There may be two divisions and 270 miles separating Boro and our Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round opponents Newport County, but the clubs have plenty in common.
Historically and culturally, Teesside and South Wales are strikingly similar - working class regions built on industry. Stark emblems of that shared heritage are the two towns’ transporter bridges, the only two of their kind remaining in the UK. Football has ever been the beating heart of both regions.
Despite this, the sides have met just twice competitively. In the old Division Three back in 1986/87. Boro won both times, the first at Somerton Park thanks to a goal from Tony Mowbray, the second a 2-0 victory at Ayresome Park after strikes from Gary Gill and Archie Stephens.
It was just the second time Boro had fallen to the third tier of the English footballing pyramid, but after our brush with extinction, the club were back on the up under Bruce Rioch, with a second-place finish seeing us celebrate promotion.
County, on the other hand, were relegated at the foot of the table - level on points with, but below Darlington. The end of more than 60-years in the Football League proved too costly for the South Wales side in their own battle against administration, and the club did temporarily cease to exist, reforming as Newport County AFC in 1989.
Newport could well have done with the services of a certain Tony Pulis that fateful season. Boro’s manager hails from the district of Pillgwenlly in the Welsh city, and, along with brother Ray, played for County. In fact, Tony had left Newport and joined Harry Redknapp’s Bournemouth (eventual champions that year) the summer prior.
Ever a proud proprietor of his roots, Pulis was awarded an honorary fellowship at Newport University in April 2013. The very next month, The Exiles ended their 25-year exile from the Football League, beating Welsh rivals Wrexham in the Conference Play-Off final at Wembley.
Despite the 50-odd places currently separating the two sides, County will prepare for their first visit to the Riverside in confident fashion.
Under the tutelage of another Newport native, Michael Flynn, they have developed a reputation as a ’giantkiller’. They beat Leeds United last year, before taking Tottenham Hotspur to a replay. They were at it again in last weekend, claiming a Premier League scalp with victory over Leicester City.
Upon learning of last night's draw, Flynn paid tribute to his countryman.
“I know Tony, he is somebody I’ve got a lot of time for and respect for," he told the BBC.
"He’s a great man and he’s very helpful if I need anything.”
Another connection at Rodney Parade is Lennie Lawrence. The former Boro boss, under whose guidance we were promoted to the inaugural Premier League in 1992, is now Newport’s First Team Management Consultant. He was appointed alongside Flynn in March 2017, with Newport 11 points adrift at the bottom of League Two.
A remarkable turnaround in the remaining 12 league games ensued, Newport avoiding relegation with a win against Notts County with a 89th minute winner on the final day of campaign - at the expense of Hartlepool United.
Midfielder Matty Dolan, himself a Hartlepool alumnus, now plays at Newport having begun his career with our Academy.