Woodgate back to where the glory days began

HAVING watched Bruce Rioch’s team of ‘Boro Babes’ clinch a memorable promotion to the top flight in the late Eighties, Jonathan Woodgate would dearly love a 
re-run in 2012-13.

It is almost a quarter-of-a-century since the likes of current Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray, Gary Pallister, Bernie Slaven, Colin Cooper, Stuart Ripley and Gary Hamilton helped take Boro back to the big time, with the Teessiders famously promoted via the old Second Division play-offs at the end of a stunning 1987-88 campaign, knocking out Bradford City en route to beating Chelsea in the two-legged final in May, 1988.

Boyhood Boro fan Woodgate remembers those times as if they were yesterday with several of that fresh-faced side going on to enjoy successful careers in the top division and England recognition, most notably his idol and fellow centre-half Pallister.

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Young talent again prevails on Teesside and former Leeds United defender Woodgate – back for a second spell at the Riverside Stadium – is desperate to crown his career by helping a team sprinkled with plenty of youthful and local talent to promotion, with their Championship mission starting at Barnsley tomorrow.

Boro’s final regular league away game of that epic 1987-88 season was at Oakwell, where around 6,000 Teessiders flocked down the A1 to see their heroes triumph 3-0.

Woodgate, 32, who signed a three-year-deal last month after leaving Stoke City, recalls: “I remember watching that famous Boro side and it was a great feeling watching them. They had a lot of desire as well as footballing ability.

“You can have all the ability you want, but you need the desire and work ethic to go with that and must want to do it on the pitch in front of your own fans, otherwise there’s no point, is there?

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“The best thing about it here is the young players, who bring so much energy to the team. They can help us get where we want to as they play without fear.

“The job Dave Parnaby and Ron Bone have done is first class. If you look in the past at four midfielders, for example, in Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson, James Morrison and Lee Cattermole, anyone wouldn’t mind them in their side now.

“Young players want to come to Middlesbrough as they know they will get a chance.”

On the season ahead, he added: “We’re one of 10 sides who have a chance of going up.

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“We’ve set ourselves targets at the start of the season and promotion is the big one.

“I look at some of the players in training and think we’ve got a great chance of going up; especially with the young players who can carry the club forward.”