Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Is This Boro's Best-Ever Championship Eleven?

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Is This Boro's Best-Ever Championship Eleven?

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC SHAW dominic.shaw@trinitymirror.com @DOMSHAWGAZETTE

REMEMBER your first visit to the Riverside? Those bright red seats and that lush green pitch.

Well since the stadium swung open its doors back at the start of the 1995/96 season, Boro have had 14 years in the Premier League and nine in the second tier.

But even in the years spent fighting for promotion from the Championship, or Division One as it was, we've been treated to some outstanding footballers... which got us thinking. What is the best non-Premier League XI of the Riverside era? Now by that, we're not limiting players who only played for Boro in the second tier but those who played at least 10 games of non-Premier League football. That rules out the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli, despite his late winner against Charlton in the 1997/98 season. And Robert Huth, who was in supreme form at the start of the 2009/10 season before he moved on. And the selections are made with their form and performances at this level in mind.

KEEPER - MARK SCHWARZER YOU could easily make an argument to have Shay Given in here after that flurry of clean sheets during his loan spell in 2013/14.

Dimi Konstantopoulos, too. He was the last line of a record breaking defence in the promotion year. But Schwarzer gets the nod. He played 44 games in the 1997/98 season as Boro went up with the best defensive record in the division, conceding just 41 goals.

RIGHT-BACK - CYRUS CHRISTIE HE'S only been here for a few months but Cyrus Christie hasn't half impressed in that time. It makes you wonder why Derby let him go! Looking back, right-back has been quite the problem position for Boro over the years in the second tier.

So much so, Ryan Fredericks was in contention and he only played 16 games. That said, Christie has only played 16 games so far but you can only judge on what you see and the Republic of Ireland international has been one of the stand-out players so far. Sorry Dwight, you didn't get the nod.

CENTRE-BACK - NIGEL PEARSON IT was a close call here between Big Nige and his centre-half partner that year Gianluca Festa. In the Gazette star ratings, the Italian destroyer picked up more points. In fact, only Paul Merson was better than Festa that season, according to Eric Paylor.

But Pearson was a colossus at his best. A leader. You wouldn't have fancied being an opposition striker getting on the wrong side of him. Or a team-mate for that matter. Or a journalist/ostrich.

As well as being rock solid at the back, his two goals in the 97/98 season were crucial. In successive January league games he scored in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich and a 2-1 win at Stoke.

CENTRE-BACK - BEN GIBSON GOING on the promotion winning 2015/16 season, you could have made a case for Ben Gibson or Daniel Ayala. …

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