Meet the opposition | Middlesbrough
As Swansea City prepare to host Middlesbrough at the Swansea.com Stadium, we take a closer look at the Teessiders.
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 13 of the 14 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 will hoping to return this season after missing out last term.
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?
Excellent. Boro’s form since Michael Carrick replaced Chris Wilder has been superb, and has seen them climb up to third in the standings and put pressure on second-placed Sheffield United.
They have won six of their last seven games, losing the other to West Brom, while their wider form has seen them win 14 of Carrick’s 19 league games at the helm.
All four of their Championship defeats in that time have come on their travels.
Who’s the gaffer?
Michael Carrick. The former West Ham, Tottenham and Manchester United midfielder is enjoying his first full senior managerial position having previously been caretaker boss at Old Trafford.
Born in Wallsend, Carrick joined West Ham’s academy and came through the ranks to make over 150 appearances for the Irons before joining Tottenham in 2004.
Two years later he went to United, and enjoyed a trophy-laden 12 years that saw him win five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one Champions League, one Europa League and a Club World Cup before hanging up his boots in 2018.
He remained with the Red Devils to join Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff, and stayed on when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced the Portuguese.
After a spell as caretaker manager, Carrick left the club in December 2021, joining Boro in October 2022 and making an immediate impact.
Who’s the captain?
Jonny Howson. The experienced midfielder took over the armband from striker Britt Assombalonga in the early stages of last term and has been club captain ever since.
The 34-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?
Chuba Akpom has enjoyed an outstanding season and is currently the Championship’s leading scorer with 21 goals, four clear of Coventry’s Viktor Gyokeres.
Eight of those goals have come in Akpom’s last seven outings for the 27-year-old, who has found a home on Teesside after a nomadic career made up of numerous loan spells.
Coming through the ranks at Arsenal, Akpom had temporary stints with Brentford, Coventry, Nottingham Forest, Hull, Brighton, St Truiden, before making a full-time move to PAOK Salonika in 2018.
After 15 goals in two seasons he moved to Boro in 2020, but was back with Salonika on loan last season, scoring nine more goals.
But this season he has become a key figure and a clinical finisher, and his goals have driven Boro’s rise from 21st to third under Carrick.
Australia international Riley McGree has been another key figure in Middlesbrough’s revival, and two of his six goals this season have come in his last five showings.
An energetic figure in the centre of the park, McGree started his career in his homeland with Adelaide United, before stints with Club Brugge, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne City and Charlotte FC.
He was on loan with Birmingham for part of the 2021-22 campaign, and it convinced Middlesbrough to sign him on a permanent basis in January 2022.
McGree, who featured in all four of Australia’s games at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, has scored two of his eight goals for Boro against the Swans.
On-loan Wolves defender Ryan Giles has enjoyed an outstanding season on loan at the Riverside Stadium.
His pair of assists against Reading last time out mean no player has created more Championship goals than his tally of nine so far this term.
Giles had stints with Telford, Shrewsbury and Coventry, but he has really caught the eye during more recent loans with Rotherham, Cardiff, Blackburn, and now Boro.