Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough FC’

Middlesbrough v Chelsea, Sunday 20th November 2016, 4pm

December 13, 2016


In contrast to the previous day on the terraces, my first Boro game of the season was a much more modern-day experience with Tom and I enjoying the hospitality provided in the Middlehaven Suite. The four o’clock kick-off worked nicely for us by giving us time for Sunday lunch at my Mam and Dad’s and then enabling us to be at the Riverside an hour before the start.


I’ve not much experience of hospitality suites. A reluctance to get involved in work-related entertaining as either a host or a guest has meant that I’ve almost always watched games as a regular spectator. I’ve been in lounges at Old Trafford a couple of times over the years and I’ve a vague recollection of being in a posher area than you’d have expected at a game at Peterhead, but that’s about it. Mind you, posh in Peterhead just means fewer smackheads than normal and maybe slightly less seagull shit.

I almost forgot about the 100 Club. My first two Boro games, forty-two seasons ago, were in the posh part of Ayresome Park. Alan Next-Door had a couple of season tickets in there and on the occasions when his son had other plans he very kindly took me with him.

It wasn’t hospitality in the way that it would be seen now. In fact, along with the rest of Ayresome Park, I suspect that they didn’t even serve alcohol. What I do remember was coming out of the cold at half-time to be greeted with tables covered with cups of tea and plates of pork pies that had been cut into quarters. I think a second cup of tea was served at full-time to accompany Final Score on the telly.

It was all a lot posher in the Middlehaven with a much more extensive buffet and plenty of drinking choices. Tom and I were shown to a table and watched the end of the Newcastle game on the telly whilst we had the first of a few pints of Amstel.


They have matchday hosts in these lounges and today’s turned out to be John Hendrie and Gary Pallister. I’ve never met John Hendrie but I’ve known Pally since we were kids. We grew up in the same street and played together in the same primary, secondary school and sixth-form football teams.


I overheard a few of the conversations that Pally was having with some of the other people in the lounge. Invariably they tended to focus on what it was like to play against Romario in the Nou Camp or the perils of sharing a dressing room with Roy Keane.

I’ve not much interest in those sort of things and so when we had time for a chat it soon gravitated towards the health of our respective elderly parents and the bungalow versus stair-lift dilemma. Not, I imagine, a conversation that many match-day hosts would get to have.


As for the game itself, we watched it from padded seats in the North West Corner. It was odd sitting down for a Boro game these days, although we were able to join in with a couple of the North Stand chants. We got beat, as you’d expect, but it was a decent performance that didn’t spoil what was an excellent day. I’m sure I’ll be back in a lounge before long.

MK Dons v Middlesbrough, Tuesday 9th February 2016, 7.45pm

June 2, 2016


The second game of my UK visit was the Boro’s trip to Milton Keynes. I know, Franchise FC and all that. To be honest though, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me as to whether I should go or not. It shouldn’t have been allowed, we all know that, but lots of stuff happens that I don’t agree with and if I boycotted everything that I disapproved of then I’d rarely leave the house.

The actual dilemma facing me on this occasion was whether I should watch the Youth team at home instead. In an infuriating bit of re-arranged scheduling, somehow the Boro had managed to have their first team playing on the same night that the Under 19s were taking on Dinamo Kiev at the Riverside in a Champions League last sixteen game.

Yes, Champions League. Somehow we’d won the Kiddie Premier League the season before and then managed to progress to the last sixteen of the Champions League. If Stadium MK hadn’t been a new ground for me then I suspect I’d have watched Harry Chapman and his mates instead.

It’s a pity it wasn’t a two-legged tie as I’d have liked to seen an away leg. I visited Dinamo’s ground a few years ago when Paul and I called into Kiev to see a McCartney concert on the way back from Euro 2008. It looked a bit run-down at that stage and I understand that they got a nice new one in time for their turn hosting the European Championships four years later.


The Kiev concert was pretty good, despite the rain early on. Apparently there were 350,000 people there. A bit like the Port Vale game at Hartlepool in ’86 I suppose. The big open-air square was a far cry from the much smaller venues that I’ve seen McCartney play since, although in none of those other places did anyone rent me a rat for the purposes of placing on my head for a photo. It’s all the rage in Ukraine apparently.


And so to Mk Dons. I drove down with Tom and his mate Jones. I’ve no idea why so many of his friends get called by their surname. You’d think they’d all gone to Eton. Although I doubt that any of them have the foggiest about what fun you can have with a pig’s head.

