Steve McClaren's UEFA Cup memories - Part Two

The Northern Echo: FINAL GAME: Steve McClaren looks on as his Boro side are dismantled 4-0 in the UEFA Cup final at Eindhoven. FINAL GAME: Steve McClaren looks on as his Boro side are dismantled 4-0 in the UEFA Cup final at Eindhoven.

IN the second of a two-part series recalling Middlesbrough's run to the UEFA Cup final, former manager Steve McClaren revisits the five unforgettable matches from the quarter-finals onwards

QUARTER-FINAL
First Leg
March 30, 2006
BASLE 2 (Delgado 43, Degen 45) MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Pogatetz (Ehiogu 68), Queudrue; Mendieta (Yakubu 74), Parlour, Doriva, Downing; Hasselbaink (Rochemback 74), Viduka.

Let's not beat about the bush here - Basle away was the one game where we were hopeless.

Basle were a good team, much better than a lot of people gave them credit for, but we were never in the game. To be honest, even 2-0 probably flattered us. On another day, we could have been completely out of sight.

They controlled the whole of the first half, but it looked like we were going to get away with it and get in the dressing room goalless. Obviously that didn't happen, and the two quick goals just before half-time changed the mood of the game entirely.

It was really damage limitation after that. Thankfully, we didn't concede any more goals, but we still suffered a massive blow when Pogatetz shattered his jaw.

You could tell straight away it was a bad injury. We'd just switched him inside to cover for the absence of Southgate, and here we were now without arguably our two best defenders.

It was one of those nights where anything that could go wrong, did. It was a much quieter flight home than we were used to, although I wouldn't say we'd given things up entirely. We knew at 2-0 we weren't out of the game, but it was going to take a hell of an effort in the second leg.

Second Leg
April 6, 2006
MIDDLESBROUGH 4 (Viduka 33, 57, Hasselbaink 79, Maccarone 90) BASLE 1 (Eduardo 23)
Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue (Maccarone 67); Morrison (Hasselbaink 45), Boateng, Rochemback, Downing; Viduka, Yakubu (Taylor 89).

The difficulty going into the Basle home game was that we knew they were capable of getting an away goal. They were a very attacking side, set up to come forward and play football, and as a result they always had a goal in them.

We were a little bit nervous at the start, and I remember the whole atmosphere being fairly flat. It got even worse when they scored - I don't think I've ever knows such an eerie silence at the Riverside.

In a strange sort of way though, them getting the first goal actually helped a bit, because it made our minds up for us. We had nothing to lose and felt able to throw caution to the wind.

Viduka's goal before half-time was crucial, it at least gave us a bit of a lifeline, but it was fairly obvious we would have to make some pretty dramatic changes if we were going to turn things around.

Funnily enough, we'd been thinking about how we could chase a game in training, and I'd stumbled across the idea of playing Stewart Downing at left-back.

It's all very well having four strikers on the field, and we knew we could do that, but it wasn't much use if you had no one to cross a ball for them.

By pushing Stewy back to left-back, we were able to bring Yakubu and Maccarone on, but still maintain a threat on the flanks.

In both the comebacks, I think that was vital. I don't think we would have been able to do it had Stewy not been such a versatile player he could slot in at left-back no trouble.

I would describe it as my lightbulb moment of the whole campaign, and with Stewy overlapping from deep, the game changed.

The second and third goals changed the momentum entirely, and the intensity we played at in the last ten minutes or so was incredible.

It then became a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man, with Massimo swooping to score in stoppage time.

At the time, we thought it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime games that would never be repeated. Little did we know we'd be going through it all again a few weeks later.

SEMI FINAL
First Leg
April 20, 2006
STEAUA BUCHAREST 1 (Dica 30) MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Schwarzer; Parnaby, Ehiogu, Bates, Queudrue; Morrison (Maccarone 70), Boateng, Rochemback, Downing; Yakubu (Parlour 70), Hasselbaink.

We'd played in some pretty imposing stadiums during the European run, but the ground in Bucharest was something else.

It was a proper Eastern European bowl - a huge concrete cauldron, with spectators displaying real aggression even as we drove in the coach to the ground.

We'd had an untimely run of injuries, and I had no choice other than to field a fairly young side.

I remember watching Morrison and Bates in particular warm up and I was worried - their faces were white as a sheet as the whistles and boos came down.

We were without our three first-choice centre-halves, but in fairness to Matt Bates in particular, the lads that came in were fantastic.

I've always liked Matt as a defender, and he was rock solid alongside Ugo that night. Similarly, James Morrison really came of age during the European campaign. I watch him playing for West Brom and take a fair bit of pride in the player he has become.

