Archive for August, 2016

Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday 7th May 2016, 12:30pm

August 15, 2016


Well, what do you know? We only went and did it.

A year on from that non-performance at Wembley a draw at home to Brighton in the last game of the season was enough to secure our return to the Premier League seven years after it slipped away that afternoon at West Ham.


I’d bought tickets for the game as soon as I knew I was leaving Australia and long before the inevitable sell-out. Tom and I were in the South Stand, to the side of the goal nearest the Brighton fans.


I’ve never been to a Boro game, or any game for that matter, where the support was so intense and where the singing was non-stop despite the tension of the occasion. It wasn’t like Eindhoven where most of us peaked too early and failed to play our part, or Wembley on just about any visit you can think of when it was either more about just being there or an early setback knocked us back. Or both.

It wasn’t like Cardiff where the team did their bit early on and then left us to bite our fingernails for almost an entire match. This was so different to any of those times. It was a crowd playing their part and providing the background for the lads on the pitch to get us over the line.


If ever a lull in the noise threatened, a Red Faction-led chorus of “Follow, Follow, Follow” filled the potential void to the extent that the words were still resounding through my head days later. Even as the board was held up showing an additional eight minutes, the support never wavered.


As we entered the final seconds I felt a few tears in my eyes. Sometimes it means more than you realise. I tend not to get emotional when it goes badly; I was able to put last season’s play-off defeat behind me before the game had finished and within an hour or two was already looking ahead to this season rather than dwelling upon what might have been in different circumstances. This was another matter altogether.

The whistle blew and Tom and I hugged. My thoughts went back to our last promotion eighteen years earlier. Tom and I had been in the West Stand for that one, me in my thirties rather than my fifties and him just eight years old and in serious danger of having someone’s eye out with his flag.


I’ve enjoyed being in the Championship with trips to some of the so-called ‘less-fashionable’ grounds and in the last couple of years it was nice to win a few games.

But it’s good to be back. Back in the big time.

Point to Point at Witton Castle, Monday 2nd May 2016

August 14, 2016


Whilst driving back to Teesside from a Northern League game at Tow Law I spotted a sign advertising a point-to-point meeting a couple of days later. I like horse racing and, as is the case with football, it doesn’t have to be elite level.

Bank Holiday Monday rolled around and we had a drive out to Witton Castle. Entry was ten quid. That was for however many you had in your car and so whilst it was decent value for Jen and I, it would have been a real bargain with a car-full.


The meeting was organised by the Zetland Hunt. It must be at least ten years or so since hunting with dogs was outlawed but it doesn’t seem to me that a lot has changed. The packs still exist and I’m sure that when they go out for a run in the countryside they inadvertently stumble across quite a few foxes.

There was a lot of pro-hunting propaganda put out over the loud speakers, but I imagine that most of those present  didn’t need any reinforcement of their views. I’m fairly open-minded on the whole issue, although I suspect that could just as easily be translated as I couldn’t give a toss either way.


There were about five or six hundred people spread between the beer and food tents with others watching the racing from a grassy bank. A handful of bookmakers looked to be taking plenty of cash.


I’ve been to a few point to points before and a decent jockey tends to make a big difference. As I had no idea who could ride and who couldn’t, I wasn’t able to put that knowledge to good use and so we struggled for winners.


The side of the hill was a handy place to watch the racing. Any event that I can watch whilst lying on the grass gets my vote. Or at least it does when it’s dry.


The rain arrived after the first couple of races and whilst we were able to take shelter under the overhang of a nearby sponsor’s tent, it meant that lying on the grass wasn’t as an attractive proposition once the rain had stopped.


We had no winners from the first four races and with the wind getting up and the rain still in the air we left them all to it.







Stokesley Sports Club v Thornaby, Monday 2nd May 2016, 11am

August 13, 2016


The Bank Holiday games in the Northern League tend to start a bit earlier than the regular three o’clock kick-offs. It makes a lot of sense as it still leaves enough of the day to do other things afterwards.

A quick scan of fixtures revealed that Stokesley were at home to Thornaby and as Jen and I were staying just down the road in a cottage at Ingleby Greenhow it seemed an ideal choice.

We’ve stayed at Ingleby a couple of times now. It’s quiet, but close enough to Norton to make doing the family stuff easy enough. Being out in the countryside makes it interesting for the grandkids too and they revelled in talking to the sheep and horses, poking a dead pheasant and chasing rabbits down the long driveway.


It was also handy enough for Jen and I to do a bit more of the Cleveland Way and we hiked from Clay Bank to Osmotherley and back over a couple of days.

The weather was fine and whilst I tend to prefer the coastal sections of the trail, the mix of woodland and open moors, together with the views of Teesside made both days decent walks.

Mind you, we probably could have done with an earlier start on the second day as we ended up coming down off the moors in darkness.


The weather was less impressive for the game at Stokesley’s ground, with strong winds and the odd spot of rain. It was five quid to get in and the bloke on the gate apologised for being sold out of programmes. He generously offered to post one to me, but as I’m trying to give up accumulating stuff that will never see the light of day again I very politely fucked him off.


I made my way around to the far side of the ground just as the game began, passing a dog with a burst football in its mouth. I’m not sure that it’s particularly wise to bring to a dog with that sort of hobby to a match.

I’m not a fan of Banning Orders, mainly on the basis that we have sufficient proper laws to deal with football-related skullduggery, but I’d find it hard to oppose one for the owner if Fido decided to add to his popped Mitre Multiplex collection.


Thornaby were in blue shirts that were way too big for most of their players. The blustery conditions meant that the wind kept getting trapped inside of them. Part of me wanted the wind to pick up further on the off-chance that some of the lighter members of the visiting team might get literally carried away.


Spurred on by the presence of a bumper bank holiday crowd of forty-seven (and a dog), Stokesley took the lead on the half-hour. I was quite surprised as they hadn’t been doing at all well this year and weekly hammerings had left them well adrift at the foot of the table and long-since relegated.

In fact, in what I’d assumed to be a reasonable form guide, they’d suffered at nine-one defeat to Thornaby in the reverse fixture, just the previous week.


Normality was restored before the break with two Thornaby goals and with the rain getting heavier I took my eighty pence cup of coffee into the covered stand for the second half.

A few visiting fans with their blue and white scarves had made the trip from Thornaby and they were rewarded as the visitors extended their lead to an eventual four-two victory.

That was it for the for the season for those two teams. That was also it for the Northern League as far as Stokesley are concerned as they will start next season in the not quite so prestigious Wearside League. I doubt it will make much difference to the dog.