Gareth Southgate, who leads England into their first major tournament final in 55 years tonight, became a Boro player on this day in 2001.
Born in Watford, Southgate began his career as a midfielder at Crystal Palace before moving to Aston Villa. There he established himself as one of the country's best defenders, winning the League Cup in 1996 and captaining Villa in the last-ever FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium.
He joined Boro for a fee of £6m in 2001, becoming Steve McClaren's first signing as manager and reuniting with former Villa defensive partner Ugo Ehiogu to rekindle a formidable partnership in the heart of our backline.
Southgate wasted no time becoming a firm favourite at the Riverside, winning the club's Player of the Year award in his first season after a series of assured displays.
A model professional as well as a calm and cultured influence on the team, the defender always wore his heart on his sleeve and delighted fans with his three-punch salute at the end of Boro victories.
He was handed the captaincy for the 2002/03 season when Paul Ince left the club and became the first Boro skipper to lift a major trophy as we celebrated Carling Cup victory in Cardiff in 2004.
Having been virtually an ever-present in previous seasons, Southgate struggled with ankle and back injuries during the final campaign of his playing career, although he did manage to lead the side in two-thirds of the 60-odd matches Boro played as we competed on domestic and European fronts.
Southgate’s final match was the UEFA Cup final in 2006, after which Steve Gibson identified him as the man to lead Boro forward and replace the England-bound Steve McClaren as manager.
At just 35, Southgate became one of the youngest managers in the Premier League, with Boro successfully arguing that he could work to complete his coaching badges on the job. Although immediately signalling his intention to step back from the playing side of things, he initially retained his registration in case of emergencies.
Two mid-table finishes followed, the latter ending with a flourish with an 8-1 rout of Manchester City, while the club were a regular feature in the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
Southgate’s time in the managerial hotseat may be remembered for the following season, which ended in the heartbreak of relegation from the top flight.
Nevertheless, Southgate maintains that his first two seasons in charge at Boro were among the greatest achievements of his career to date.
His reign was brought to an end a short time into the following season, parting ways with the club after a victory over Derby County in October 2009.
Despite an infamous penalty shootout miss in Euro 96’, he was one of the stars of England’s team in the late nineties and early noughties, a veteran of over 50 caps and a member of the Three Lions’ World Cup parties in 1998 and 2002.
After leaving Boro in 2009, Southgate’s next role was with England as coach of the Under-21 team, where he worked with young players including Ben Gibson, Chuba Akpom and Duncan Watmore.
He is now manager of the England senior team having replaced Sam Allardyce in September 2016, and led the Three Lions to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the UEFA Nations League the year after.
Tonight’s showdown with Italy at Wembley is England’s first-ever European Championships final, and a chance at history.