On the 7th May 2006, Middlesbrough, sat in 13th place in the Premier League, visited Craven Cottage to play a Fulham side who hadn’t beaten their opponents in the last four attempts. Nothing could separate these two teams throughout the whole of the league season, both sat on 45 points prior to this game, but it wasn’t their exploits in the Premier League that had people talking about Middlesbrough that year. Miraculously, having come from behind to score four goals in two second leg ties, the Boro found themselves in the UEFA Cup final against Sevilla on the 10th May, just four days after the trip to West London.
Fulham might have beaten Middlesbrough 1-0 in this rather unremarkable encounter, thanks to a late Heidar Helguson penalty, but, with the UEFA Cup final in mind, Steve McClaren’s last match in league football as manager of Middlesbrough was designed to leave a legacy for the next generation of Middlesbrough football club. This was because McClaren picked a team that saw Middlesbrough field the youngest ever Premier League side – the starting eleven having an average age of just under 20 years old, with only Malcolm Christie over 21 – seven were teenagers and all but Christie were out of the academy. All were Englishmen. What made this even more remarkable however was, much like Celtic’s Lisbon Lions side, fifteen members of the sixteen man squad were born within thirty miles of the club’s Riverside stadium.
“What a legacy and what a something to leave for the next manager… It’s a tremendous squad we have with England at the moment but look at the youngsters coming through. I really believe in that.” – Steve McClaren, 2006
With a side expected to bring much hope and glory for the next generation of Middlesbrough fans, things haven’t quite gone to plan. The club suffered relegation to The Championship in the 2008-2009 season and they haven’t returned to the Premier League since. But what of the players? Here’s a look at what happened to the team that played in that match and what has happened to the individuals in the five years since.
Ross Turnbull (Goalkeeper)
Even though he failed to become first choice goalkeeper at the club, Turnbull still managed to get a move to one of the league’s big guns Chelsea after Middlesborough got relegated. Like his spell at Middlesbrough, however, he has failed to make an impact at Chelsea, in which he has only played two league matches for the club since joining in 2009.
Andrew Davies (Full Back)
Andrew Davies played 23 matches for Middlesbrough in Gareth Southgate’s first season at the club. It all seemed to be going well when he signed for Southampton in the January transfer window and he was soon voted as their player of the season. However, a move to Stoke City in the next transfer window proved to be disastrous, with Davies only having made two appearances for the club. He has had six loan spells away from the club, including one at Middlesbrough. He is now playing for League 2 side Bradford City.
Matthew Bates (Centre Back)
Bates has been arguably the player to have succeeded most at Middlesbrough out of everyone who played against Fulham. His development in his first few seasons at the club was curtailed by many serious knee injuries, but he has become a regular in the past few seasons and now wears the armband, having been made captain by Tony Mowbray. He rejected a move to Swansea last summer, but there is no doubt that he will be a Premier League regular in the next few years; although whether this will be at Middlesbrough is debatable.
David Wheater (Centre Back)
After seven seasons at Middlesbrough, Wheater finally decided to leave his home-town club to sign for Premier League club Bolton Wanderers for a fee believed to be around £4million pounds. He was captain of Middlesbrough, but he was stripped of this luxury by Gordan Strachan as he wanted him to focus on his playing career. His career at Bolton at first saw him produce some shaky displays, but despite some discipline issues, he is now becoming an established Premier League defender, helped no doubt by Gary Cahill’s departure for Chelsea.
Andrew Taylor (Full Back)
Like Andrew Davies, everything seemed to be going so well for Andrew Taylor as he made 34 appearances in Gareth Southgate’s managerial debut season at the club. However chances in the next few seasons became rarer and many injuries saw his progress slow. The first half of the 2010-2011 season saw Taylor impress on loan at Watford, and on his return to Middlesbrough, he was rewarded with a place in the first team. This wasn’t enough to see Taylor stay at the club as he left for Cardiff City, where he has become one of the first names on the Welsh club’s team-sheet.
James Morrison (Winger)
After playing 66 times for Middlesbrough in the years dating from 2004-2007, he decided to leave for West Bromwich Albion for a fee of £1.5million pounds. The last few seasons have seen Morrison become an established presence in the Baggies midfield, and he has produced many commanding performances for the club. He is also a regular in the Scotland squad, in which he is able to play for them due to grandparent’s Scottish ancestry.
Lee Cattermole (Midfield)
The only player tought by the media to have a chance of being involved against Sevilla in the UEFA Cup Final, Cattermole first attracted national attention in Steve McClaren’s last season in charge after having to be consoled by Gareth Southgate after being in tears after Boro’s 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa. He was also the captain for the team that faced Fulham, and he has grown as a player since then. He stayed at Middlesbrough until July 2008, when he left for Wigan Athletic; he impressed massively during his spell at Wigan and this saw Sunderland open their chequebook to sign him for £6million pounds, where he is now captain; this is despite the fact he is notorious for his lack of discipline having been sent off 5 times in the Premier League at the age of only 23.
