13th August 2016, a day for Middlesbrough fans that has been seven years in the making. Ever since the Boro slipped out of the Premier League on the final day of the 2008/09 season, the consensus was that the Riverside outfit would be immediately returning to the Premier League. Except the consensus couldn’t have been any more false.
Marooned for season upon season in the Championship, the arrival of Aitor Karanka finally saw Middlesbrough rebuilt into a side that could compete for promotion and do battle once more in the top flight. Their 2015/16 campaign in the Championship and a second-place finish finally sealed a long awaited return after a final day draw with Brighton & Hove Albion.
Saturday 13th August 2016 was the curtain-raiser, the grand, emotional and long-awaited return of the Teeside club to the top table of English football. Their adversary was Stoke City, a team whose Premier League debut was the year that the Boro were relegated, and since then have gone from strength to strength and built themselves into a comfortable top-ten Premier League outfit.
For the Potters, Europe is the ambition. For the Boro, consolidation, survival, to simply do the best they can after seven long years away. The stage was set, with a carnival atmosphere at the Riverside, and with the first whistle, the party could finally begin.
Middlesbrough dominated the first-half, and it was pandemonium at the Riverside when two of ten new signings for the home side combined, a Gaston Ramirez cut-back headed home by Alvaro Negredo to send Boro supporters into raptures; the epicentre of a day of pride, passion and relief at Boro’s return to where they feel they belong.
Hughes’ Stoke City side however showed their quality in the second-half, and a free-kick from Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri rescued a point for the Potters as an opening day between two teams with very different ambitions settle for an opening day stalemate.
However, with the two teams coming in at loggerheads and leaving with a 1-1 draw, what did we learn from this opening day clash at a raucous Riverside?