WHEN the Premier League fixtures were unveiled last June, Middlesbrough supporters were entitled to view the club’s final two away fixtures of the season with a grimace.
The grounds at Chelsea and Liverpool have been like graveyards for Boro for the previous four decades, with the fervent hope on Teesside being that the club’s safety could somehow be confirmed before trips to the daunting citadels of Stamford Bridge and Anfield.
So much for the theory, with Boro’s relegation confirmed following a meek 3-0 reverse in West London earlier this month, extending the club’s winless streak at the Bridge to 22 games since a 2-1 win in March 1975.
Similarly, you also have to go back to the Jack Charlton era of the mid-Seventies, to March 1976, for the last time that Boro triumphed at Anfield – 26 visits ago with a 2-0 victory, thanks to goals from Terry Cooper and John Hickton.
Boro have endured some tough moments on the red side of Merseyside over the years, including a cruel late loss in the final few minutes at Anfield in August 2008 – after leading 1-0 with five minutes left – and a 5-1 battering in December 1996, a sign of things to come in a season when the Teesside club got to both domestic cup finals, but were relegated.
They head to Anfield for their final top-flight appointment before returning back to the Championship and it remains to be seen when they will next visit the famous stadium for a top-flight fixture.
The game is likely to be the last fixture in charge for Steve Agnew, with the smart money being on Boro bringing in a new broom as they strive to pick up the pieces following a calamitous write-off of a season.
Reflecting on his time at the helm, Agnew, entrusted with the reins following Aitor Karanka’s exit in March after stepping up from assistant, said: “I have enjoyed it in some ways, obviously
“I knew at the time it was a huge challenge and there has been a hell of a lot to deal with, but it’s been enjoyable.
“But at the end of the day, we did not manage what we wanted to achieve.
“Losing our place in the Premier League is the biggest disappointment and something that has been difficult to accept.
“But at the same time I have learned lots of different things about players, coaching and management.
“I think it is probably the management side which has been challenging.
“But learning about yourself is things that will help me moving forward and I would prefer to keep them to myself.
“But that is something I will do to make sure I continue to be successful.”
On his future and whether talks have been held with chairman Steve Gibson, the Yorkshireman added: “No, we haven’t had discussions; the chairman is the best in my opinion.
“He allows you to manage and get on with the job, but we have not spoken.
“I am sure we will have discussions at some point.”