Cloughie wonders if this is the year

A DECADE after the famous cup battles with Newcastle, former Stevenage Boro boss Paul Fairclough still closely follows the fortunes of his old club. And although Fairclough went on to achieve his ambition of managing in the League with another club in Her

A DECADE after the famous cup battles with Newcastle, former Stevenage Boro boss Paul Fairclough still closely follows the fortunes of his old club.

And although Fairclough went on to achieve his ambition of managing in the League with another club in Hertfordshire, he still has a place in his heart for Boro.

"It's sad that Stevenage are still where they were, in the same division," said Fairclough. "Perhaps this might be their year?"

The two fourth round ties with Premiership Newcastle, then managed by Kenny Dalglish, attracted national headlines for weeks leading up to the two games.

The Magpies eventually went through in a replay after a narrow win at St James' Park - 10 years ago this week.

Fairclough said: "The memories are still vivid, just like it happened yesterday. So many things have happened since, and because of, those games against Newcastle.

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"I've been up to the North East a few times and had my leg pulled. And every time the FA Cup is on, it is brought up."

Fairclough, who rates Aldershot, Torquay and improving Exeter as the main hurdles to Boro's title hopes this season, added: "Peter Taylor has massive, massive experience.

"I think he will be happy to be in the promotion play-offs at the end of the season but the goal I'm sure is always outright promotion."

Ins and outs have seen the Boro team change dramatically since Taylor's arrival.

Fairclough continued: "Peter has decided to get his own team in.

"He was under pressure from certain players to go with their former manager and there's no point having unhappy players."

Fairlcough is now manager of League Two Barnet and said: "Over a season, League Two is tougher than the Blue Square Premier.

"There's a difference, not a massive difference, but a difference nonetheless."

Fairclough is also boss of the England C national team and two Boro players, Ronnie Henry and Mitchell Cole, have been chosen for the game against Wales a week on Wednesday (February 20) at St James' Park, Exeter.

Despite Cole just coming back from injury, Fairclough said: "If Mitchell is ok and fit, then it's a no brainer that he will be in the squad and in my plans."

The two players sold to Gillingham at the end of the January transfer window, Barry Fuller and Stuart Lewis, were in Fairclough's recent England squads.

He continued: "They will both be losses to the club but any player going can be overcome."

At least three of Boro's away games will be televised before the end of the season.

This Saturday's game at Cambridge United, which kicks-off at 5.15pm, is on Setanta Sports.

Then the midweek home game against Forest Green Rovers has been put back 24 hours to Wednesday night (7.45pm), although this is not being televised.

The trip to leaders Aldershot has also been moved back to the Sunday night (February 17) and this is a 7.15pm start to accommodate the television cameras.

And the third game to be televised is the away game at Salisbury City in March.

It has been brought forward 48 hours to Thursday, March 27, from the following Saturday.

The visit of York has been rearranged for April Fool's Day, also with a 7.45pm ko.

Two strikers - experienced League man Isaiah Rankin and young gun Elliott Buchanan - were added by Taylor on transfer deadline day.

Rankin, 29, has signed until the end of the season from Grimsby, while 18-year-old hotshot Buchanan is on a two-year deal after averaging nearly a goal a game for Northwood in the Ryman League Division One North this season.

Scott Laird was also confirmed as a Boro player in a two-year deal from Plymouth.

The one departure was flying winger Craig Dobson who joined League Two promotion seekers MK Dons for an undisclosed five-figure fee plus a significant share of any future transfer fees. Boro will also receive further payments if the Bucks side are promoted.