A year ago we were in the middle of a poor run which cast doubts about whether we had the staying power to gain another promotion. We struggled to draw with Blackburn and were also beaten at Leeds, Oldham and Millwall.
The cup gave us a welcome break, whilst Sutton gave us an unwelcome fright. Despite having a record of never losing to a non-league club, we’ve never really walloped them either and this time was no exception. Typical that Brian “Planetarium Head” Moore was there to show the world.
But the Everton games were different in every way and so were we. Three epics, the second a never to be forgotten gem and even though we failed to bring Liverpool to Ayresome we made many friends.
Boro stayed around fourth place for several weeks, banishing the poor run with aplomb against Villa. The three nil at Barnsley along with other results meant a win at home to Leicester would ensure us of second place behind champions Millwall, unfortunately we all know what happened next. As it turned out a draw would have sufficed, but the play-offs beckoned.
New signing Senior carried many hopes and scored the vital away goal in South Yorkshire. So to Stamford bridge on that May day, i couldn’t attend like many and had to listen to Brownlee and Cox. The longest 45 minutes of many lives and certainly the proudest. The centre of Boro would come to a standstill later that week.
August soon arrived and so did Brennan. Difficulty finding the net along with uncharacteristic defensive flaws meant a dreadful start. We were playing exciting open football but also conceding too many goals. As we moved into October our fortunes improved with four wins out of five, including the memorable Millwall match, although the win we really wanted eluded us at the soon to become Second Division St James Park.
By this time Rioch had all our stars on long term contracts, very encouraging. The Millwall game had brought more good news, the signing of two ex-England internationals. Mark Barham sneaked into Ayresome Park almost unnoticed amid the Davenport euphoria. The latter significant in that Rioch had beaten off other possibly more fashionable clubs for his signature.
In to November and many friends were still being made, but our defence and the opposition attack were included, meaning our goals against column was becoming the worst in the division. The year finished with two goal filled draws against Forest and Villa, a defeat at Goodison and a battling stalemate at Norwich.
So what about 1989? We’ve started well enough, hammering Man Utd in everything but goals, a fine game only marred by Hughes and his desire to kick everything but the ball. Will Riochs total football pay off with major success or will he be forced to change? I sincerely hope he sticks to his guns as we are seeing fine football almost every time Boro play.
I pride myself on rarely criticising a player from the terraces, unless of course there appears to be a lack of effort over a lengthy period, even then I still wonder as to any underlying reasons. With this in mind, you may begin to understand why I never came round to slagging off Trevor Senior.
Despite failing to register on the score sheet in his first few games, he went on to score four goals in twelve Second Division games. Not great, I know, but it’s still better than Peter Davenport’s one goal in ten league, two Simod Cup and one reserve game. So why doesn’t Davo receive the same treatment that Trev was subjected to?
Don’t get me wrong, I like what I see with Davo, whereas it was quickly apparent that Senior wasn’t good enough in several key areas of his game. But Senior tried just as hard as Davo, so why slag off one and not the other?
I put it to you, that one cost three times as much as the other… we don’t want to upset the record signing now do we? One has played for England the other hasn’t. One came from Man Utd the other from Watford. One came from relative success, the other from complete failure. One looks good on the ball while the other never did.
I might be wrong but hope that I am partly right; all I know is that very few deserve the treatment Senior received and I for one am happy to see him doing well at Reading.
Every Boxing Day at 11am I’m at South Bank to watch the local derby with Whitby Town. It’s always freezing, full of mad woolie backs supporting Whitby and there’s usually a strange smell in the air, it’s a sort of mixture of B.S.C, fish, cheap aftershave and new gloves.
The footballs crap of course, except for a couple of years ago when Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer played for Town. Gray hit the bar from 30 yards and Lorimer scored from a free kick like he used to on Match of the Day. There’s nobody famous this year to detract from the terribleness of the game and the best fighters normally win. Whitby went 2-0 up thanks to two howlers from the young gadgie making his home debut. Whitby were so surprised with their good fortune that they lapsed into realms of incompetence only hinted at previously, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory just in time to lose 3-2. Bobby Scaife scored the winner; he used to be on Boro’s books having spells at Hartlepuddle and Rochdale too. He pretty much spoilt the game by being able to pass properly and shoot straight.
All this excitement for only a quid. The OXO is cheap, the pies are hot and sometimes, but only sometimes, your car is still there when you leave the ground.
Brian Clough’s success as a manager has overshadowed his achievements as a player to most people. This is a shame because here was arguably one of the best goal scorers of all time wearing a Boro shirt during our Division Two days of the late 50’s and early 60’s. His career was tragically cut short by injury after he left Ayresome to join Sunderland (it wasn’t that tragic back then… was it?) and left behind bruised egos at Boro where he was never afraid to speak his mind, even as a young player. I wonder if he would tolerate such a player today at Nottingham Forest?
He was a classic underachiever, despite regularly potting 40 goals a season for Boro he never enjoyed the larger stage his talents deserved. In 1958, having notched up his usual 40, he was selected for the England squad, but without even getting on the pitch he was cruelly and unjustly omitted from the England party that travelled to the World Cup in Sweden that year.
But of course it was entirely typical of what was to come during his managerial career. Despite being the best club manager of his era the FA have never seriously considered him for the England job. Afraid of his honesty which sometimes seems brusque to those in the south but is entirely natural here in the Boro.
Brian Clough has a right to be an extremely bitter man, a career as a centre forward curtailed by injury when he could have been world class, denied a world stage as an international manager due to the stuffed shirts at the F.A.
Still, coming from Middlesbrough perhaps he should have expected it?
It wasn’t a very good match last Saturday was it? In actual fact Man Utd were no match at all. Now we’ve all seen Boro over-run teams at Ayresome Park before, dominate them with free flowing football for long periods before punishing them with fast incisive finishing. We’ve also seen Boro roll up their sleeves before, battling tooth and nail till their very last breath to get the result. But on Saturday the performance of the lads was very special indeed.
Rioch’s masterstroke was to put Bernie in the centre of attack and switch Ripper to the wing where he was in rampant mood against United’s young full back. Bruce reckoned Ripley’s speedy and direct style would be meat and drink to a not yet fully match fit McGrath, where as Slaven’s deeper meanderings would stretch out and create space for Davenport. Space, as we all saw, he used in devastating fashion, could have had four on another day.
Brennan was an absolute treat to watch, ably supported by Glover, the pair won the battle for midfield with Robson’s frustration at chasing shadows vented on Hammo late in the game. Pallister was at his majestic best throughout, having Hughes in his back pocket and showing Boro and Man Utd fans alike his sublime England class.
Parkinson seemed to have no respect for the opposition at all and until he had to so unfortunately go off he demonstrated to all his ability and new found confidence.
Cooper and Hammo played out of position with such authority that it seemed they were born to play there and Mowbray was simply Mowbray. Captain Mogga… Fly Me to The Moon!