IT may be just over 28 years since Middlesbrough faced a league fixture at Griffin Park, but similarities are there for all to see ahead of today’s lunch-time encounter.
On December 21, 1986, Bruce Rioch’s side headed to Griffin Park with genuine title aspirations in the old Division Three – and were strengthened by a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Bernie Slaven.
A repeat would not go amiss for Aitor Karanka’s side, currently riding the crest of a wave, although the grounded Basque is mindful of an ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ episode after last weekend’s FA Cup heroics at Manchester City.
Karanka, who could hand a debut to former Brentford midfield player Adam Forshaw at his old stomping ground, is also conscious that today’s hosts will not just be content on capturing Boro’s scalp after their Etihad exploits.
The fifth-placed Bees are one of five teams separated by just two points at the top of the Championship and can move two points clear of Boro with victory.
As with Boro’s class of 1986-87, much is being made of the present-day side’s sense of togetherness and unity with supporters, with Karanka providing music to the ears of Teessiders by saying that no key players will be sold ahead of the transfer window closure on Monday night, despite enquiries.
There will be no incomings either, with Karanka stating “Everything is clear, we now have the squad we wanted so I don’t think we are going to have any surprises.”
On whether any of his influential players have attracted interest, he added: “Yes, but I think – and it’s a good thing – all my players want to be here. They know how big this club is and we are in a very good position. The players who are here want to be here.”