Having kicked off this series with relegation at Hillsborough in 1989, I decided to go back to the lads from Owls Alive and ask if they could write about Wednesday’s own relegation in 2010. Specifically their loss at the Riverside just before they slid out of the Championship.
Article by @Beastie_
Earlier in the season I’d been impressed with Boro, they’d played some lovely football at Hillsborough and whilst we were soundly beaten 3-1 that night, I don’t think it did justice to how well we played. Don’t get me wrong, Boro were worthy winners and played some outstanding football at times, but they had just been relegated with shed loads of money to spend, whereas we’d been emptying the back of the sofa for years. Yet despite that, we still matched them for long periods…apart from the one area that counts of course…in front of goal.
They had the likes of Aliadiere, future England winger Adam Johnson (who was simply electric) and the impressive Emnes, so with that sort of quality on the pitch we did well to stay as close as we did. We’d gotten off to a flyer with Luke Varney scoring after a minute or so but 20 minutes later Boro equalised when Purse nodded into his own net. Once they got their second (just after the restart), they settled into cruise control and although we had a go there was always a feeling that they could up a gear or two if and when they needed to…which they did just before the end of the game to finally finish us off.
I was impressed by the away following too; they’d brought plenty and filled the top tier of the Leppings Lane. Me and the Young Un left Hillsborough that night thinking it wouldn’t be long before Gareth Southgate got this club back into the Premier League.
By the time we played the reverse fixture at The Riverside things had changed a lot at Boro…Gordon Strachan was now in charge and Southgate was long gone. In fact I think he’d been ditched not long after they played us (6 games later – miniboro). They’d won by a great score line, playing good football and were at the top of the table, I forget exactly what position but I think it was at worst, top 2 and his reward had been the sack. Always seemed a bit harsh to me.
Since then they’d gone on a bit of a nosedive down the table and even though we weren’t playing particularly well I fancied our chances today of getting revenge.
I’d not been to the Riverside before so I was looking forward to this visit and I was impressed…I was even more impressed to see that it’s still right among the industry of the area. These days there’s a tendency to build new grounds in the middle of nowhere and get them away from their working class roots. It leads to apathy amongst the locals because it no longer feels like a local ground and plays no part in the community. Well I didn’t get any of that vibe and to see the ships and dockyards in the background is just wonderful…they may not be the hive of activity they once were (and there’s no sign of the infamous ‘smog’) but at least you could doff ya cap to the workforce of years gone by.
I didn’t know what to make of the sculpture thing as we approached the ground and there was mixed views amongst the passengers in our car. I think I liked it…it had a feeling of drawing in towards the ground…
When we arrived at the car park we were met by a couple of very friendly stewards who directed us the right way whilst having a bit of craic with us…that’s another thing always puts in the right frame of mind for away grounds. If the stewards are decent and friendly then I always feel better towards the club.
It didn’t look a bad turnout but grounds of this size always look worse when their not full to capacity. Even so there wasn’t that much of an atmosphere being generated here…they used to be incredible did Boro fans, an almost maniacal support back in the 70’s but that wasn’t on display here. Maybe it’s a sign of the times; a lot of things have changed at a lot of clubs these days. It’s generally more geared towards families having a nice day out, which I can’t say is a bad thing either if I’m honest.
That family feel was underlined by a little Boro lad in his home shirt, dancing away in front of the seats below us…I don’t know why but it just doesn’t look right seeing Boro shirts without a white hoop. It’s like when they’ve tried to modernise the Wednesday shirts by doing away with the Blue and White stripes. I’m all for modernising things and keeping them updated etc but sometimes these things are best left to tradition.
Anyway, we played well against the Boro, the possession and shot count were very similar to the home game, pretty much an even split. We matched them all over the park, the only difference being the quality of those final shots on goal…
Some of the shots that JJ had for us were laughable; almost clown like…He does the hard work beating everyone and then when the target raises its ugly head he goes to pieces.
It wasn’t the greatest game though to be honest, in fact it was quite uninspiring. Unfortunately we needed to play much better than Boro that day as we were facing the very real threat of relegation. With only 3 games left after this fixture, most Wednesday fans were beginning to fear the worst.
It was a poor game that was won with an even poorer goal. McDonald was in absolutely acres of space (around 20 yards out), without even a hint of a tackle from a Wednesday player he leathered it goalwards. He didn’t even need to get it on target. The shot was so bad it was going well wide. Lee Grant in the Wednesday nets was allowing it to drift harmlessly by, when it deflected big style of Mark Beevers and into the Wednesday goal past the flat footed Grant… GUTTED!
It pretty much finished us off as a Championship club and we were in deep trouble now. I wrote the following article for the Owls Alive at the time:
Make no mistake about it, this isn’t the same Boro I was swooning over when they played at ours…sure enough, they did produce the odd good move, some great through balls and lovely stuff over the top after good runs from forward players but they are truly dreadful in front of goal. Not only will they do nowt this season, I’ll also suggest they’ll go nowhere fast whilst Strachan is still at the helm. They’ll become the Coventry of the Championship and he’ll do to them what he did to City…Make them much of a muchness. Now that’s OK by me as I quite like it at the Boro and look forward to seeing them again when we come back into this division but it certainly can’t sit well with the Boro fans surely?
On the way home the satnav was playing up again, I’ve no idea why I trust it so implicitly. Everyone in the car was feeling uneasy because nothing looked remotely like it did on the way here…for a start there were no chuffin buildings and barely any roads!
We headed out into some wasteland like the set of a Mad Max movie or something…there’s nothing here. No buildings and very little sign of life. We continued down this road and bizarrely it takes us to a pub…STILL in the middle of nowhere.
I have flashing images of From Dusk Til Dawn…this must be the Middlesbrough equivalent of the ‘Titty Twister’. As we slowly drive past the pub everyone in the car was getting nervous. Desperately trying to avoid eye contact we stare intently at the cars ashtray and light fittings. The floor suddenly held a lot of interest for everyone.
There was loads of folks enjoying a beer outside as the weather was so nice, so I try to weave my way through them…still trying to avoid eye contact. Adults are looking at us and there are kids pointing…obviously no one in our car had hidden their Wednesday scarves or flags as we didn’t expect to end up in some Boro heartland…
Fortunately they were all laughing and shaking their heads… I lowered the window “Can ya tell we’re lost?”