Middlesbrough it is then.
In the end it was a large chunk of luck that decided the replay tie on Wednesday between Middlesbrough and Sheffield United. Over the two games the team from the North East deserved to go through. I have nothing at all against Sheffield United, but this was the result I was hoping for. I have been to Sheffield United a few times but I have never watched a game at Middlesbrough. One regret is that I never got to see a game at Ayresome Park and I'm looking forward to my first visit to the Riverside. If anything accentuates how far I have come on this trip, it is the comparison of the ground I started at - Chertsey Town - with the stadium I will (hopefully) be sat in come 2pm on Sunday 9th March. Worlds apart.
Tickets for the game against Cardiff City go on General Sale on Monday morning. Once again, prices have been slashed to £15. That will please her indoors.
So another new club to introduce. I'm quite surprised that the competition has been reduced to the last eight before a Premier League club makes an appearance on this run. It had to happen eventually. By way of an introduction, some notable dates in the history of Middlesbrough FC. In no particular order...
29 February 2004 - a total coincidence (I'm not that organised) is that today Middlesbrough celebrate the first anniversary of their leap year Carling Cup win. Exactly four years ago Middlesbrough beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in front of over 72,000 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Goals from Job and Zenden (the second after only seven minutes) were enough to give Middlesbrough their only major trophy. The club were also runners-up in this competition in 1997 and 1998.
18th May 1899. The date Middlesbrough were elected to the Football League (into Division Two). The club were founded in 1876 by the local cricket club so that the players could stay fit during the winter. As amateurs they had won the Northern League (three times) and the Amateur Cup (twice) between 1889 and 1898. Also in that period, a breakaway team called Middlesbrough Ironopolis had also formed. They wanted professionalism and joined the Football League in 1893. This proved financially damaging and Ironopolis folded at the end of that season.
25 February 1905. Alf Common's first game for Middlesbrough. The club had broken all transfer records by signing Alf Common for £1000 from Sunderland in early February. In his first game away at Sheffield United, Common scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to record Middlesbrough's first away win for two years. That season, Middlesbrough survived relegation. Common went on to score 58 goals in 168 appearances before a move to Woolwich Arsenal in September 1910.
10 May 2006. Middlesbrough reach the final of the UEFA Cup in Eindhoven. Their 4-0 defeat at the hands of Spanish side Sevilla was a huge disappointment after a cup run that had provided two of the most exciting games in European football. Middlesbrough, whose first ever European game had been in 2004, were trailing 2-0 from the quarter final first leg tie against Basel. In the home return leg they conceded halfway through the first half and looked to be heading for the exit. In a breathtaking game, Middlesbrough responded with four goals to take them through to the semi final. Massimo Maccarone scored the winner in the last minute. In the semi it was a case of déjà vu. The opponents this time were Steaua Bucharest who arrived for the second leg at the Riverside 1-0 up. Two early goals from the visitors meant that, once again, Middlesbrough needed four goals to progress. It was Maccarone who sealed the remarkable win on the 88th minute. Pulsating stuff.
26 August 1995. Middlesbrough play their first game at the new Riverside Stadium against Chelsea. In front a crowd of 28,286 the hosts win 2-0 with goals from Craig Hignett and Jan Åge Fjørtoft. The ground has a capacity of over 35,000 and cost £16 million to build; the construction took only 32 weeks to complete. Middlesbrough had been playing at Ayresome Park for ninety two years. Ayresome Park was demolished in 1997 and the gates of the old ground now stand outside the new. A housing estate now stands on the old site.
18 March 2004. The Middlesbrough FC chairman and local lad Steve Gibson was granted Freedom of the Town for "the eminent services rendered to the economic and social well being of the community." In 1986 Gibson, then on the Middlesbrough board, rescued the club from going into liquidation. As a result of this investment and vision the club went on to win that first trophy in 128 years, the Carling Cup, plus make that UEFA Cup Final appearance. Gibson gave the manager's job to Bryan Robson in May 1994 and many saw Gibson as the instrumentalist in the "Riverside Revolution" which also saw them make three cup final appearances between 1997 and 1998. The Middlesbrough supporters have nicknamed him the "King of Teeside". Basically, he's a local hero.
18 August 2001. The date that the current Middlesbrough manager, Gareth Southgate, made his debut playing for the club. Southgate is one of ten players that the club's supporters voted into the Middlesbrough "Hall of Fame". The other nine are George Camsell, George Hardwick, Wilf Mannion, Brian Clough, John Hickton, Willie Maddren, Tony Mowbray, Bernie Slaven, and Juninho Paulista. Southgate was Steve McClaren's first signing for the club - remember him?
17 May 1997. Middlesbrough reach the FA Cup final for the only time in their history. They lost to Chelsea 2-0 after Di Matteo put the Blues 1-0 up after only 43 seconds, the quickest ever FA Cup final goal. Middlesbrough had been relegated from the Premier League a matter of days earlier, along with Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. They would have stayed in the Premier League had it not been for a three point deduction imposed after they postponed a league game with Blackburn Rovers less than twenty four hours before kick-off, due to illness and injury. So they were perhaps not in the best frame of mind for that final. Chelsea sealed victory when Newton netted with seven minutes from the end.
Maybe Middlebrough now have one eye on another FA Cup final appearance; a repeat of the 1997 final is still possible. But they have to overcome Cardiff City first. It is off up the M1 to see the Smoggies take on the Bluebirds for my fourteenth game.
If I get tickets, let's call it a date.