In the latter stages of the UEFA Cup run, the younger lads played an increasingly prominent role, and the Steaua game just confirmed we had nothing to worry about with them.

A few weeks later, I played ten young kids in the final league game at Fulham. I probably wouldn't have done that if things hadn't gone so well with some of the young lads in Bucharest.

All in all, we left Romania thinking things had gone pretty much as well as could have been expected. We'd lost, but we were still bang in the game.

Second Leg
April 27, 2006
MIDDLESBROUGH 4 (Maccarone 33, 89, Viduka 64, Riggott 73) STEAUA BUCHAREST 2 (Dica 16, Goian 24)
Jones; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate (Maccarone 26), Queudrue; Downing, Rochemback, Boateng, Taylor (Yakubu 55); Hasselbaink (Ehiogu 89), Viduka.

To this day, I can still remember the last words I said before the start of the home game with Steaua. "First 20 minutes or so, keep things tight. We don't want a repeat of what happened against Basle." Shows how much they listened to me doesn't it?

We started hesitantly and it didn't take long for the wheels to start to fall off. Suddenly, we were 3-0 down on aggregate and needing to score four to progress. We knew we were up against it, but at least because of the previous round, we knew what could happen.

We also knew it was important to be pro-active, so Maccarone came on midway through the first half and we'd gone to four up front by the 55th minute.

The Basle and Bucharest games were crazy, but in terms of the rest of my managerial career, they taught me that if you're going to change things, it's important to do it early.

Massimo pulled a goal back in the first half, and Viduka made it 3-2 shortly after the hour. Viduka was just about unplayable in the second half, and it was probably him, more than anyone else, that made the difference.

As soon as our second goal went in, you could smell that Steaua were gone. They weren't even counter-attacking any more - they were terrified about what was going to happen.

Chris Riggott got our third with 17 minutes left, and I turned to the lads on the bench and said, '˜This is ours now'. We still had plenty of time left, but after ten or so minutes had passed, I think everyone was getting twitchy.

We needn't have worried though, and Maccarone's goal was just the most incredible feeling in the world.

It was a bit different to Basle though because we weren't into stoppage time and there was still four or five minutes left. I was urging the players to concentrate, but their minds were already gone.

Sure enough, from the kick off, Steaua lumped a long ball upfield, won a flick down, and produced this shot that took a deflection.

I can still see it now, arcing towards our goal. I was absolutely convinced it was in. Having won the game in the most dramatic of fashions, I honestly thought we'd thrown it away.

I had to check two or three times to make sure the ball had nestled on the top of the net rather than in it. It had though, and when the referee blew his whistle, I don't think any of us could quite comprehend what we'd done.

FINAL
May 10, 2006
SEVILLA 4 (Fabiano 26, Maresca 78, 84, Kanoute 89) MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue (Yakubu 70); Morrison (Maccarone 45), Boateng, Rochemback, Downing; Viduka (Cattermole 85), Hasselbaink.

Regardless of the result, I think anyone who was involved in the final in Eindhoven will never forget it as an occasion.

I've been lucky enough to experience quite a few special moments in my career, but the UEFA Cup final is right up there.

It was obviously ruined a bit by the result, but just to see the Boro fans proudly following their team in a European final was a special, special sight.

I think that's what made the whole run so memorable to be honest. We were all in together - players, supporters, staff - and deep down, I don't think any of us really expected it to happen.

To be honest, the game itself was probably a match too far. It was our 64th game of the season, and we didn't have a particularly big squad so there were a lot of players who had played in a lot of those games.

Sevilla were also a really good side. They went on to have a sustained run of success in Spain, and people sometimes forget their team included the likes of Dani Alves, Luis Fabiano, Javier Saviola and Fredi Kanoute.

We have to hold our hands up and admit we were beaten by the better team, but it's hard not to wonder what might have been had Mark Viduka not missed a couple of great chances when the score was 1-0.

One in particular stands out. It was a long throw in, flicked on, and you would have put your house on Mark putting it away. Sadly of course, he didn't.

A goal at that stage might have changed things, and while 4-0 sounds like a bit of a hiding, three of their goals came in the last 12 minutes when we were chasing things at the end.

By the time the final came around, it had already been confirmed that I was leaving at the end of the season, so everybody knew it was going to be my last game.

Sitting in the dressing room with the lads after the game, it was a strange whirl of emotions. Pride at everything we had done in the season, disappointment that we hadn't been able to lift the cup, regret that I'd be saying goodbye to a great group of players, excitement about what I was going on to do with England.

It had been a hell of a journey, but it was suddenly at an end. Looking back now though, the main feeling is an immense amount of pride at being involved.

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