Meet the opposition | Middlesbrough

22nd April 2022
First team
Middlesbrough celebration

As Swansea City get set to host Middlesbrough at the Swansea.com Stadium, 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 12 of the 13 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 tally recorded during that season.

They reached the play-offs in 2018 and are hoping to return this season.

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

How's their form?

Isaiah Jones

Not what they would want it to be with a play-off spot on the line. Boro have taken just one point from the last 12 on offer, and suffered a 2-0 home defeat to promotion rivals Huddersfield on Easter Monday.

Overall it is just two wins in eight for the Riverside men, but they remain firmly in the top-six picture heading into the final weeks of the season.

They currently sit ninth in the table, but need a rapid upturn in results if they are to avoid missing out on the play-offs.

Who's the gaffer?

Chris Wilder

Chris WIlder. The  former Sheffield United defender's playing career saw him feature for 11 clubs, including stints at Rotherham, Bradford and Notts County. 

Having started his managerial career at Alfreton, Wilder moved on to Halifax, and achieved promotions during his stints with Oxford United, Northampton Town and Sheffield United.

It was at his hometown Blades that he secured promotion back to the Championship and then on to the Premier League, before a ninth-place top-flight finish in 2020.

He left as relegation neared the following year, and was appointed at Middlesbrough following Neil Warnock’s departure last autumn.

Who's the captain?

Jonny Howson. The experienced midfielder took over the armband from striker Britt Assombalonga earlier in the season and has retained it ever since.

The 33-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?

Matt Crooks

Matt Crooks has proven himself to be a reliable and effective Championship player over the last few seasons, firstly across two stints in the second tier with Rotherham and now with Boro.

Crooks is top scorer with nine goals for the Teessiders this term, but he is also a committed and determined defensive presence.

His 6ft4in frame means he is a nuisance in both boxes, but he offers far more than just his height.

Isaiah Jones' combination of pace and trickery have seen him create goalscoring chances at a rate of one for every 90 minutes on the pitch.

With eight assists to his name, as well as a solitary goal in a win over the Swans before Christmas, Jones was named Championship player of the month for December and has remained a potent attacking weapon.

Sporting Lisbon forward Andraz Sporar is spending the season on loan at the Riverside and has made a considerable impact.

He has eight goals and two assists to his name, and has become a real fan favourite as he has helped Chris Wilder’s side launch a concerted play-off push.

The Slovenia international started his career in his homeland, and has gone on to have spells with Basel in Switzerland, and Braga and Sporting in Portugal.

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