There were a lot of average speed cameras on the M1. So many that I was regretting not having given my Australian driving licence to Hertz to avoid the points.

Despite the speed restrictions we were still there earlier than I’d expected. So early that the gates weren’t open. I bumped into Kirk and Esky outside the ground. I used to play football with them and whilst I occasionally see Kirk at games I hadn’t spoken to Esky for about ten years.


Stadium MK was quite impressive, although as we stood in the back row all game, we didn’t benefit from the padded seats. I wasn’t drinking so I can’t comment on the quality of the beer, but the Concrete Cow pie tasted okay.


I was surprised by how few fans MK Dons had. It seemed as if we’d brought more than were in the rest of the ground. I wondered how worthwhile the whole experiment was. Maybe it takes a few years for the kids who grow up with the team to start filling the ground, although if it’s as sparse as this every week I doubt many kids would ever be too excited by the prospect of going to the match.


As with the Blackburn game the previous weekend we were poor. Rhodes started on the bench to the disbelief of most people there and going a goal down early on didn’t improve the mood of the fans. I thought Stewy Downing was a bit ‘hollywood’, with too many unnecessary outside of his foot passes. His strength lies in keeping it simple, even if it doesn’t immediately catch the eye.

There was a fair bit of criticism of Karanka as the game went on and I suspect that had Rhodes not scored that injury time equaliser there would have been a lot more disquiet on the way out.


The drive north was quieter and we were home by two in the morning. The last-gasp point had enabled us to overtake Hull at the top, but it seemed more like another two dropped than one gained.

Middlesbrough v Wolves, Tuesday 22nd September 2015, 7.45pm

October 18, 2015


I’d planned to go to a couple of Northern League games whilst we were in the UK. I’d actually planned to do a lot of things, more I suppose than was realistic, but in the end as far as the football was concerned my second visit of the trip (and season) to the Riverside was as much as I could manage.

Whilst we missed out on the lower-league action, Jen and I did get around to doing another section of the Cleveland Way, this time from Battersby Moor to Clay Bank and back again. It raised a few eyebrows amongst other hikers when after descending Clay Bank we turned straight around and went back up it again, but I like doing these trails in both directions and it would have been cheating if we’d missed a couple of hundred yards out to avoid the steep bits.


The walk was pretty good, with grouse breaking cover as we passed by. Unfortunately for them there was a shooting party out for the day and so they’d have probably been better sitting quietly.

After some light rain early on it cleared up nicely and by the time we got back to the car at Battersby Moor just after lunch we’d managed fourteen miles, our longest walk of the year so far.


In other news, we celebrated my Mam and Dad’s diamond wedding anniversary whilst we were in the UK. Sixty years. I’ll need to live to be 108 if Jen and I are to reach that milestone.

1-1-1-September 1955 Wedding 004

And so to the match.

If I mention Boro v Wolves in the cup what do you think of? That’s right, 1981 and John Neal’s team going out in a quarter-final replay at Molineux. As we waited for the teams to come out I cast my mind back to the home tie nearly thirty-five years ago.  George Berry and Billy Ashcroft with their afros, Craig Johnston and his straight-backed running style, similar, come to think of it, to that of Diego Fabbrini.

We’d arrived three hours early on that occasion so that we could be in the centre of a packed Holgate. Ever the fashionista, I was wearing an afghan coat and by half-time I was close to needing an intravenous drip to re-hydrate.

Andy Gray headed them into an early lead, before Terry Cochrane and his rolled down socks started and finished the move that drew us level and earned the replay.


This occasion in the Carling Cup third round was a lot less of an ordeal. A goal from Adomah close to half-time set us on our way before two more goals early in the second half made it a relaxing last thirty minutes.


That was it, UK-wise, or at least it will be for the next few months anyway. Two days later we flew out to Australia. Next stop, the A-League.


Middlesbrough v Brentford, Tuesday 15th September 2015, 7.45pm

September 29, 2015


Within a day of arriving back in England I was able to get along to the Riverside for my first Boro game of the season. Jen and I stayed about half an hour away in a cottage at Ingleby Greenhow. It was close enough to Teesside to be convenient, but with the benefits of being out in the countryside. It also had an open fire so I was able to burn stuff, something that Travelodges tend to frown upon.


