Middlesbrough and the League Cup: A look back at Boro's cup winning success 20 years on

Simon O'Rourke looks back at Middlesbrough's League Cup winning success

It is 20 years to the day since Middlesbrough lifted major silverware for the first, and only, time in their history.

Two goals in the first seven minutes from Joseph-Desire Job and Boudewijn Zenden had Boro fans in dreamland but Kevin Davies' strike in the 21st minute made it a nervy finish for those who had made the trip from Teesside.

However, the tension of the last 70 minutes was quickly forgotten amid the outpouring of relief at the final whistle and sheer celebration as captain Gareth Southgate lifted the League Cup trophy aloft.

For Middlesbrough fans the success had been a long time coming and for many it may have felt like it would never arrive at all.

The club's supporters had watched on as their heroes fell to three straight final defeats in the League Cup and FA Cup between 1997 and 1998.

Bolo Zenden scored Boro's second goal from the spot. Credit: PA

And the run to the 2004 final was not plain sailing either. Boro required extra time to get past Second Division Brighton before a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

Nerve-jangling penalty shootouts were required to beat Everton and Tottenham before a 3-1 aggregate win over Arsenal in the semi-finals.

The final could barely have got off to a better start as Job converted after two minutes. It even came too early for Middlesbrough head coach Steve McClaren who missed the goal as he was getting changed.

Zenden doubled the advantage from the spot five minutes later, converting in fortunate fashion after slipping during his run up and striking the ball twice.

A mistake from Mark Schwarzer let Bolton back in as the Boro goalkeeper palmed Davies' shot into the net. A tense 70 minutes followed with Wanderers striking the post through Per Frandsen and having a strong penalty shout turned down.

Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren holds the League Cup aloft. Credit: PA

Yet Middlesbrough's early efforts were enough to seal victory sparking jubilant scenes both inside the Millennium Stadium and on Teesside.

McClaren was full of praise for his players and the club's supporters after the trophy lift with captain Southgate singled out.

“You need heroes in a cup final and we had 11, 12 or 13 out there," he said. "In the second half Mendieta was magnificent, but if there’s one player I’d single out it’s Gareth Southgate.

“He has been the talisman of this football club since I came. I made him my first signing and told him the ambitions and we’ve had many ups and downs since then but I’m delighted for him because he deserves it.

“We wanted to bring a trophy to Middlesbrough after 128 years. That was my ambition when I sat down with the chairman. Personally, it’s fantastic but the fans were magnificent.”

Southgate himself dedicated the triumph to club chairman Steve Gibson, suggesting it was just reward for everything he had put into the club.

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson celebrates with the League Cup. Credit: PA

"Very special, it means so much to the people of Teesside, so much to the club, the fans and the biggest fan of all, the chairman," Southgate said. "He deserves this.

"He's backed this club incredibly and we have let him down too many times but we have done it today."

The magnitude of the cup win was not lost on any of the squad regardless of their background. Middlesbrough icon Juninho was in his third spell with the club at the time and claimed he would cherish the success as much as winning the World Cup in 2002.

"It goes alongside," he said. "For me, this trophy is as important as the World Cup because it means a lot for me. Everyone knows my relationship with Middlesbrough and I think we deserved to win this time.

"The medal will be as important as the World Cup."

Middlesbrough icon Juninho ranked winning the League Cup alongside winning the World Cup with Brazil. Credit: PA

Some of Middlesbrough's heroes including England manager Southgate will come together on Thursday night to reminisce about their success.

However as the celebrations go on, both players and supporters may pause to remember Ugo Ehiogu. The giant defender was a stalwart at the centre of the Middlesbrough backline during the final but died aged 44 in 2017.

His memory will live long inside the hearts of Boro supporters as they toast the most famous day in the club's history.

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