Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough U23’

Wolverhampton Wanderers U23 v Middlesbrough U23, Wednesday 4th May 2022, 7pm

May 11, 2022

One of the Premier League grounds that I’ve never been to is Molineux. odd really, as it’s probably somewhere that most Boro fans of my age, or even a fair bit younger, will have been to on at least a couple of occasions.

I should have gone for the sixth-round replay in ’81 when half of Teesside headed down the A19 mid-afternoon. For some reason I’d been singled out at school and told if I got away early then they wouldn’t enter me for the exams. In hindsight, what a load of bollocks. I should have called their bluff as we weren’t a school that had many kids who were capable of a handful of ‘O’ Levels and if mine were taken out of the equation it would probably have dropped their average score for our year by a couple of percentage points.

The other one I missed was the promotion game under Lennie. I was married then to a wife who didn’t like me having fun without her. Instead, we were at Newmarket to see Lester win his final classic. I’m not sure she enjoyed that very much either but at least she could see what I was up to.

The evening got off to a good start when I parked up and spotted a rat.  I’ve nothing against rats. They get a bad press on account, I think, of their tails. If they had fluffy jobs like squirrels, people would be putting food out for them.

I’d bought my £4 ticket online and had to register as a Wolves fan. I’m ok with that although they are already spamming me with season ticket offers and last year’s kit. This morning they tried to sell me a guided tour of their museum accompanied by a legendary goalie. The only Wolves goalie I could think of was the other Phil Parkes, the one who didn’t have half a game for England. Although I’ve a vague recollection that they loaned us a goalie a few years ago who did ok. I’ve forgotten his name though.

Fortunately I wasn’t required to put on a Black County accent to get past the stewards and I was soon inside the Billy Wright Stand. The ground looked pretty new to me. I can remember them building a stand down one side around thirty years ago that was constructed behind the existing one, leaving a large gap to the pitch when the old stand was eventually removed. It was hard to picture Bosco and the like playing here whilst I remained at school forty-one years ago. There were rail seats behind the goal to my right, something that I didn’t realise had already become a ‘thing’ in England.

There were a few hundred people inside, all in the lower tier of the stand I was in. Prior to kick-off the announcer played ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and the crowd sang along to the chorus, replacing ‘Silver Lining’ with ‘Wolverhampton’. I suppose it’s no worse than Pigbag.

The song brought back memories of my time working in Rumours, an over the border nightclub. Silver Lining was always the penultimate song of the night signalling the time to cast your eyes around for a partner for the smooch that followed. There was no time for grabbing grannies here though as the ref blew the starting whistle the moment the chorus was done.

This game was an U23 fixture in the semi-final of the Premier League 2 Cup. Boro haven’t had a great season in that division whilst Wolves, with some much more expensive players, are up in second. Still, the cup’s a great leveller, or at least it was until Wolves took the lead inside the first minute.

Boro had a few players who I was keen to have another look at, Brynn in goal, Wood at the back and Payero in midfield. Joe Gibson is usually the star man whenever I’ve seen the U23s but had a quieter game this time.

Apart from Neil Bausor, who I’d seen outside looking a bit lost, I didn’t see or hear any other Boro fans in the ground. At least not until half-time when I spotted a fella with a red and white scarf on. He clearly had taken no notice of the Home Fans Only edict. I bet he nicked off school in ’81.

Whilst we drew level midway through the first half, Wolves regained the lead just before the break and then doubled their lead in the second half. A late consolation for the Boro wasn’t enough to prevent us from getting knocked out.

I headed back up North with the Real Madrid-Man City game on the radio. I bet there were a few City fans in Madrid who wished they had a wife who stopped them from going to games.

Sunderland U23 v Middlesbrough U23, Monday 20th September 2021, 1pm

October 4, 2021

One of the advantages of me working on a freelance basis these days is it gives me a lot more flexibility during the day. This meant that lunchtime kick-off for the Boro U23 game with Sunderland was easily do-able. The match had originally been listed as being at Eppleton Colliery before changing to the Academy of Light. I’ve never been to either place so it was no big deal to me.

Jen and I followed the phone directions but were turned away at the main entrance car park for not being scouts. I knew I should have stuck with going to cubs. Instead we had to park around the corner and take a five minute walk along a track to a pitch that looked like it had been dug out of scrubland.

There weren’t any team sheets available, but I saw a few people with them. No doubt they will have picked them up at the main entrance as part of their scouting privileges. Unusually there wasn’t any info on the Boro line-up on Twitter either so I was pretty much in the dark about who was playing for us until later on. I’d estimate that there were around a hundred people watching with at least twenty of those observing in some sort of official capacity.

Boro were in their green change strip with Sunderland dressed up as, well, Sunderland. One of the players that I did recognize was Sol Bamba. He started at left-back before switching to centre-half mid-way through the first half. He played for about an hour, organizing everything that went on in an impressive performance.

I noticed how much politer the players were to the ref than in regular adult football. The players were more likely to praise the referee for a decision that went their way than slag him off for one that didn’t. “Ref, that’s better, well done” still implies dissatisfaction with earlier decisions but keeps the pressure on without telling him he’s having “a fucking shocker”.

Boro took the lead early on and then doubled it after some good play from the left winger Kololo. We added another scrambled effort straight after half-time before Sunderland nabbed a consolation once Bamba had gone off and left the organizing to others. All in all, it was a decent performance and an enjoyable trip out during the day.

Middlesbrough U23 v Southampton B, Sunday 29th August 2021, 12 noon.

September 14, 2021

After staying overnight in Wylam after Paul’s party, Jen and I called in on a game on our way home. It was at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park and featured Boro’s under 23 team in a Premier League 2 fixture against Southampton’s B team. I’ve no idea about the age-related rules in that league but suffice to say that they could both be considered to be development teams.

It was three quid admission, although if I’d had Tom’s season card with me I could have got in for nothing. There were no programmes and initially no teamsheets, although some did turn up before kick-off. A bloke in a jacket wouldn’t let us into the stand. That must have been earmarked for club officials and so we got a coffee and sat at the benched tables further along the touchline for a while.

As the wind picked up we moved behind the goal to a covered stand that offered a little more protection. I’d estimate that there were around a hundred spectators and another fifty or so in the stands in some sort of official capacity. I had a brief look over to see if I could see Neil Warnock but if he was there, he was keeping a low profile.

From the Boro’s point of view I thought Hayden Hackney looked composed in midfield and one of the centre halves had a good game. Unfortunately I can’t remember which one. Perhaps both of them did ok. Martin Payero was playing but if I didn’t know he was our new South American superstar he wouldn’t have registered with me. I’ve a feeling that he might be more of a de Pena than a Marinelli.

I thought the Boro’s best player was Jeremy Sivi. He opened the scoring with good finish from a Ste Walker pull back and then nearly scored again after twisting and turning in the box to evade a few defenders only to see his shot well saved.

Boro kept the lead until about five minutes from the end when someone tapped a Southampton ankle for a pen. Brad James who had looked solid throughout was given no chance of repeating his Hartlepool play-off heroics but fortunately Boro went straight back up the other end and won a penalty of their own. There was a similar blam into the net to give us a 2-1 win.