We’ve been walking the Cleveland Way in stages for a couple of years now and on the morning of the match we slogged up a hill from the cottage to Battersby Moor, where we joined the trail and then covered a section to Kildale and back. I’d been hoping to spot a deer or two but over the course of eleven miles we saw nothing more exciting than a rabbit. Plenty of sheep and grouse, though.


As Tom and I approached the Riverside that evening I noticed the Tuxedo Royale was moored next to the stadium again. It looks as if it someone has started scrapping it, a far cry from its days as a pre-match drinking venue where the barmaids would step in if the strippers didn’t turn up.


The upper tier of the South Stand has sold out to season tickets this year and so Tom and I bought tickets for the lower section. I felt fairly confident of a result against Brentford. We’ve improved our team substantially from last season, particularly up front, whilst Brentford’s results to date suggest that they’ve gone backwards a bit. I wonder how long it will be before their owner realises that Mark Warburton hadn’t been doing such a bad job after all.


We looked by far the better team, going a goal up early on before a mistake from Dimi let them back into the game. Two more goals in the second half, including a cracker from ‘back in the fold’ Albert Adomah secured the points and kept us up at the right end of the table.


Middlesbrough v Norwich City, Monday 25th May 2015, 3pm

July 5, 2015


Well, would you believe it? I’d had a week-long trip to the UK booked since last September and it ended up coinciding with a trip to Wembley. Not just any trip to Wembley either, but the Boro in the play-off final.

I’d been hoping that we’d go up automatically but realistically there were eight teams that had similar prospects. Derby failing to even make the play-offs showed how tight it was at the top and in the end fourth place was fair enough.

Getting tickets wasn’t too difficult and within an hour of them going on general sale I had the four I needed for myself, my son and two of his mates. They were all heading down a day early for the Trafalgar Square pre-match party but as I’d rented a house in Whitby and had four generations of family staying I limited myself to driving there and back on the day of the game.

The grandkids.

The grandkids.

A pre-5am start to beat the Bank Holiday traffic meant that I was parked up in what looked like the last remaining spot at Stanmore Station by around half-past nine and a contactless credit card meant that I could skip the queues of fans buying their day-return tickets.

As I wasn’t drinking I had no intention of arriving at Wembley five hours in advance of the game and so I stayed on the tube until West Hampstead instead, as that seemed like the sort of place that I might be able to while away some time.

It was as I’d anticipated and I spent a couple of hours reading the paper in what I presumed was a trendy coffee shop, although as far as I know Flat Whites and Tall Blacks might have gone out of fashion five years ago. Maybe they are even ironically offered retro-drinks these days.

With a bit more time to kill I had a wander in the direction of Swiss cottage. It’s a nice enough leafy suburb and the sort of place that I’d have been content to have lived at sometime if I‘d ever had the spare two or three million quid necessary for a house there. I spotted an old Volvo parked outside of one of the houses. It was the same model that I’d owned in the last days of my first marriage twenty odd years ago. Some lives you never get around to living, others you are happy to leave behind.

Mine was slightly older than that one.

Mine was slightly older than that one.

Before long it was time to get back on the tube to Wembley. My carriage was full this time, mainly with Norwich fans singing anti-Ipswich songs. I paused at the subway exit and looked down Wembley Way, partly to take in the view but mainly to try to reconcile what I could see with my recollections of the place.

View from the station

View from the station

As hard as I tried I couldn’t match the current surroundings with my memories. I first went to the national stadium in 1975 on a school trip to watch England schoolboys before taking in a few full internationals in the eighties. I’d been to the previous four Boro games at the stadium but I suppose the last of those was seventeen years ago and so maybe it’s no wonder that the surroundings seemed unfamiliar. Perhaps I was approaching from a different direction.

View from 1975.

View from 1975.

A quick lap of the ground and I was in my seat in block 538 for a pie and a coffee, the kids warm up game and Me Mark Page. It seems as if there is no respite from that fuckwit. If only someone could find him a Saturday daytime slot on hospital radio somewhere.

Tom and his mates arrived shortly before kick-off having spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing for the game in a manner that I don’t think my liver is cut out for these days. He thinks he’s a bit of a Jonah having seen us lose four finals. I had to remind him that a lot of the Boro fans in the crowd will have seen those plus the Zenith Data Systems game twenty-five years ago. He was only six months old when we’d lost that one so I’d thought it sensible to leave him at home that time.

