For a club that nearly went out of business in 1986, Middlesbrough's performance in the last two decades is nothing short of remarkable. The club, formed in1876, was just minutes away from going out of business until a consortium led by Steve Gibson saved the day.
Gibson's appointment as chairman in 1994 kickstarted an exciting period of investment for Middlesbrough. Manchester United legend Bryan Robson was brought in as player-manager to secure promotion to the Premiership. In the club's last season at their Ayresome Park ground, he did just that, winning the Division One title with the help of record signing Neil Cox.
For their first season back in the big time, Boro had a brand new 35,000-seater stadium to play in – The Riverside - and the spending didn't end there. On the pitch, the Teessiders splashed out on the impressive youngster Nicky Barmby and possibly the greatest coup of all, Brazilian international Juninho. The excitement surrounding the arrival of 'the little fella' on Teesside was massive. Season ticket sales went through the roof and it seemed as if the whole town was dancing to a samba beat.
Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli followed Juninho to the Northeast the following year, but that season ended in a controversial relegation. After refusing to put a team out for a league game with Blackburn owing to a large number of injuries the club was docked three points, which proved crucial in their battle against the drop. Despite going down, Boro made it to the final of both the FA Cup and the League Cup that year, losing both.
Seven years later Boro healed the pain of that League Cup final defeat by winning the Carling Cup – their first ever major trophy. Under the guidance of Steve McClaren and inspired by the indefatigable George Boateng, Boro beat Bolton 2-1 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium through goals from Joseph Desire Job and Bolo Zenden. That win set them up for their first ever European campaign, in the UEFA Cup.
They may have been trophyless before that 2004 triumph, but the Boro fans had plenty of heroes to idolise. One of the first was Wilf Mannion. In a career interrupted by service in the Second World War, Mannion scored 110 goals for the Teessiders before moving to Hull City.
Then in the 1950s came Brian Clough. He may be best remembered as a manager but as a player he was one of the most prolific strikers England has ever known. For Boro, Clough scored an incredible 204 goals in 222 matches. Thirty years later came Bernie Slaven. A massive fans' favourite, Slaven was a deadly goal-scorer and is still involved with the club where he made his name.