STEVE McCLAREN makes an emotional return to Middlesbrough this afternoon after praising the club for helping him achieve the “breakthrough” moment in his career.
McClaren became the most successful manager in Boro’s history when he guided the club to Carling Cup glory at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and a UEFA Cup final in Eindhoven prior to leaving to become England boss in 2006.
He returns to the Riverside for the first time as an opposition manager this afternoon as he brings his promotion-chasing Derby County side to Teesside, and admits it will be an emotional experience.
“It will be special to be back,” said McClaren. “It will be pretty strange being in the opposition dugout. I had five great years there and still live in the area so I know the people.
“My time at Middlesbrough was the breakthrough time really, going from being a number two to being number one and winning a trophy which proved I could make the step.
“I had five great years there and worked for some very good people and a great chairman in Steve Gibson.
“Teesside is a region that needs its football and a successful team. The club is the heartbeat of the place.”
Derby are 20 points clear of Boro, but McClaren is not expecting to have things all his own way today.
“Boro have been inconsistent this season, but are capable of beating any team in the league,” he said. “(Aitor) Karanka has got them organised and they are harder to beat.”