Mark Schwarzer was born in Sydney, Australia in 1972 and made the move to England in 1996 when he signed for Bradford City. After only four months at Valley Parade, Schwarzer went further up north to Teesside where he signed for Bryan Robson’s Boro for £1.2 million; his debut was the small matter of a League Cup semi final against Stockport County in February 1997. He featured in the League Cup Final against Leicester but was injured for the replay.
From then on, Schwarzer established himself as a constant between the sticks for Boro and was a key player during Boro’s campaigns of the late 90’s and early 2000s. At 6 foot 4 he posed a huge threat to the forwards of the Premiership and cemented himself as a fan favourite during his time with the club. His role in the 2004 league cup campaign was crucial; becoming a hero in penalty shoot outs against Everton and Spurs; Schwarzer and the Boro team reached the final against Bolton Wanderers at the Millenium Stadium. Despite a ‘howler’ which allowed a consolation goal scored by Kevin Davies for Bolton, Boro won their first piece of silverware in their 128 year history and was written into the history books.
European football beckoned for Boro and it all boiled down to the last game of the season against Manchester City. City were awarded a penalty in the dying seconds of the game, Schwarzer v Robbie Fowler – if Fowler scored his team would be in the UEFA Cup. Up steps Mark Schwarzer with a blinding save, securing his team’s highest Premier League finish and the club’s first ever time in Europe. The moment was cemented by Boro commentary legend Ali Brownlee “GERRIN YA BIG AUSSIE!!” – the Boro ‘keeper once again cementing himself as a Boro legend.
The UEFA Cup journey provided some of the most exciting teams witnessed as Boro fans, from away days in Rome to the resurrections against Basel and Steaua Bucharest – a final against Sevilla lay ahead for Boro in Einhoven. Steve McLaren’s side were beat 4-0 by the Spanish team as the curtain came down on Boro’s European tour, but Schwarzer’s wasn’t over. He was called up to represent his country of Australia in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Aussies’ first major tournament since 1974 – they reached the last 16 and were knocked out by eventual World Cup winners Italy (still hurts to discuss Italy winning a tournament after recent events…)
Mark Schwarzer was a hero both for his country and his club back on Teesside, and his time at Boro came to an end after 11 years in 2008. His last match in a Boro shirt was in the 8-1 hammering of Manchester City and signed for London club Fulham in the summer transfer window – despite revealing he’d had offers from Juventus and Bayern Munich. The Aussie found himself in another European final, when Fulham lost to Athletico Madrid in the 2012 Europa League Final.
After 5 years at Craven Cottage, Schwarzer made the 1.9 mile move down the road to Stamford Bridge. Aged 41 he became the oldest player to ever play in the UEFA Champions League and Premier League, his clean sheet against Liverpool in 2014 was a record breaking 150th for the Aussie keeper – only Petr Cech and David James had reached that same milestone. Despite not featuring much in Chelsea’s league winning season; Jose Mourinho arranged him a winners medal for his services to the club during his time there. His final club was Leicester City where he was signed as injury cover for Kasper Schmeichel; he became the first player since Eric Cantona to be in two separate championship winning squads in consecutive seasons. He left The Foxes in 2016 which all but confirmed his retirement from a career spanning over two decades.
Mark Schwarzer is arguably Boro’s greatest ever goalkeeper and one of the greatest the Premier League has ever seen. And in the immortal words of Ali Brownlee; he’s the greatest Australian hero since Ned Kelly!