Is The FA Cup A Noose Around Southgate's Neck Or His Saviour?

Last updated : 06 March 2009 By Boro Mad

In 1997 Brazilian midfielder Juninho wept openly as he lay on the Elland Road pitch after nBoro were relegated following a final-day 1-1 draw with Leeds United.

A week later, he was crying again, after Boro were beaten by Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

We had also suffered heartache in the League Cup final earlier that same season.

Southgate: "There are plenty of Boro fans that would say the 1996/97 season was fantastic".

Boro are just one game away from Wembley, which is where the winner of Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final against Everton will play their semi-final tie.

But, 19th in the table with 10 games to play, is the FA Cup going to become a noose around Gareth Southgate's neck.

The team immediately above Boro, Blackburn Rovers, fielded a shadow side in their fifth round defeat by Coventry City last week, with Rovers boss Sam Allardyce stressing that survival takes priority for him.

Southgate, however, feels trophies matter more - and insists their FA Cup run has actually helped to rejuvenate his side.

Would we be happy with the first FA Cup win in our history ... and relegation?

Has the competition become Southgate's saviour and saved him from the sack, because before the impressive win over West Ham in a fifth round replay, Boro had gone 14 games without a league win?

Southgate: "Football is about dreams and that is why we have always taken the FA Cup seriously.

"Our win against West Ham gave everyone renewed optimism. It kept everyone's dreams alive.

"Can the game against Everton restore our confidence again? Well, it's something to look forward to and we need to restore some pride, that's for certain.

"We've lost a lot of that against Spurs and, whether it is cup or league, we've got a game of football on Sunday and we've got to put a performance in.

"I've no idea what we'll get at Everton, but the one thing I know we'll get is a performance that is more professional than we managed against Spurs."

This is the third straight season that Southgate has taken his side to the last eight of the FA Cup as a manager - he was captain when they reached the semi-final in 2006.

Despite the similarities to 1996/97, it is a very different situation this time around. That year, Ravanelli scored 31 goals on his own - this season, the whole team has managed only 33 between them.


Saturday 07th March 2009
FA Challenge Cup Quarter Final
Coventry v Chelsea 12.30
Fulham v Man Utd 17.15

Barclays Premier League
Sunderland v Tottenham 15.00

Sunday 08th March 2009
FA Challenge Cup Quarter Final
Everton v Middlesbrough 16.00

FA Challenge Cup Fifth Round
Arsenal v Burnley 13.30