On this day in 2004: Boro secure first major silverware with League Cup triumph

By Sports Desk February 29, 2024

Middlesbrough secured their first ever major trophy and a place in Europe with victory in the League Cup final on this day 20 years ago.

A 2-1 triumph over Bolton at the Millennium Stadium saw Steve McClaren underline his emerging credentials as a potential long-term successor to England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, becoming the first English manager in eight years to win one of the nation’s three main prizes.

With the first half a comedy of defensive errors, this final may have been more slapstick farce than stylish drama but it was hugely entertaining nonetheless.

Joseph-Desire Job gave Boro the lead after just two minutes and on-loan Boudewijn Zenden then converted a mis-hit penalty.

Bolton gamely battled back, with Mark Schwarzer’s careless mistake enabling Kevin Davies, who sat in the stands for Southampton’s FA Cup final defeat the season before, to pull a goal back after 21 minutes.

However, while Per Frandsen struck the post in that frantic first half, McClaren’s side, who were inspired by captain Gareth Southgate in defence and Gaizka Mendieta in midfield, steadied their resolve in a far more formulaic second half.

McClaren, who became England manager in 2006 after leading Boro to the UEFA Cup final, highlighted the performance of Southgate, saying: “You need heroes in a cup final and we had 11, 12 or 13 out there, and 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.”

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