DO YOU believe in omens? Me neither. But at times like this I’ll take anything that you’ve got it. Any smidgeon of unscientific nonsense that helps build a positive white noise in this week of destiny must be a good thing.
Go on, admit it. You’ll clutch at anything to add flesh to the otherwise far-fetched belief that this team can win three semi-finals, two finals and book a place in next August’s Super Cup in Monaco against Barcelona. Having grown up watching dreary home defeats to Grimsby and being kicked in the teeth by fate a dozen times along the way that serial silverware scenario is so preposterous that it makes finger crossing, odd sock wearing, unchanged underwear, lucky dressing rooms and blood sacrifices to primitive Gods seem perfectly rational.
So when you find out that at the heart of Boro’s defence there are two players who have already beaten Steaua in the UEFA Cup, well that kind of omen is a big boost. I mean, it’s not mumbo-jumbo is it? It is based on sporting science. And history. It is fact I tell you. FACT!!
Yes, Southgate and Ugo have both beaten Steaua. There will be no trip into the unknown for them. No fear of an awesome European pedigree. No shock at the conditions, the culture, the hostile atmosphere. Been there, done that, won over two legs.
Brian Little’s League Cup winning Aston Villa went to Bucharest in the third round of the UEFA Cup on November 24, 1997 and lost narrowly 2-1 in front of 24,000 fans. About 1,000 Villa fans travelled and had a whale of a time by all accounts. Steaua scored early and then got an oggie off keeper Michael Oakes in the first half but Dwight Yorke hit back to get the vital away goal after the break.
In the second leg at Villa Park a fortnight later they ground down the Romanian defence before Savo Milosevic and Ian Taylor scored late on to secure a 3-2 win then Villa went on to lose on away goals to Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals. Juninho was on crutches and didn’t play but his mere presence in the stadium was enough to swing the fixture the Spaniards’ way.
Ugo played in both legs. The Gate was injured for the Bucharest leg but travelled with the squad and played in the return fixture. I don’t recognise any Steaua names from the line-ups except Lacatus and he is long retired.
It is an omen I tell you, an omen.