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  Friday, 12 April, 2002, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Boro's nearly men
Boro's fans have been to several major finals - and left each one disappointed
Boro's fans are desperate for some silverware
BBC Sport Online's Paul Fletcher believes that Middlesbrough will struggle to secure their first piece of cup silverware.

The north-east is undeniably a footballing hotbed.

The passion - and rivalry - shared by Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans is arguably unrivalled throughout the country.

The people of Tyneside are desperate to see the Toon secure a Champions League place -and booed their team off the pitch after Monday's 1-1 draw with Fulham.

  Boro's final failure
1990: Zenith Data Systems
1997: Worthington Cup
1997: FA Cup
1998: Worthington Cup
Wearsiders have spent the entire season berating Sunderland manager Peter Reid after months of uninspired football by his team.

And Teessiders have voted with their feet this season, deserting the Riverside Stadium in frustration at their team's mediocrity.

All three clubs have a history of under-achieving and their fans are desperate for success.

Trophyless

The difference is that while more mature Newcastle and Sunderland fans can hark back to past glories, Boro fans are resigned to silence.

The bottom line is that Middlesbrough have never won a major trophy.

A club that has boasted the likes of Wilf Mannion, Brian Clough, Graeme Souness, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho has never been able to satiate their supporters' hunger for success.

After all, winning the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1976 does not establish a club's cup pedigree and the kudos associated with the 1995 First Division title only lasts so long.

Understandably all of Middlesbrough will be hoping this is the year when the team finally sheds its bridesmaid's tag and emerges victorious.

Boro lost the 1997 FA Cup final
Ravanelli was on the losing side in a FA Cup final with Boro
Boro have come close to success in recent years but have always been found wanting at the final hurdle.

An early foretaste of Boro's 'nearly Nineties' came in 1990 when the club reached the Zenith Data Systems Cup Final.

It was Boro's first major Wembley final and they lost 1-0 to Chelsea.

Fast forward seven years and frustration at the hands of Chelsea is evident again.

Boro fortuitously overcame Chesterfield in their FA Cup semi-final but by the time the Wembley showdown came, all was not well in the Boro camp.

Ravanelli had rubbed more than his share of team-mates up the wrong way and, on the morning of the final, he had an unscheduled bust up with a team-mate

Television shots of the player in question wandering around the Wembley turf prior to kick-off clearly betrayed his earlier escapades - grass stains on the knees of his Wembley suit.

Middlesbrough's Gareth Southgate will try to stop Arsenal's Thierry Henry
Southgate is a key player for Boro
Roberto di Matteo scored the fastest ever cup final goal - after just 42 seconds - and Boro were outplayed, eventually losing 2-0.

The defeat completed an ultimately miserable campaign for Boro, who had also lost the Coca Cup final - now the Worthington Cup - and suffered relegation.

Bryan Robson's team bounced back the following season, winning promotion and reaching the Worthington Cup final.

Unfortunately for the Teessiders, Chelsea once again emerged as their tormentors, strolling to a 2-0 victory as Robson's team cemented their reputation as football's nearly men.

Underdogs

As Middlesbrough's current indifferent season moves towards its conclusion Steve McClaren's team are still in with a chance of finally delivering glory.

But it won't be easy.

The cream of the capital once more stands between Boro and silverware, first in the form of Arsenal in the semi-final and then either Fulham or Chelsea in the final.

Arsenal - top of the Premiership and in scintillating form - are clear favourites.

Boro, with Ugo Ehiogu and Gareth Southgate marshalling the back line, are solid defensively.

But Steve McClaren's team is desperately short of firepower.

Benito Carbone is cup-tied, Noel Whelan is injured and Alen Boksic is doubtful with a groin injury.

Szilard Nemeth and Paul Ince will also miss the game.

Middlesbrough were formed at a meeting of Middlesbrough Cricket Club at the Albert Park Hotel in 1875.

And frankly, it does not look good for Boro as they try to finally end a 127-year quest for a major trophy.

 VOTE RESULTS
Who will win the Cup?

Arsenal
 57.72% 

Chelsea
 25.50% 

Fulham
 6.51% 

Middlesbrough
 10.26% 

21121 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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