Friday, March 10, 2017


When Ian Ross launched into his Guardian report on Middlesbrough's 5th round FA Cup win at Maine Road in 1997, there was not the thinnest slice of irony intended in his opening gambit:

That the luscious pageant of the rich and famous were wearing red shirts on this occasion shows how quickly football moves on. With a side containing the shimmering diamonds of Juninho, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Craig Hignett, Boro were on their way to Wembley.

City, meanwhile, had - we were told - travelled a long way to be in a position to lose 0-1 to Middlesbrough on their own pitch. With a team packed with the following luminaries, it might have been considered quite something that it only finished one-nil:

Margetson, McGoldrick, Ingram, Lomas, Symons, Brightwell, Summerbee, Brown, Crooks, Kinkladze, Rosler.

If this City side had travelled a long way, it was tempting to ask where in that case they had actually come from. What Mr Ross didn't know was where they were going next, also at breakneck speed. After a lucky 13th place finish, the following season would see City go down to the third tier of English football, where even Martin Margetson might have been expected to have found his feet.

It would be a time when the faithful were introduced to bright new names, Gary Mason, Barry Conlon and the aptly named Kakhaber Tskhadadze. attractive new venues, The Racecourse Ground, Moss Lane and Layer Road as well as some invigorating new sensations, smouldering, chafing and disintegrating.

The football juggernaut trundles on in its own inimitable way, leaving odd bits of historical debris in its wake.

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