind the scenes and to keep your best players for a year or two and bounce back.

“We dropped into League One, as a lot of big clubs have, Sunderland, Ipswich, Bolton have gone even lower, so it can happen.”

Mowbray has made regular visits to India, mostly to discuss the playing budget for the following season, and having brought in three seven-figure signings in Ben Brereton, Adam Armstrong and Sam Gallagher, the manager says he has always been backed.

“In my period, I’ve been over to India four or five times and I judge people as I find them,” he explained.

“They’re very humble, respectful people and I can’t ever grumble about the budgets we’ve worked with, we aren’t the big spenders in the division but we’re not the paupers that have to shout and scream that we’re having to punch way above our weight.

“We’re somewhere around the middle I would suggest in this league. Sometimes you have to punch above your weight, and we’re going to have to, to a degree, because we haven’t got the finances of the teams with the parachute payments.”

Mowbray’s first sense of the ill-feeling from some fans towards the owners came during a supporters consultation meeting during the March international break of 2017.

He was a month into the job and had just guided his side to a five-match unbeaten run in the battle to beat the drop, but emotions ran high, with Mowbray on the top table along with finance director Mike Cheston and then director of football operations Paul Senior, both who played a part in the manager’s appointment.

“I would have to say those first meetings I sat there I was taken aback by the ferocity, the passion of the supporters, it was very evident in those meetings,” Mowbray said.

“I’d like to think I’m a positive and passionate person and want my teams to try and reflect that, and you could feel the mistrust and the anger. The owners, as I’ve said publicly to the supporters, I can only tell them what I see.

“I’m not a political animal, I say it as I see it. When I’ve been to India the people I sit in front of talk about family, respect, honesty and integrity, all the traits I live my life by.”