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History of Middlesbrough FC
Middlesbrough FC to footballing fans may seem to be a club synonymous with the English Premier League; however it hasn’t always been like this for the club. Historically, the team has bounced between the two top tiers of English football and as recently as 1986 saw the club sink into the third division for only the second time in it’s existence. It was that summer of ‘86 that nearly saw 110 years of football of Teesside come to an end. Middlesbrough were within 10 minutes of folding and had to rely on a loan from the Professional Footballers Association to pay their players wages. Those dark days are still in the memories of many of the supporters and in some ways the rise up to the Premiership has been a miracle with all things considered. The club as it is now has been built on a firm setting and enjoys healthy season tickets sales.
Middlesbrough FC to footballing fans may seem to be a club synonymous with the English Premier League; however it hasn’t always been like this for the club.
Historically, the team has bounced between the two top tiers of English football and as recently as 1986 saw the club sink into the third division for only the second time in it’s existence. It was that summer of ‘86 that nearly saw 110 years of football of Teesside come to an end. Middlesbrough were within 10 minutes of folding and had to rely on a loan from the Professional Footballers Association to pay their players wages.
Those dark days are still in the memories of many of the supporters and in some ways the rise up to the Premiership has been a miracle with all things considered. The club as it is now has been built on a firm setting and enjoys healthy season tickets sales.
Middlesbrough FC were actually formed way back in 1876 with the emphasis not on football, but on cricket and keeping Middlesbrough cricket players fit over the winter.
The team finally turned professional in 1899 and soon made their way into the first division. They moved to their own home stadium Ayresome Park soon afterwards in 1903. This was to remain their home for a century before a change in the standards of football stadiums and a forward thinking chairman saw a new stadium built on the banks of the river Tees aptly named the Riverside stadium.
During most of the following 85 years Middlesbrough were quite unremarkable in their achievements, although any derby matches with both Sunderland FC and Newcastle FC their local rivals were always well attended and eagerly anticipated by the fans. One fact which many of today’s supporters may not know is that Ayresome Park held 3 matches of the famous 1966 World Cup although England were not involved in them. In many respects the club was more known for the players and managers that spent parts of their careers at Ayresome Park, and also the famous 1-0 victory achieved by lowly North Korea against mightly Italy in one of the aforesaid games.
Wilf Mannion and George Hardwick are two very well known players from the 40’s who went on to play for England. Brian Clough was born and bred in Middlesbrough and played 22 games scoring an amazing 204 times in the process that is until he did the unthinkable and moved to rivals Sunderland.
Jack Charlton, a member of England’s World Cup winning team in 1966, managed Boro in the 1970’s. His team won the Second Division championship with what was then a record points tally and he guided the team to their highest post-war league finish narrowly missing out on European football. However, it is Bryan Robson who made the most dramatic impact on the recent history of Middlesbrough leaving Manchester United to take up the player-manager role at Ayresome Park in 1994. His arrival signalled a new era for football on Teesside with new stadium and the signing of players like the then-current Brazilian player of the year Juninho and the white feather Fabrizio Ravanelli, spectacularly captured for a the club record £7M from reigning European Champions Juventus and who made an immediate repayment on his transfer fee by scoring a hat trick on his home debut against Liverpool.
However, Middlesbrough’s 1996/7 campaign ended in spectacular and dramatic failure. They were controversially deducted points due to not fulfilling a fixture at Blackburn despite having illness in the squad and not being confident of having enough fit players to field a team. Ultimately, the 3 point deducted saw their final day draw at Elland Road, Leeds falls just short of ensuring safety and they were relegated. Not a week later, the agony was complete when Chelsea beat them 2-0 at Wembley in the FA Cup Final, the first time Boro had reached the last tie of the competition in their history. This compounded their defeat to the hands of Leicester City in the League Cup Final - Boro’s first ever major domestic cup final - and the team fell apart.
The following season Middlesbrough made their way back into the English Premier League and concentrated upon cementing their stay.
Whilst Middlesbrough has it’s well known names that many football fans will know, the biggest influence on the club over the past two decades has been Chairman Steve Gibson. Back in 1986 when the gates of Ayresome Park were locked, it was Gibson who drove together a consortium of local businessmen to try and save the club. It was Gibson who ensured that the last minute deal to satisfy creditors and guarantee Boro’s place in the football league was signed with less than 10 minutes to go. It was Gibson who, upon acceding to the Chairmanship had a vision of a new stadium for the team as the costs of upgrading the old and battered Ayresome Park to satisfy the much tighter safety requirements of modern stadiums were too great. Whilst not initially greeted with relish by the supporters who wished to remain standing on the terraces of their spiritual home, the reality of Gibson’s vision convinced even the most ardent Ayresome Park loyalists.
The Riverside Stadium was opened in 1995. A purpose built 35,000 all-seater stadium, at the time it was the largest new football arena to be built. It has since played host to England U21 internationals and also saw it’s first full international match when England beat Slovakia 2-1 in a Euro 2004 qualifier, That match saw two then - Boro stars oppose each other - Danny Mills starting as England’s right back with Szilard Nemeth playing up front for the Slovakians.
2004 also saw the Riverside trophy room entertain the first major prize in the clubs long history - the Carling Cup (the English League Cup). After 128 years, manager Steve McClaren and his team wrote their names into Middlesbrough folklore by beating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. That allowed the club to enter European competition for the first time in their history and they enjoyed a decent first run which included several good performances most notably an excellent 2-0 home win over Italian giants Lazio. However, that was nothing compared to the next season. Drawing 1-1 away at Manchester City, Boro’s goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer saved an injury time penalty to send Boro and not City into the UEFA Cup for a second season. The run in that competition saw them progress through the rounds beating the likes of AS Roma before reaching the quarter final against Basel. Trailing 2-0 from the away leg, Boro conceded an away goal and were 3-0 down with an hour left. In an amazing turnaround, Boro fought back to 3-3 and substitute Massimo Maccarone scored a last minute winner to send them through. Losing 1-0 away to Steueu Bucharest was compounded by again conceding at home, this time twice. Again, Boro staged a remarkable comeback and at 3-3 with less than a minute remaining none other than Maccarone met Stewart Downings cross with a magnificent diving header to send Boro to the UEFA Cup Final in Eindhoven . It was a step too far for Boro who were beaten 4-0 by a superb Seville side. That match was McClaren’s last as he took over the English national side days later.
Replacing him was Gareth Southgate, the Boro skipper who lifted the Carling Cup, who retired from playing to concentrate on management. The ‘Smoggies’ as they are also known by some have made steady if unremarkable progress since. Southgate’s biggest achievement has been to purge the squad and reduce the average age to the point where Boro are now a young team as opposed to quite and old one. The old guard, the last remnants of the Carling Cup winning team, were cast away with the departures of Mark Schwarzer to Fulham and George Boateng to Hull City. Big name signings such as Mido from Spurs and more recently Afonso Alves, one of the most prolific scorers on the continent, have added to the plethora of young talent emerging from Boro’s youth academy. Stewart Downing, already a full England international, David Wheater, Andrew Taylor and Adam Johnson all feature regularly in the first team.
Middlesbrough remain a favourite for broadcasters and those who enjoy their live football will be able to view the progress of the team on the TV or via live football streaming. Always entertaining either attack or defence, watching the live Middlesbrough games in the Premier League or the FA Cup via online football streaming on Live Sports Network is well worth the watch.
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