View from Block 538.

View from Block 538.

And the game? If I said it was Typical Boro then you‘ll know how it went. We didn’t play as well as Norwich and they deserved their victory. We’ve struggled this season to get back into games whenever we’ve gone behind and overcoming a two goal deficit was never on the cards.

I left as the clock ticked around to ninety minutes and was on the M1 by half past five, leaving the defeat further behind me with every passing mile. It was time to look to next season.


Blackburn Rovers v Middlesbrough, Sunday 28th December 2014, 3pm

January 15, 2015

1 - opening shot

Blackburn is usually a pretty good away day. It’s not too far from Teesside and tickets tend to be either cheap or plentiful. Sometimes both. This year had the potential to be one of the best, with it falling between Christmas and New Year and Blackburn offering us seven thousand tickets.

Jen and I were in the UK on holiday and as we had to stay somewhere we thought we may as well make it near Blackburn for the night. If I’d had a look as to where our hotel at Mellor was located I’d probably have gone across to the M6 and arrived from that direction, but as I hadn’t paid attention we ended up on the M62 and had to drive through Blackburn and then out of the other side.

Jen has less enthusiasm for watching football at close to zero temperatures than I do and so I left her at the hotel and took a taxi to Ewood Park to meet up with my son Tom and his mates. The Indian fella who was driving me had more interest in cricket than football but was intrigued to hear about the Hero Indian Super League football that I’d seen on telly a couple of weeks earlier, particularly when I mentioned that Tendulkar was in the crowd. Or more accurately, an executive box.

Jack Walker statue.

Jack Walker statue.

There’s a fanzone area near to the Jack Walker statue where you can watch the early game on a big screen whilst having a beer. I imagine it’s quite handy for the smokers who like to get to the ground early.

It wasn’t really a day for standing outside though and we gambled that the concourse inside would be a little warmer. As kick-off approached there was a minute‘s applause for all the Blackburn fans who had died in the previous year. As we stood and clapped, dozens of photographs were flashed up on the big screens, each of a different fan who had passed away in 2014. It’s no wonder there were so many empty seats in the home stands. Living in Lancashire doesn’t seem to come with much of a life expectancy.

It was full in our end though, with the entire seven thousand allocation having been sold. There was a decent atmosphere too, with the heartwarming sound of pensioners and small children alike singing their hearts out to “…they play in red and white, and they’re fuckin’ dynamite…”

Boro fans at Ewood.

Boro fans at Ewood.

Karanka had made a few changes to the Boxing Day line-up, but we’ve got a decent squad and I’d like to think that being able to rest players whilst still being competitive will benefit us later in the season. Whitehead at right back seemed an unusual choice, but I’m not going to be overly critical.

Some late action

Some late action

It was one of those days when it didn’t quite go our way. You could say we were unlucky not to take the three points as Kike and Bamford both hit the woodwork in quick succession, but on the other hand Leadbitter cleared one off our line right at the end. So, we could have won and we could have lost. A draw was probably about right.



Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest, Friday 26th December 2014, 3pm

January 11, 2015

1 - opening shot

This was the first game of the season for me. Well, the first Boro game anyway and with it being a rare sell-out I suspect that there will have been quite a few others in the crowd also making their seasonal debuts.

I picked up Tom, Paul and Mike and we parked near the University before calling into the Southfield Hotel for a pre-match drink. If I’d been in there before, I’ve forgotten about it. It was quiet though and we were able to get  served quickly and sit down.

Southfield Hotel.

Southfield Hotel.

A couple of pints later and we were off to the Riverside. It’ll be twenty years old in the summer, but I still think of it as a new stadium. I suppose most people of my age will see it the same way. I wonder if I’ll have got used to it in twenty years time.

On the way to the ground.

On the way to the ground.

It’s been a good season so far. Gibson has backed Karanka to what I imagine are the absolute limits of FFP and the money looks to have been well spent. We also seem to have made very good use of the loan system, particularly with Bamford and Omeruo.

Tom and I were in the South Stand and were able to stand and sing all game. The relaxed stewarding has been one of the biggest plusses of the last couple of years for me and has contributed to the improved atmosphere, even when the ground is less than half full

A full stadium.

A full stadium.

The game was goalless at the break, but three second half goals secured an easy win for the Boro, keeping us up there in the play-off positions.