Fulham vs Boro: The youngest team in PL history – where are they now?

On May 7th 2006, Middlesbrough managed to do what would seem impossible in the modern era.

With the UEFA Cup Final in Eindhoven just four days away, England bound Steve McClaren decided to showcase the club’s outstanding academy by selecting a squad almost totally composed of young prospects for the final Premier League game of the season against Fulham.

The team that started had an average age of 20 and is the youngest starting line-up in Premier League history. It was a testament to the work of Dave Parnaby and everyone at the academy.

“It’s a proud day for Middlesbrough,” said McClaren after the match, “and for Steve Gibson, the chairman, who always wanted as his dream to field a team of players born within 30 miles of the stadium.

Fifteen of the 16 in the squad were that.” When Josh Walker replaced Malcolm Christie on 62 minutes the entire playing 11 were locally born. The performance from the young team was exceptional, losing narrowly to a late penalty.

Nearly 12 years have passed since. The protégés from that day are now in their 30’s heading towards the final chapter of their playing careers, and they have all gone in completely different directions.

There are players from that squad that continue to play in the Premier League to this day. Some experienced Wembley glory. Others have multiple international caps to their name. One even has a Champions League winner’s medal. Sadly far too many have been forced to look at what may have been due to injuries.

With the Fulham game coming up we decided to take a look at what happened next for each of the players, how their career went, and where they are now:

Ross Turnbull

After Mark Schwarzer departed for Fulham in 2008 Turnbull tussled with Brad Jones for the no.1 spot at Boro.

He made 22 appearances in the league that season, losing his place after a 5-0 drubbing from Chelsea. Incredibly, despite the score-line, Turnbull caught the eye of Chelsea goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon, who persuaded Chelsea to sign Turnbull on a free that summer, a move that Turnbull admitted he thought was a “wind-up.”

Turnbull was often 3rd choice behind Petr Čech and Henrique Hilário but did make several appearances in cup competition, particularly the group stages of the Champions League. He picked up a Champions League medal as an unused substitute in 2012.

Turnbull is currently a free agent after spells at Barnsley, Doncaster and Leeds.

Andrew Davies

Davies played a critical part in both cup runs during the 2005-06 season before finding more game time under Gareth Southgate the following year.

He had a short stint at Southampton before Tony Pulis brought him to Stoke in 2008. He was on the books at Stoke for 4 years but spent most of this time on loan to various clubs before finally settling at Bradford.

Despite being in League Two, Bradford incredibly made it to the League Cup Final in 2013 against Swansea. Davies came on at half-time when they were down three goals, eventually losing 5-0. Davies and Bradford returned to Wembley three months in the League Two playoff where they beat Northampton 3-0.

In 2015 the defender made the surprising move to the Highlands signing for Ross County. He was captain on the day Ross County won their first ever trophy, beating Hibs 2-1 to win the Scottish League Cup in 2016. Davies’ career trajectory has been hampered through injuries, but he has been a fan favorite at the clubs he’s represented for being a brave and passionate defender.

Matthew Bates

A once promising career was ruined by severe knee injuries. His best spell for Boro was under Tony Mowbray’s tenure where he was club captain for 2 seasons, leading the club to a respectable 7th place finish in 2011-12.

Bates endured difficult spells at Bristol City and Bradford City before signing for Hartlepool in 2014.

Last season Hartlepool were relegated from the football league for the first time in 96 years. Bates took over as caretaker for the last two games following the sacking of Dave Jones and nearly kept them up.

Hartlepool were beating top of the league Doncaster 2-1 and results were going their way, until Newport scored in the 89th minute to beat Notts County and send Pools down. Bates is currently on the coaching staff at Victoria Park for new manager Craig Harrison.

David Wheater

Wheater forged a place in the starting XI under Gareth Southgate in the 2007-08 season and earned a reputation for being a commanding centre-back, and a possible future England player. After they were relegated in 2009, Southgate made him captain at the age of 22.

In 2011, Wheater returned to the Premier League – signing for Bolton in the January transfer window, but experienced relegation again the following season.

Despite injury troubles he has been a loyal servant to the Trotters. When Bolton were relegated to League One in 2016 Wheater signed a new contract on significantly reduced wages. He helped the team earn promotion, and was their joint top goal-scorer with 9 goals and won the club’s Player of the Year award.

Andrew Taylor

Steve McClaren handed the dynamic left-back is first start for Boro at Highbury in January 2006, where Boro recorded their biggest Premier League ever defeat, Thierry Henry bagging a hat-trick in a 7-0 romp.

There would be better memories of that season for Taylor, he started at Villa Park against West Ham in the FA Cup Semi-final, and had just come on the pitch as a sub when Maccarone scored the winner against FC Basel. After an injury to Julio Arca he established a first-team place the following season.

