Muhamed Besic has set his sights on a place in the Carabao Cup semi-finals having been reminded on a daily basis of Middlesbrough’s famous triumph in the competition.
When Boro, captained by now England manager Gareth Southgate, lifted the then Carling Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2004 after a 2-1 victory over Bolton, they claimed the first major trophy in their history.
That feat is commemorated at the club’s Rockliffe Park training headquarters in a series of photographs showing chairman Steve Gibson celebrating and, ahead of Tuesday’s quarter-final against Burton, loan signing Besic needs no further reminder of what a repeat could mean to the Sky Bet Championship club.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international said: “When we have lunch, there are the pictures still of the chairman and how he celebrated, so we see it every day.
“It’s a big thing, of course, but it’s still a long way to there. We have to go through Burton first of all and then the semi-finals and the final.
“But we just have to focus on tomorrow.”
A teenage Stewart Downing sat on the bench in Cardiff almost 15 years ago and would relish the opportunity to take his home-town club a step closer to another final.
Besic said: “I haven’t talked to him about this, but he is an experienced player and for sure, he wants to win something. Even to come first to the semi-finals is a big thing and I hope we will do it.”
Boro’s main focus for the season is promotion back to the Premier League after a two-year absence, and they head into the cup-tie without a win in four Championship games, a return which has dented their hopes.
However, Besic is hopeful that an extended run in the competition can rekindle their momentum in the league.
He said: “It can give us a boost and just the confidence back in our game and everything. If you were in the semi-finals with teams like – I don’t know who will go through, probably Chelsea, (Manchester) City – it’s a big thing for a Championship side.”
League One Burton will also relish the opportunity to make the last four of a major competition and will fancy their chances on Teesside a little more than eight months after being denied a Championship win over Boro by a last-gasp Britt Assombalonga equaliser at the Pirelli Stadium.
Manager Nigel Clough told the Burton Mail: “We still can’t quite believe that Burton Albion are in the last eight of a major cup competition.
“When you think we hadn’t been to the round before as well – but people forget the club has only been in the League Cup for 10 years, so we haven’t had too many opportunities to create history in the League Cup, a relatively new competition for us.
“Just to be there is wonderful but we can’t help thinking how good it would be if we can just get that one step further.”