It’s fair to say that Middlesbrough are enduring a difficult first season back in the top flight. Having struggled to find the net all year – they only passed the 20-goal mark in mid-March – they’ve now sacked Aitor Karanka, seemingly without a contingency plan, and are looking like the odds-on favourites to join Sunderland back in the Championship next year.
But cheer up, Boro fans – it’s not all doom and gloom. Whilst they have seldom been competing in the upper echelons of English football, the team from Teesside boast a proud history the envy of many fanbases up and down the country, and nobody can take away the memories (even if they’ll probably have to be enjoyed from the second tier).
Steve McClaren is the butt of many jokes for his miserable spell as national team manager (and for that Dutch accent), but his time at Middlesbrough will be remembered for all the right reasons. A spot in the UEFA Cup Final in 2006 – the crowning moment in the club’s 140-year history – was an achievement that most mid-table Premier League teams will never be able replicate.
The team behind it was a heavy blend of homegrown youngsters and foreign stars – but in our all-time Boro XI (with five subs), we’ve also found room for a few golden oldies as well.
Premier League viewers won't need much introduction to Mark Schwarzer. The Aussie keeper played more than 500 games in England's top flight - the bulk of them for Boro. Image source: Twitter
We've gone for a Conte-inspired back three, and whilst Mowbray's managerial stint at the Riverside wasn't exactly a roaring success, his exploits on the pitch in the 80s earn him a place on the right side. Image source: Twitter
Southgate was captain and Mr Reliable during the club's most successful spell during the mid-2000s. Let's just hope he fares better with England than McClaren did. Image source: Twitter
A left-sided defender, equal parts effective defending his own penalty box and whipping crosses into the opposing one, Queudrue gets the nod as our third CB. Image source: Twitter
World Cup winner Juninho was one of the first Brazillians to play in the Premier League and remains, to this day, one of the most successful. He had three spells at Boro, and remains one of their most popular players. Image source: Twitter
Mendieta's time on Teesside was plagued by injury, but it's impossible to ignore such a classy player - and one who, at one point, commanded a transfer fee of £40m. Image source: Twitter
A steady anchorman with the legs to get up and down the pitch, Boateng was arguably one of the Premier League's most under-appreciated players of his time. Image source: Twitter
Downing is something of peripheral figure at Boro in 2017, but for his first spell - when he was the jewell in the crown of their youth academy - he'll always be a Riverside legend. Image source: Twitter
Most remember Clough for his stellar managerial career, but before that he was one of English football's most prolific marksmen - hitting more than 200 goals in the colours of Boro. Image source: Twitter
Pre-war football doesn't tend to get a look in (in fact, these days, we seldom acknowlege anything prior to 1992) but Boro's all-time leading scorer, who netted 18 goals in nine games for England, simply can't be ignored. Image source: Twitter
Irishman Slaven was often the standout star for Boro during their yo-yo years during the 1980s - and nearly 150 goals can't be sniffed at, whatever the level. Image source: Twitter
SUB: Jim Platt
Northern Irish shot-stopper Jim Platt made 500 appearances for Boro during the 70s - and remained involved with the club after hanging up his gloves. Image source: Twitter
SUB: Ugo Ehiogu
We had to put four-cap England centre-half Ugo Ehiogu in the team - if only to show off the fact we know how to spell his name. Image source: Twitter
SUB: Fabio Rochemback
Set-piece wizard Rochemback was the heartbeat behind Boro's 2006 UEFA Cup run - and his departure two years later was a key factor behind their decline. Image source: Twitter
SUB: Wilf Mannion
A hundred goals for Boro and a quarter-century of England caps (back when that actually meant something). We're sold. Image source: Twitter
SUB: Massimo Maccarone
Hot-headed Maccarone was the main architect behind Boro's STUNNING comeback in the UEFA Cup semi finals - and for that alone he gets the final place on our bench. Image source: Twitter
As for the manager, we’re going to bite the bullet and opt for Steve McClaren, who – for all his misgivings – presided over the most exciting period Boro fans have ever seen. We salute you, Schteve.
Don’t worry, though, we are fully aware Maccarone was useless. But come on, that UEFA Cup run ?!