TO West Brom 05, Portsmouth 06, West Ham 07 and Fulham 08, might we yet add Middlesbrough 09?
Maybe, maybe not.
But between now and the point at which the Teessiders’ Premier League fate (or otherwise) is sealed, Gareth Southgate is drawing inspiration and hope from those clubs who in past seasons have escaped situations similar to his side’s current predicament – and he continues to remind his players and the club’s fans that history can repeat itself.
The Riverside hosts fellow strugglers Hull City tomorrow in what the Middlesbrough manager has admitted for the first time is a “must-win” match.
A run of one win in 19 league games – and more pertinently losing their last two – has, Southgate accepts, left Boro on the back foot and many of the opinion that all is lost.
He is no quitter, however, and retains the belief that the visit of the Tigers represents an excellent opportunity to put Boro back in the race for survival.
After all, if recent history has taught us anything, it is that miracles can happen.
“The last four seasons, the team that’s been second-bottom – Fulham, West Ham, Portsmouth and West Brom – at this stage of the season have got out of it, so there’s evidence it can be done,” Southgate said.
“None of them were on a good run approaching this time.
“You have to take inspiration, it shows it’s been done before. Anything is achievable, sometimes you have to break through a barrier not broken before, other times you must follow what’s been done before and that gives you confidence that it’s been done. People are saying we and West Brom are gone and it’s one other from five or six teams. You don’t like to hear we’re gone but you can’t argue too much about it, we’ve given ourselves a big uphill task. The last two results put us on the back foot but there’s no reason we can’t get a result against Hull.
“You never accept defeat in anything until the last gasp of air’s gone. If you quit on anything in life, then you’ll do it again and again. No one accepts we’re down, but we understand how difficult it will be.
“We have to get that first win, a win would give us momentum and put Hull in danger and change the scenarios. We’re determined to give everything we’ve got to stay up.
“It’s a must-win game. Mathematically, we have more opportunities but in terms of momentum, to put pressure on the others and the impact, we need to beat Hull to keep them involved. We’re coming from a shot to nothing because everyone’s written us off.
“Hull will come and be physical in their approach. You need a strong referee for that, we’ve got to match it and give a display of passion and pride and use our heads as well.
“Everyone’s aware of the impact of relegation, it’d impact on the whole club, the whole town. The players are desperate to do well. They’re living with it all hours of the day, it’s their livelihood. They don’t go home and switch off, it’s their work. You never leave it behind and they’re desperate to stay in the league and all we can affect is the game on Saturday.”
Two or three will not, though. Boro will be without Gary O’Neil, who is suspended, and Emanuel Pogatetz, out for three weeks with a knee injury, but Adam Johnson could return.