When the Premier League started 19 years ago, there were only 11 players born outside of England and the rest of the UK and Ireland across the 22 clubs. In last weekend’s matches, there were 135 foreign players in the starting 11 last weekend, which is 12 times more than in 1992. Even fewer clubs nowadays have home-grown players from the region were the club is based. However, one club despite now being in the Championship is now one of the anomalies in football in which it has many English players in its side and a lot of them come from the region where the club is based. And that club is Middlesbrough.
Chairmen are either loathed or loved by fans of their club and the Middlesbrough chairmen Steve Gibson definitely fits into the latter. He was instrumental in saving the club from liquidation in 1986, in which he set up a consortium and in 1993, he finally became chairmen of the club he had supported all his life. The years that followed are seen as the glory days for Middlesbrough. In 1995 they moved from Ayresome Park to the all seated Riverside Stadium, two cup final defeats in the 1997-1998 season was in the same season that they got relegated before in 2003, they won their first trophy in the club’s 128 year existence by beating Bolton 2-1 in the League Cup final. They were also runners up in the UEFA Cup final of 2006, losing 4-0 to Sevilla under the management of Steve McClaren, who went on to become the England manager. However in 2009 under the management of the captain of the 2003 League Cup final Gareth Southgate, the club got relegated in 2009 after a 11 year stay in the top flight. Southgate got sacked after a disappointing start to the Championship season and was replaced by the former Southampton and Celtic manager Gordan Strachan. This was when the club went through decline as Strachan unknowingly was getting rid of the club’s tradition of playing young English players born and bred in Teeside and replacing them with players from the Scottish Premier League with no experience of the English game for big money. Strachan soon got sacked and was replaced by Tony Mowbray.
Ranked 7th in a list of Middlesbrough legends, Mowbray returned to his hometown club after playing for them for 9 years in his career. When he joined the club, they were in and around the relegation places but he steered them to mid table respectability after a great run of form. Many people would cite Mowbray’s great man management of the team as the reason for this but when Mowbray came to the club, he replaced the out of sorts Wilo Flood and Kris Boyd with Teesiders Joe Bennett, Luke Williams & Richard Smallwood. With the necessity to lower the wage budget the likes of the aforementioned Flood and Boyd left the club and after last summer’s spending spree, this season was a contrast of that as they spend nothing. This turned out to be a good thing as the club started to play Marvin Emnes more and more and he has become one of the Championship’s leading goal scorers.
With a young side full of Teesiders, the club is definitely heading in the right direction. The majority of the decision makers at the club from chairmen Steve Gibson to the manager Tony Mowbray are Middlesbrough born and bred, which can only be a good thing. The team is full of young and hungry players with the likes of Marvin Emnes, Joe Bennett, Nicky Bailey & Swansea target and Captain Matthew Bates all on the top of their game. They currently lie in second place in the Championship before their match today against Ipswich and if they can continue this form, they will be in or around the promotion places this season. This shows that to be successful, you don’t have to spend money but you have to have the people who want the club to work and the amount of home-grown players and the way the club is run has to be envied and should be replicated by many clubs in the run up to the Financial Fair Play. Promotion or no promotion this season, the way Middlesbrough go out about the way they run the club will win many plaudits throughout the football World.