He made over 100 appearances for Boro before moving to Cardiff in 2011. He played in the 2012 League Cup Final against Liverpool which the Bluebirds lost in a penalty shootout. The following season he made 43 appearances as Cardiff topped the Championship.

He signed for Bolton on loan in 2016 joining his former Boro teammate David Wheater and helped the team win promotion to the Championship. He signed a permanent deal last summer.

James Morrison

Of that particular team, Morrison has surely had the most successful career. He has been a mainstay in the West Brom side since signing in 2008 making his 300th appearances for the Baggies last season.

Gareth Southgate has since received criticism for letting the young midfielder go for just 1.5m, and in an interview last year Morrison admitted he was gutted to be told he was being sold having thought he would spend his whole career at Boro.

He has 46 caps for Scotland, scoring against England in a friendly at Wembley in 2013. He was a regular under Tony Pulis at West Brom and, although struggling with injuries this season, he will be looking to regain a regular place again under new manager Alan Pardew. He was briefly linked with a return to Middlesbrough in 2016.

Jason Kennedy

Kennedy moved to Darlington in 2008. He scored in the playoff semi-final first leg against Rochdale, before missing a penalty in a shoot-out that sent Rochdale to the final.

Kennedy then signed for Rochdale where he made over 200 appearances helping the team earn promotion to League One in 2010. He currently plays for Carlisle in League Two.

Lee Cattermole

Cattermole became Middlesbrough’s youngest ever captain at 18 years and 47 days on this day. In a memorable moment he handed the captains armband to Colin Cooper when he came on with 5 minutes left.

A week later Cattermole would make an appearance as a substitute in the UEFA Cup Final against Sevilla. After a season at Wigan he signed for Sunderland in 2009, becoming captain in 2015.

Cattermole has been a key figure for the Black Cats in recent year as Sunderland continued to defy odds and retain their place in the Premier League. He missed the majority of last season through injury when the Mackems were finally relegated.

Malcolm Christie

The only player in the starting line-up over the age of 21. At one point one of the best young English strikers, Christie’s career was blighted by horrific luck with injuries.

He made less than 50 appearances in nearly five years at Boro. He tried to restart his career Leeds, but was forced to retire for good at the age of 29. Christie still lives in the North-East where he is a salesperson for Jaguar.

Danny Graham

Danny Graham struggled to find a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad, but has had a very impressive career as a striker since leaving in 2007.

He is fondly remembered in Watford where he was the Championship’s top goal-scorer in the 2010/11 season with 24 goals. He was given a chance in the Premier League with Sunderland but only managed 1 goal for the Black Cats.

Aitor Karanka brought Graham back to Teesside on loan in January 2014 where he netted 6 times in 18 appearances including a memorable brace at home to Ipswich.

The striker currently plays for Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn who are pushing for a promotion from League One.

Adam Johnson

The talented winger was very much in the shadow of Stewart Downing in his early years. After Downing’s departure following relegation in 2009 Johnson was in blistering form in the Championship before an £8m move to Man City in January 2010.

In Manchester, Johnson picked up an FA Cup winners medal and a Premier League winners medal. He won 12 England caps but failed to make the squads for the 2010 World Cup or 2012 European Championships.

He played for Sunderland from 2012 to 2016 but is currently serving a 6 year sentence at HM Prison Moorland.


Josh Walker (replaced Malcolm Christie on 62 minutes)

The midfielder has had an unsettled career. While on the books at Boro he made several moves on loan, most memorably to Aberdeen where he scored in a UEFA Cup match against Bayern Munich.

After a spell playing in India, Walker is now back in Scotland where he plays for Edinburgh City FC in the fourth tier of Scottish football.

Tom Craddock (replaced Danny Graham on 81 minutes)

Craddock struggled to break through on Teesside, but the striker has found great success finding the net in lower divisions with successful spells at Luton Town and Oxford United. He currently plays for Spennymoor in the Northern Football League.

Colin Cooper (replaced Jason Kennedy on 85 minutes)

The former England defender and hero of the 1986 team made his final professional appearance at Craven Cottage.

Cooper continued his magnificent service to the club by taking a coaching role under Gareth Southgate. He was briefly caretaker following Southgate’s sacking.

He managed troubled Hartlepool for a year with fellow Boro legend Craig Hignett as his assistant.

Currently Cooper is playing a huge role in the development of English football’s future. He is a member of the coaching staff for the England U-21’s who made it to the European Championship semi-finals last year.

David Knight (not used)

Goalkeeper David Knight never got on the pitch for Middlesbrough. Most recently he had spells at Blyth Spartans and Spennymoor in the National League North.

Tony McMahon (not used)

McMahon showed early promise at Boro but his career was derailed by knee injuries in 2005 and 2006. He was regular starter under Tony Mowbray and currently plays at Bradford City who are pushing for a playoff spot in League One.

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