Danny Mills on loan at Middlesbrough and why he didn’t return despite League Cup glory

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Since the turn of the century, Danny Mills could rightly claim to be one of, if not the best defender to wear a Middlesbrough jersey.

The England player spent the 2003-2004 season on loan at Leeds United’s Riverside as the Whites went through financial turmoil and Mills was instrumental in helping Borough win their first major silver medal when Steve McLaren’s team won the 2004 Carling Cup. …

Mills has always spoken warmly of his season for the club, making a total of 37 appearances.

But despite Leeds ‘financial difficulties at the time, Mills’ tenure at Teesside ended after one season when the defender eventually moved to Manchester City.

And for the first time in a detailed two-part interview with the podcast Under The Cosh, Mills revealed how he felt frustrated with Borough, which ultimately meant they had little chance of making a permanent comeback.

The story begins 12 months before his arrival in Borough, just after the 2002 World Cup. Mills was a regular under Sven Goran Eriksson, where Borough boss Steve McLaren was of course also part of the coaching staff.

Mills said: “After the World Cup I had 14 caps for England and needed 15 to sign a new contract with Leeds.

“We played at Middlesbrough early that season and I knew McLaren was interested.

“Leeds is still doing well, and by the way, the morning before the Borough match, a report was published in the newspaper saying that Borough wanted me for £ 7 million. I have no idea how it happened …

“Before the game, we warm up and [Peter] Ridsdale comes out and tells me not to worry, we will fulfill the contract. Ideally. It worked.

“So we sort this contract and agree on it, but there were a lot of issues that needed to be legalized and signed, etc. All kinds of problems constantly arose with HMRC and others, but in fact this contract was signed, dusty and just waiting for everyone. legal hoops to be official.

“Then Leeds really started to struggle that season, and rumors began to circulate of administrators and things like that. The club is on sale, Woody is sold, and we have a financial crisis.

“They call the administrators and say that we have problems, so no more deals, that’s all, nobody signs anything.

“Two days later, Danny Mills signs a five-year contract.”

There was little Mills could do about the deal. As a public limited company (PLC), the story spread through Leeds’ commitment to keep the stock market informed, and despite their new struggles, it was legally binding as they were all signed and agreed upon back in October.

Leeds managed to keep up that season, and when Mills returned to the start of preseason manager Peter Reed assured him that he was on the first team and would not be sold despite the club’s financial difficulties and Mills’ five-year life. good deal.

However, a few days later, the England player was sent along with many other senior players to reserve training and was not selected for the first games of the season.

“I left England and McLaren was there and asked what was going on?” Mills continued.

“I told him about the situation and he immediately asked if I would like to come to Borough.

Ronaldo from Brazil tries to deal with Danny Mills from England
Ronaldo from Brazil tries to deal with Danny Mills from England

“I said, ‘Yes, go on. Let’s do it “. The team is on the rise, a little further down the road, disassembled.

“Leeds wanted £ 1.5m for me at the time, but Borough wanted the deal to be done quickly and without limits.

“They bargained over the price until they finally said they would pay my entire salary, borrow me until Christmas, and then said they would have more time after that to make a proper deal. Don’t worry, I signed. Damn it, I just want to play. “

Mills did play and become a regular at McLaren, with impressive results as Borough performed well in the Premier League and advanced to the League Cup final.

But then January came, and it was time, Mills thought, to make his Borough permanent. That’s when things went wrong for him.

He says: “January is coming and it’s getting closer and closer to the deadline without any updates.

“I think, ‘Okay Borough, you have to do it now,’ because it just so happened that we were soon playing in Leeds, the last game before the window closed.

“So they accept me and offer the same money, but with an extra year. I’m happy with that. I don’t need money anymore.

“We pass the contract, I am satisfied, I sign and go to trainings. Come back and Kate Lamb says, “We have one little problem. We have not yet agreed on a fee with Leeds. “

“What do you mean? You’ve had six months and that’s a million and a half pounds. This is a really good deal.

“Since Leeds were struggling and looked like they were probably relegated, Borough thought they could get me on a free shuttle at the end of the season.

“I threw my toys out of the stroller, to be honest. In the summer they promised me that they would do it in January. I said, “No, you’re high.”

Summer on Borough promises to be busy.

Neil Warnock hopes to add “eight or nine” players to his ranks as he aims for promotions next season.

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“I refused to play against Leeds. They’ve already failed twice, but they wanted me to play in Leeds as they would most likely be relegated, helped hammer another nail into their coffin, and then maybe they’d have to go back there in the summer, they screwed up again or have changed their minds and do not want me.

“With that in mind, I helped them get to the League Cup final and they were going to go to Europe. It was £ 1.5 million. “

Borough has already agreed to leave Mills for the rest of the season. Subsequently, he and Steve Gibson had a meeting in which Mills stated that they expressed disappointment in each other, but Mills promised to go all out on the field, despite the fact that the club disappointed him.

Borough players celebrate Carling Cup victory
Borough players celebrate Carling Cup victory

He continued to be picked by McLaren, including in the League Cup final, as Borough finally got his hands on silverware after over 120 years. This was the obvious peak of his time on Teesside.

That summer, when Leeds were kicked out of the league and were now desperate to sell Mills, there were rumors that he might return to Borough, but such a prospect seemed unlikely given everything that had happened. Instead, Mills joined Kevin Keegan at Manchester City and worked at the club for five years before retiring.

Hear Mills discuss his time at Boro and his career in general in more depth on the Under The Cosh podcast, starting with part one here.



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