By Rob Nichols
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Boro fans were celebrating last night's 4th round FA Cup draw by downing pints last night, not of beer but of milk. Boro were given a home draw against League Two Accrington Stanley, ties to played over the last weekend in January, 27th to 30th.
That has to be a brilliant opportunity to progress to the fifth round stage for Aitor Karanka's team but Accrington fans will also remember with relish how they proved a major banana skin for us in the only previous meeting between the teams at the Riverside. Back in 2013 a nattily dressed James Beattie managed his side to a shock 2-1 win over Tony Mowbray's Boro in the League Cup. It was a bitter night for Boro fans the result left the Riverside totally gobsmacked. That Boro team included George Friend, Grant Leadbitter and Ben Gibson so a trio of players that will have a point to prove and history to re write.
Drinking milk is a nod back to the Milk Marketing Board advert shown through the 1990s where two fans discuss where Liverpool hotshot Ian Rush would be playing if he hadn't been drinking his milk. He would be playing for then non league Accrington Stanley. The reply was “Who are they?”
They are a club with maybe best name in football along with Crewe Alexandra. Boro fans will know Accrington as the turn off on the M65 between Burnley and Blackburn. At one time every Lancashire town had a Football League club, even Darwen, the name of the stand where away fans sit at Ewood Park.
Accrington like Bradford Park Avenue, another amazing name from the past were famous or infamous for a spectacular fall from grace. Stanley went into financial meltdown and had to be relegated out of the league and apparently into history in the middle of the season 1961/62. Stanley did not share in the celebrations of England World Cup winning year of 1966 as that was the year they went out of business completely.
Yet after one false start a club at Accrington reformed and gradually and heroically fought their way back from the Lancashire Combination and right through the pyramid to an eventual return to the Football League in 2006. Technically it is a different club, just like Middlesbrough post 1986 but I am sure to all the supporters it is very much the same cause and history they are getting behind when they congregate at the wonderfully named Wham Stadium.
The original club was formed back in 1891, the year after Middlesbrough first were accepted to the professional ranks of the Football League. Accrington Stanley played in the Football League from 1920 to 1962.
Stanley's former ground Peel Park is now a school playing field and was actually excavated by archaeologists a couple of years back. I am still hoping to do the same at Ayresome Park after assisting a really successful dig at Bradford Park Avenue in 2015.
It will be a big day in the history of the club when they no doubt will turn out in numbers at the Riverside for the Fourth Round tie. Fans swelled by the Stanley Ultras who will be trying to compete with our Red Faction and Twelfth Man.
Stanley are currently struggling one place beneath Hartlepool in 20th position in League Two, rather too close for comfort to the drop zone. They actually include former Boro fans target winger Chris Eagles in their squad.