Jason Kennedy (Midfield)
The only player at the time yet to represent his country at any level, the midfielder spent more time away from Middlesbrough than he did at the club with four loan spells away the Riverside. He signed a permanent deal for the latter of the clubs, which was the, then League 2, outfit Darlington. He surprisingly signed for Rochdale in the summer of 2009, despite attention from clubs in the higher divisions, and he is still a regular starter, approaching 100 appearances in his third season at the club.
Adam Johnson (Winger)
Perhaps the most successful of all the players to have played that day, Adam Johnson is now an established Premier League name with Manchester City. His first few seasons at Middlesbrough saw limited chances for the winger, but it took a loan spell at Watford to reveal his potential, and after he left the Vicarage Road outfit he became a mainstay in the Middlesbrough side. He struggled a bit in the Premier League, but the club’s relegation was a good omen for Johnson as he scored 11 goals in 26 appearances for the club. This saw him gain a move to Manchester City, where he is now an important part of the team.
Danny Graham (Striker)
Despite quite a few unsuccessful loan spells away from the club, Middlesbrough must regret selling Danny Graham to Carlisle now. At Carlisle, he became one of the most feared strikers in League 1 as he scored 29 goals in 89 league matches for the club. Graham’s performances at Brunton Park saw him get a move to Watford, where he built on an impressive first season at the club by becoming The Championship’s top scorer in his second season with 25 goals. Graham was soon rewarded with a move to Premier League side Swansea City, where he is starting to make his mark on the Premier League, having scored 12 goals in his return to the top-flight.
Malcolm Christie (Striker)
The only ‘old-head’ and ‘non-locally born player’ in the Middlesbrough side that faced Fulham that day, his Middlesbrough career was all-but ruined by many injuries, which saw him only make 43 appearances in four seasons at the club. He left Middlesbrough at the end of the 2006-2007 season and he had to wait a year before his next port-of-call. That club was Leeds United but injuries also disrupted his spell there. He was released by Leeds at the end of that season and hasn’t found a club since.
Colin Cooper (Centre Back)
The Middlesbrough legend came on for the final match of his career against Fulham, in which he gained the role of captain when he replaced Lee Cattermole. He made a total of 346 appearances in the league for Boro. He started his coaching career at Middlesbrough, when he was first the reserve team manager then the assistant to Gareth Southgate, but he was sacked upon the arrival of Gordon Strachan. He then became assistant manager at Bradford City, but he left to return in a coaching capacity at Middlesbrough in September 2011.
Tom Craddock (Striker)
Many people were surprised to see Craddock sold by Middlesbrough to then League 2 side Luton Town. This was because he was viewed as a hot prospect by the Boro fans, and his form at Luton just went to show this. He stayed with the club when they got relegated to the Blue Square Premier. He left the club the following season to sign for Oxford Town in August 2010, where he has impressed, but chances have become limited in the past few months.
Josh Walker Midfield
Centre midfielder Josh Walker has failed to establish himself at both Middlesbrough and Watford, where he has had four spells away on loan at both of the clubs he has played for. having already played for eight clubs, Walker could be considered a bit of a journeyman. However, there is still time for the youngster, at the age of 23, to forge out a successful career in football. He is currently on loan at League 1 relegation battlers Scunthorpe United.
Since leaving Middlesbrough in 2006, McClaren’s reputation in England has gone downhill. His spell as England manager saw a humiliating failure to qualify for Euro 2008, in which he was given the nickname the “wally with a brolly” after the ill-fated Croatia defeat at Wembley. FC Twente was the next port-of-call and he impressed at the Dutch club, leading Twente to the first Eredivise title in their history. He left to sign for German side Wolfsburg, but he failed to succeed there and was sacked by the club as they were in the midst of a relegation battle. Another chaliced spell, this time in England with Nottingham Forest, saw him sacked again. He is now in his second spell as manager of Twente and I’d be many would be surprised to see him managing back on English shores in the near future.
Every player who played in that match, with the exception of Colin Cooper and Malcolm Christie (both now retired), are still playing in league football. Many are plying their trades in the lower leagues of English football, while six are at Premier League clubs. However, only Matthew Bates remains at Middlesbrough, but many of the players who played against Fulham left their mark on the side. Overall, McClaren’s last match saw plenty of benefits for Middlesbrough, with many of those players becoming an important part of the team, while many were sold for big-money. Middlesbrough has continued its impressive youth development, with many more players such as Tony McMahon and Jason Steele, now in Boro’s first team.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, for his faults, McClaren really did do something extraordinary for football on that day in West London. Detractors will say that he did his best to ruin English football, but at times, he did his best to promote it’s future.