27 September 2008

Football History: Middlesbrough (Premier League)

Middlesbrough had never won a major trophy in their 119 year history and came very close to going out of business altogether until current chairman Steve Gibson changed all of this by investing millions in building a superb new stadium - The Riverside - and attracting some of the game's top stars to Middlesbrough.

It hasn't always been like this though as Boro have struggled in the shadow of their North East neighbours, Newcastle and Sunderland. Middlesbrough's best ever league position was third in 1914 but their best recent period came under the management of Jack Charlton who took over in 1973.

The Teessiders were promoted to Division One a year later with the highest ever points total and managed to stay in the top league for eight seasons before slipping back into Division Two. Worse was to follow as they dropped into Division Three and almost went out of business but having been saved, they began their climb back to soccer's elite.

With promotion in 1992, Middlesbrough became founder members of the FA Premier League but, after a good start, they faltered and were relegated. After two years in Division One, they came back with more ambition and better facilities than their fans have ever seen, not to mention a team full of some of the top players in Europe. However, despite reaching two cup finals, they ended up being relegated again, this time in controversial circumstances as three points were deducted from their total following manager Bryan Robson's decision to cancel a match mid-season.

After just one season they bounced back and stayed up, though their fortunes have fluctuated as stars have come and gone. Robson came perilously close to taking them back down again until Terry Venables was brought in to 'assist'. He helped Boro avoid relegation, but did not want to take permanent charge, though it had become clear to Gibson that Robson's time as manager had come to an end.

Promising young coach Steve McClaren was brought in from Manchester United, where he had been Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant, and he has worked hard to turn Middlesbrough from a team full of highly-paid foreign mercenaries into one more suited to the battles of surviving in the Barclaycard Premiership, ending the "boom and bust" years at The Riverside stadium. He topped that in 2004 by guiding Boro to their first major trophy, beating Bolton 2-1 to win the Carling Cup.

He took Boro to the UEFA Cup Final in 2006, and that turned out to be his last game in charge as he was appointed England manager after the World Cup, with club captain Gareth Southgate taking over managerial duties.

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