OVER the years, Molineux – for better or worse – has provided several landmarks in Middlesbrough’s history and this afternoon is no different.
Two of the most expensively assembled Championship sides in history lock horns in the Black Country in a first-day “battle of the big spenders” with Boro having spent over £40m, while Wolves have forked out a huge outlay of £15m on Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves.
Interest is such that Wolves are set for their biggest opening-day home gate for 42 years, with a sell-out 30,000 crowd expected.
The famous Midlands venue was the scene of Boro clinching promotion to the inaugural Premier League on a dramatic afternoon in 1992 – and, 25 years on, the Teessiders start out on the road to what they hope will be a similarly memorable and rewarding season.
On the flip side of the coin, Molineux also staged a truly dark hour for Boro in March, 1981 when an FA Cup quarter-final replay loss in front of Wolves’ last 40,000 crowd at the stadium represented the watershed moment which led to the break-up of a vibrant young Boro side – and descent into second-tier obscurity and almost mid-80s oblivion.
In marked contrast, positivity is abound today and head coach Garry Monk could hand up to seven debuts, including Boro’s own £15m man in Britt Assombalonga.
Offering his thoughts on the season ahead, Monk said: “It is the most difficult league in the world. There is a minimum of 12 teams who can realistically achieve promotion.
“Every game is hard-fought so everyone else can get carried away, but we have to be focused and give everything in every game.
“I do not think anyone will ever run away with this league. We know how hard it’s going to be and we have to stick together through the good moments and the difficult moments as well, which will come.”
Winger Harry Chapman has completed a season-long loan move to Blackburn Rovers, managed by Boro legend and former manager Tony Mowbray.
Chapman spent last season on loan at Sheffield United, scoring four goals in 14 appearances and had an earlier spell at Barnsley.
Controversial midfield player Gaston Ramirez has ended his rollercoaster time at Boro by completing a move to Italian side Sampdoria.