Little fella

Let’s all laugh at Boro

Written by: Flora Snelson
Artwork by: Eamonn Dalton
A snarling Lee Bowyer tackling Middlesbrough's Juninho, who looks like he's already wanting to cry

When Elland Road hosted relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on the final day of the 1996/97 season, Leeds United fans were bored. The shine of a team that prides itself on its defence wears off after the ninth goalless draw, and Lee Sharpe was threatening to finish the season as the club’s top scorer with a whopping five goals.

“We weren’t pretty to watch,” George Graham admitted of his maiden campaign. “I got bored myself a couple of times.” Leeds were boring, but Leeds were safe, and if Graham’s players wouldn’t entertain the fans, they’d easily find a way to do it themselves.

“Let’s all laugh at Boro,” they chanted, as the Middlesbrough players disembarked the team coach. The Sky TV cameras closed in on Italian goal machine Fabrizio Ravanelli, on whose late fitness test Boro’s chances of survival desperately depended. Before ‘97, Boro had never been in a domestic cup final; this season, Ravanelli’s all-competitions goal haul of 31 had helped them reach two.

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