Meet the opposition | Middlesbrough

5th March 2021
First team

As Swansea City prepare to host Middlesbrough this weekend, we take a closer look at the team from Teesside.

What's their story?

Having spent all bar one season between 1995 and 2009 in the Premier League - with a best finish of seventh in 2005 - Middlesbrough have been in the Championship for 11 of the 12 campaigns since.

A brief return to the top-flight in 2016 saw them struggle in front of goal, coming straight back down with only five wins and 27 goals, the lowest recorded during that season.

They reached the play-offs in 2018 but missed out last term.

Boro famously reached the UEFA Cup final in 2006 while, in that successful 2004-05 season, they secured League Cup glory by beating Bolton in Cardiff.

The Riverside club also reached an FA Cup final during that time, but fell short against Chelsea in 1997, losing 2-0.

How's their form?

Korey Smith

Boro’s form has been up and down, and lacks the consistency Neil Warnock will have been looking for. They have lost five of their last 10 games, winning just three of them.

However, there have been signs of a pick-up in recent weeks with wins over Huddersfield and Reading, before securing a draw against in-form Cardiff at the Riverside and another victory at Coventry.

Who's the boss?

Neil Warnock

Neil Warnock. Something of a promotion specialist, Warnock is seeking a ninth promotion of a near 40 years in management.

Indeed, some Swans fans will recall that as long ago as 1994 they were locking horns with Warnock’s Huddersfield Town side at Wembley as Frank Burrows’ men won the Football League Trophy.

The 72-year-old has hinted at retirement, but there is no sign of the fire dimming for the passionate Yorkshireman.

The former winger started in management with Gainsborough Trinity in 1980, and has since managed Burton, Scarborough, Notts County, Torquay, Huddersfield, Plymouth, Oldham, Bury, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, QPR, Leeds, Rotherham, Cardiff and – now – Middlesbrough.

Who’s the captain?

Jonny Howson. The experienced midfielder recently took over the armband from striker Britt Assombalonga and led Boro to a midweek victory at Coventry.

The 32-year-old has made more than 500 league appearances across a career taking in lengthy spells with Leeds United, Norwich City and now Boro.

Howson made the move to Teesside in 2017, and has played in a number of positions – including centre-back – during his stint at the Riverside, underlining his versatility and nous.

Who are the key men?

Duncan Watmore

Duncan Watmore has been superb since joining as a free agent in November, and his six goals have already seen Middlesbrough tie him to a longer-term contract.

Britt Assombalonga has chipped in with five of his own, while midfielders George Saville and Marcus Tavernier have shown the guile to create opportunities as well as find the net themselves.

Dael Fry is an impressive performer at the back, with the likes of Paddy McNair and Marcus Bettinelli bringing no shortage of experience.