Boro travel to Villa Park today to take on Aston Villa (3pm). We take a look at five players who have worn the colours of both clubs.
Following our relegation from the Premier League in 2009, Stewart Downing became Martin O’Neill’s first summer signing at Villa Park. A regular in the Villa side, the former England international played in their Carling Cup final defeat to Manchester United during his first campaign with the Lions. Downing departed Aston Villa in 2011 for Liverpool, with a spell in the capital at West Ham following before he returned to Boro in 2015, where he helped his hometown club to promotion back to the top flight. Downing isn’t the only current Boro player with ties with today’s visitors, with Rudy Gestede making 55 appearances and netting 10 times during his time in the Midlands.
Arriving from Bristol City in 2013, Albert Adomah clocked up well over a century of appearances for us during his time at the Riverside. A key member of the squad who were elevated to the Premier League in 2016, Adomah swapped Boro for Villa on transfer deadline day, a move which saw Adama Traore head in the opposite direction up to Teesside. The Ghana international played a big role in the Villans’ promotion push last season, where they lost in the Play-Off final to Fulham at Wembley. Adomah's made 30 appearances for Dean Smith's side this season, with his only goal this campaign to date coming in a draw at Stoke at the end of last month.
England manager Gareth Southgate established himself at Crystal Palace where he helped guide the Eagles to the First Division title in 1994, and a successful stint with Villa followed when he departed Selhurst Park in 1995. In his first season with the Villans, he was part of the side who clinched the League Cup, running out 3-0 winners against Leeds United, a competition he would taste more success in with Boro when he became our first captain to lift a major trophy in 2004. The Villa team on the day of their League Cup final triumph included a number of future Boro players along with himself, with captain Andy Townsend, Alan Wright and Ugo Ehiogu going on to have spells with us.
A tough-tackling midfielder, George Boateng was a lynchpin of the Villa midfield during his three seasons at Villa Park. He was a runner-up for the Lions in the 1999/2000 FA Cup final against Chelsea, where Villa were edged out 1-0. He linked up with Boro in 2002, becoming a key component of our engine room. He tasted success in 2004 in the Carling Cup final, starting in the 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers in Cardiff, as well as featuring in our UEFA Cup final defeat two years later. Boateng took on the captain’s armband from Gareth Southgate, who stepped into the dugout as manager, with Boateng leaving Teesside in 2008 to join Premier League newcomers Hull City.
Neil Cox became our first £1million transfer when he swapped Villa for Boro. He was a League Cup winner with the Villans in his last campaign with them, coming off the bench as they defeated Manchester United 3-1 in 1994. Cox was snapped up by Bryan Robson and he helped us gain promotion to the Premier League during his first season, as we finished top of the pile in the First Division in the final season at our old home Ayresome Park.