IT'S EINDHOVEN! IT'S EINDHOVEN! BORO HAVE MADE IT! ONE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS NIGHTS IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL... IT'S PARTY, PARTY, PARTY, EVERYONE ROUND MY HOUSE FOR A PARMO!!!Alastair Brownlee
Football may well be 'just a game', but when you've spent years of your life following your local club and rarely ever been rewarded with anything more than misery and heartbreak, seeing your side - and your town - come together to defy the odds is something you can't put a price on.
Middlesbrough Football Club have dished out their fair share of misery and heartbreak down the years, though even by their standards the three domestic cup final defeats in two seasons in the late 90s was a new 'high'.
Not to be denied, Boro finally secured their first piece of major silverware in 2004 as they triumphed over Bolton Wanderers in the Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium, though little did they know the success was to be the catalyst for the greatest cup run in footballing history - and that's a fact.
Boro subsequently made their first foray into Europe the following season, only to be knocked out in the round of 16 by Sporting CP. Nevertheless, the taste of European football left the Teessiders wanting more and their incredible run to the UEFA Cup final began in May 2005.
On the final day of the 2004/05 season, Boro faced Manchester City knowing if they could take just a point from their trip to the north west they'd secure seventh place and book their spot in next season's UEFA Cup.
Their opponents needed a win to leapfrog Boro into the top seven and in the final minute of the game - with David James weirdly running around upfront - Robbie Fowler stepped up to take a penalty to shatter Boro's European ambitions, only for Mark Schwarzer to produce the goods.
Fowler comes up...MARK SCHWARZER SAVES IT! GET IN! GET IN YER BIG AUSSIE! HE'S DONE IT, I COULD PLANT A KISS ON YER FOREHEAD! HE'S THE GREATEST AUSTRALIAN HERO SINCE NED KELLY!Alastair Brownlee
And with the magical tones of the late, great, Boro commentator Alastair Brownlee ringing in their ears, Boro's tour of Europe was commissioned for a second series.
Having made light work of their first round tie with Greek side Xanthi, Steve McClaren's men breezed through the group stage, not conceding a single goal as they topped Group D with ten points from a possible 12.
Few Boro fans harboured genuine hopes that they could reach the final of the UEFA Cup as the eight teams who finished third in their respective Champions League groups dropped into Europe's secondary competition.
However, it was the problems within the club that were looking like causing the biggest obstacle. McClaren's side had fallen apart in the Premier League, with a 4-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa little over a week before their knockout tie with Stuttgart proving too much for one fan as he launched his season ticket at the Boro boss in disgust.
A 3-0 hammering of Premier League champions Chelsea just days later came from out on nowhere considering Boro had taken just one win from their previous 11 league outings, though the win handed the side a boost as they kicked off their UEFA Cup knockout round campaign.
Incredibly, the Teessiders made it all the way to the 2006 UEFA Cup final despite losing a leg in every one of the knockout rounds. Stuttgart and Roma were the first to be put to the sword - with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's superb header in the Stadio Olimpico a particular highlight - though a 2-0 first-leg defeat to Basel in the quarter-final looked to have poured water on Boro's UEFA Cup flame.
The Swiss side scored an early goal in the second-leg at the Riverside to give themselves a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead, though McClaren's men produced one of the most glorious comebacks in UEFA Cup history, notching four goals without reply in the space of an hour - with Massimo Maccarone's last-minute goal completing the comeback - to reach the last four.
THE SWISS HAVE ROLED!... YOU'VE TAKEN A PASTING AT THE RIVERSIDE! IT ENDS ON THE NIGHT BORO 4-1 BASEL, 4-3 TO THE BORO ON AGGREGATE. THIS HAS BEEN THE MOST MAGNIFICENT OF COMEBACKS, THE GREATEST NIGHT THE RIVERSIDE HAS EVER, EVER SEEN!Alastair Brownlee
After a 1-0 defeat in Romania in the first leg of the semi-final, Boro were left with it all to do as Steaua Bucharest headed to the Riverside for the second leg.
With Mark Schwarzer injured following a nasty collision with Dean Ashton in the FA Cup semi-final just days earlier, it was backup goalkeeper Brad Jones' time to shine - but he had a nightmare.
The inexperienced shot-stopper had a hand in both of Steaua's goals as they raced into a 3-0 aggregate lead, and it was all beginning to feel a bit familiar at the Riverside.
McClaren called for the cavalry as Maccarone was thrown into the fray and the small north east town went and did the impossible for the second time in a month.
Maybe there was some abject defending and maybe the Steaua goalkeeper did have an absolute mare, but try telling that to anyone in the Riverside Stadium that night. The image of Maccarone's last-minute diving header as he leapt above the Steaua backline to power Boro into the UEFA Cup final is without a doubt the most glorious picture ever taken at a football match - and that's a fact.
On paper, it looks like the Teessiders were given a bit of a hammering by Sevilla in the final - but they really weren't. Three of the La Liga side's four goals were scored as Boro pushed for an equaliser in the latter stages of the game, and had Mark Viduka converted his glorious opportunity or had Boro been awarded a clear-cut penalty then it could have been oh so different.
There was no shame in losing to a team who've since dominated Europe's secondary competition, with many of their squad from the 2006 showpiece event subsequently going onto bigger and better things.
But y'know what, football is about memories. Yes, silverware is lovely, but if you ask any Boro fan about their 2006 UEFA Cup run they'll instantly start to smile.
Boro did what nobody thought could be done and what makes it even better is the full cup run was narrated by the absolute legend that is Alastair Brownlee. You can keep your UEFA Cup. That year brought a town together and gave us memories that we'll never forget.
Source : 90min