Reliving Middlesbrough's FA Cup tie with Tottenham and assessing the changes which have occured since

This time last year nearly 27,000 fans were packed inside the Riverside Stadium as Jonathan Woodgate’s youthful Middlesbrough side hosted Tottenham in a third-round FA Cup tie.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

After four straight league wins, things were starting to look up for Boro after creating some breathing space between themselves and the bottom three.

Woodgate’s side now appeared to be playing with freedom and confidence, while the emergence of wing-backs Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson gave the Teessiders some much-needed pace and energy on the flanks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That sense of optimism continued as Boro held their own and took the lead against a strong Spurs side, managed by Jose Mourinho, before Lucas Moura’s header canceled out Ashley Fletcher’s opener.

Ashley Fletcher put Middlesbrough ahead during last year's FA Cup tie against Tottenham.Ashley Fletcher put Middlesbrough ahead during last year's FA Cup tie against Tottenham.
Ashley Fletcher put Middlesbrough ahead during last year's FA Cup tie against Tottenham.

Clearly no one could have predicted how the next 12 months would unfold, both on and off the pitch.

After that hard-fought draw with Spurs, Boro went on a ten-match winless run in the Championship and were plunged back into trouble before winning at Charlton at the start of March.

That was the last game before the season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when Boro were left in a precarious position just two points above the relegation zone.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When the season resumed, Woodgate departed and Neil Warnock came in. The last 12 months have been full of change.

Nearly 27,000 fans attended the match at the Riverside.Nearly 27,000 fans attended the match at the Riverside.
Nearly 27,000 fans attended the match at the Riverside.

Yet the aspirations to promote youth and maximise the club’s highly-rated academy still remain, especially due to financial restrictions caused by the pandemic.

It has also helped that Warnock has been able to improve players who were already at the club.

Of the team which started against Tottenham a year ago, five players, Jonny Howson, Paddy McNair, Dael Fry, George Saville and Marcus Tavernier, started Saturday’s 3-1 win at Wycombe.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

All five of those players have taken their games to another level under Warnock, while Fletcher would have been a key player this season if it wasn’t for the hamstring injury he suffered in September.

Of the other five players who started against Spurs, Adam Clayton and Tomas Mejias (on loan) have left the club, while Patrick Roberts looks set to depart this month.

Spence and Coulson have dropped down the pecking order but have been replaced by the ever-improving Anfernee Dijksteel and Marc Bola, signings who many people had forgotten about this time last year.

The improvements made by Bola, 23, and Dijksteel, 24, have been remarkable and their performances have earned the pair new long-term deals.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Boro’s other summer signing from 2019, Marcus Browne, is also back in the first-team picture after scoring at Wycombe on Saturday.

Like Bola and Browne, the 23-year-old was signed due to his raw ability and potential to improve. Boro fans will hope Warnock can get the best out of the talented playmaker.

The other starters at Wycombe included goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, midfielder Sam Morsy and striker Chuba Akpom, all summer additions who have strengthened the spine of the team.

It also appears the best is yet to come, especially as seven of Boro’s starting XI on Saturday were aged 25 or under.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yet the biggest difference from that Spurs match 12 months ago is obviously the attendance of fans inside the stadium.

The roar when Fletcher unexpectedly put Boro ahead was a moment to behold. Those are the moments supporters across the country continue to miss.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Middlesbrough coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor