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[Archived] Brill Middlesbrough Preview by m1st :)


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Well, here we go with another of m1st’s verbose Previews, demonstrating how an elderly gentleman who lives on his own can always make time for “important” tasks such as researching this preview, telling you loads of things you never you needed to know about the Smoggies, as they seem to be affectionately [?] nicknamed by fans of the North-East’s Premier League clubs. If the late Mrs m1st were still alive, I’ve no doubt that jobs she saw as more important would have had to take priority!


The ‘Boro have had a chequered history, finding themselves in 1986 within 10 minutes of going out of existence.

They were founded in 1876, the year after Rovers, by members of the local cricket club. They were slower than us to embrace professionalism and although they turned professional in the late 1880s, they reverted to amateur status three seasons later and twice won the F.A. Amateur Cup in the 1890s.

Around this time, there were two successful teams in the town: ’Boro; and Middlesbrough Ironopolis, the latter of whom we played on the way to our fifth F.A. Cup win in 1891. The two clubs came together in 1892 as Middlesbrough and Ironopolis Football & Athletic Club to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful application to the Football League. Ironopolis made an application in their own right to join the League, replacing Accrington when they resigned from the League rather than having to play in the new Second Division. Ironopolis only managed one season [1893/94] in the League but a combination of poor home gates and travelling difficulties to most of their away games meant that the club had to be liquidated after one season, leaving ‘Boro as the major football club in the area.

‘Boro turned professional again in 1899 and were admitted to the League’s Division 2 for the 1899/1900 season. They won promotion to the First Division at the end of their second season and the following season moved into Ayresome Park, their home ground for over 90 years until they moved to the Riverside Stadium. A season later, ‘Boro made football history when they paid a World Record transfer fee [£1,000!] to Sunderland for Alf Common. That record stood for over 15 years until Falkirk paid West Ham £5,000 for Syd Puddefoot, whom we subsequently signed and who scored the first goal in our final [so far!] F.A. Cup win in 1928.

In 1910, ‘Boro were involved in a scandal, following a 1-0 win at home against Sunderland. Andy Walker, the ‘Boro manager, was found guilty of offering the Sunderland players £30 between them to “throw the game” and banned from the game for life.

Exactly 100 seasons ago, ‘Boro finished in their highest-ever League position of 3rd in Division 1. Apart from that, ‘Boro were generally to be found in mid-table in Division 1 until they were relegated to Division 2, in 1924, where they remained for three seasons. Their promotion was marked by a record of 59 League goals scored by George Camsell, a record which was surpassed the following season by Everton’s “Dixie” Dean. They only lasted one season in Division 1 when they returned to Division 2 for three seasons before re-joining us at the top level in 1929.

They remained consistent members of Division 1 through to 1954, when our intermittent rivalry resumed in Division 2. The 1954/55 season was Johnny Carey’s second as our manager and we ended it with 114 League goals, 9 of which were picked out of the net by Ugolini, the ‘Boro keeper, at Ewood on 6th November [not for me to crack any jokes about “Fireworks at Ewood!”] in what is still both their heaviest League defeat and our largest League win. The unusual thing about our 9 goals was that not one was scored by Tommy Briggs, that season’s top scorer with 31. ‘Boro got some sort of revenge the following March when they won the return game 4-3.

Despite having a local lad called Brian Clough leading their attack from 1955-1961, with 197 League goals in 213 games, the nearest they got to returning to the old First Division was in 1962/63, when in the era of only two teams being promoted, they finished fourth in the old Division 2. This was followed by a gradual decline which saw them relegated from Division 2 at the end of the 1965/66 season, the same time that we were relegated from Division 1.

They only spent one season in Division 3 and joined us in Division 2 in 1967. Unlike Rovers, who had begun a fallow 15 year spell when we alternated between Divisions 2 and 3, ‘Boro had begun to consolidate and with Jack Charlton as manager, they regained Division 1 status in 1974. In 1975-76, ‘Boro won the Anglo-Scottish Cup [the first trophy they had won as a professional club], a competition we were knocked out of by Motherwell at the quarter-final stage that same season.

Within 6 seasons, however, a decline had begun which saw ‘Boro join us in Division 2. Their financial position continued to deteriorate and things came to a head in 1986 when the club had to borrow £30,000 from the Professional Footballers’ Association to pay the players’ wages as the club sank to Division 3 for the second time. During the 1986 close season the club called in the Provisional Liquidator and was wound up soon after. The Official Receiver sacked the manager Bruce Rioch and 29 non-playing staff and it looked almost certain that the club would cease to exist. However, the club’s current owner, Steve Gibson put together a consortium of businessmen who, with 10 minutes to spare, raised the cash necessary to register with the Football League for the 1986/87 season.

For the second time, they only spent one season in Division 3 finishing in second place and joined us in Division 2 for the 1987/88 season, at the end of which they clinched the final promotion position, one point ahead of Bradford City and us who went into the play-offs. They only lasted one season in Division 1 and returned to Division 2, where they remained for three seasons before becoming, like us, inaugural members of the Premiership. During one of those seasons [1989/90], they played in a Wembley final for the first time, losing the Final of the Zenith Data Systems Cup [the same trophy under a different name that Colin Hendry’s goal had won for us in 1987] to Chelsea.

They were relegated at the end of that first season and remained in the League Division 1, as the Championship was then known, for a couple of seasons before, with Brian Robson as manager, they celebrated returning to the Premiership in 1995 by moving from Ayresome Park to the Riverside Stadium, the first new stadium to be built in line with the Taylor Report’s recommendations after the Hillsborough tragedy.

However, at the end of the following season they were again relegated, this time in controversial circumstances [see “WHO’DA THOUGHT IT?” below]. The 1996/97 season must have been a really sad time to be a ‘Boro fan because the team was the first to suffer the triple whammy of being relegated from the top Division in the same season that they were runners-up in both Cup competitions. They lost the League Cup Final, after a replay, to Leicester City; and the F.A. Cup Final to Chelsea. They were, however, back within a season and remained in the Premiership while we served two seasons in Division 1 at the turn of the Century.

By this time, they were being managed by Steve McClaren and they finally won a major trophy when they beat Bolton Wanderers in the 2003/04 League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. This, of course, qualified them for the UEFA Cup for 2004/05, when they reached the Round of the last 16. Their League position that season also qualified them for the UEFA Cup in 2005/06, when they did even better, getting through to the Final, which they lost to Sevilla.

These successes led to McClaren’s appointment as England Manager and his successors, first Gareth Southgate then Gordon Strachan, were unable to stop an inexorable decline which led to ‘Boro returning to the Championship at the end of the 2008/09 season. Strachan’s dismissal led to the appointment of Tony Mowbray, who was fondly remembered, not only as a local lad, but also as the young captain of the team that rose from the ashes of the 1986 disaster. Sadly for him [and me; see “SATURDAY’S GAME” below!], he has not been able to turn things round for ‘Boro and was sacked on the Monday after they had lost to Barnsley.


Although ‘Boro had just been able to register for the 1986/87 season, they were unable play their first game of the season at Ayresome Park because they had been locked out of the ground by the bailiffs because of the club’s debts. Hartlepool United therefore offered the use of their Victoria Ground for the fixture, which if ‘Boro had not fulfilled it, would have seen them expelled from the League. That led to two League games being played on the ground on the same day: Hartlepool United playing Cardiff City in a Division 4 game in the afternoon; before ‘Boro opened their Division 3 season that evening with a 2-2 “home” draw against Port Vale.

‘Boro and we were involved in some controversy when in the 1996/97 season, Brian Robson, their manager at the time, decided not to send a team to fulfil a League fixture at Ewood because of illness in his squad. He claimed that he had been given verbal permission for this course of action but it ended up with the ‘Boro having three points deducted, which was enough to cause them to be relegated at the end of the season.


It’s only when you start preparing this section of the Preview that you realise quite how many footballers have connections with us and ‘Boro, one way or another! And just how vast are the football databases!

So I’m sort-of excluding Fred Pentland who joined us from Blackpool in 1903 and stayed for three seasons before going on to play for a number of other clubs, including ‘Boro for whom he played from 1908 – 1912, during which time he won five England caps. Given that m1st’s Dad was born in the year that Pentland joined ‘Boro, I think it’s safe to say nobody will have any memories of him [Fred Pentland, that is; not my Dad!].

Players who’ve played for both clubs in more recent times include such half-remembered names from the 1970s as Terry Garbett, who began his career with Boro’ before joining Watford, from whom Ken Furphy signed him when we were in Division 3 in 1972. Shortly after Furphy left us to manage Sheffield United, Garbett followed him, as he did when Furphy went on to manage New York Cosmos in 1976.

You have to be as deeply into football trivia as m1st to discover the link between us and Boro forged by Tim Parkin, a centre-half from the later-1970s, who rose through the ranks at Ewood and played just over a dozen first-team games for us before going onto to play for a number of clubs, including Malmo. His career ended by a broken leg when playing for Barrow in the old Northern Premier League in 1993, from where he went onto ‘Boro’s non-playing staff as the “Football in the Community Officer” for a while before becoming a policeman in Cumbria.

Coming slightly more up to date, there was Darren Collier, a Teesside lad who kept goal for ‘Boro’s junior teams as a non-contract player but never played for them in the League. He joined us in 1988 and stayed for five seasons, playing 28 League games before moving onto Darlington.

Our most expensive signing before the Dalglish era was a midfielder called Steve Agnew [probably known to Jordan Rhodes as “Uncle Steve”], whom Don Mackay signed in June 1991. He only played four games for us before moving on to Leicester City. He played for a number of other clubs before retiring and becoming a coach with Gateshead, with whom he finished his playing career. When he left Gateshead, he became an Academy coach at ‘Boro for about 18 months. He returned to ‘Boro as reserve team coach in 2007, being promoted to Assistant Manager the following year and was temporarily in charge of team affairs when Gordon Strachan was dismissed. He’s now Steve Bruce’s Assistant Manager at Hull City.

Coming to the Premiership era, we signed from ‘Boro the man who scored our first-ever Premiership goal in the 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season: “Super Stu; Super Stuart Ripley”. He’d helped ‘Boro win promotion to the first-ever Premiership but Uncle Jack’s wallet allowed us to sign him from ‘Boro during the close-season leading up to that season. His son, Connor, a goalkeeper on ‘Boro’s books currently on loan to Bradford City, could also feature in this part of the preview in his own right because he started his career with our juniors.

Another member of the revolution which Uncle Jack facilitated was Alan Wright, the diminutive full-back who was actually Kenny Dalglish’s first signing for us. The arrival of Graeme Le Saux limited his opportunities and he joined Villa just before we clinched the Premiership in 1995. He joined ‘Boro on a free transfer in 2003 but only made a couple of appearances for them before joining Sheffield United.

A former ‘Boro player recruited by Graeme Souness [himself one of a number of links between the clubs] to help us back to the Premiership around the turn of the century was Craig Hignett. We signed him from Barnsley and he stayed with us for three seasons, winning a League Cup Winners’ medal in 2002 when he came off the bench against Spurs on that wonderful February Sunday in Cardiff.

Then there was “the Yak”, our hero of a couple of seasons ago. Yakubu Aiyegbeni, to give him his full name, played for the ‘Boro for a couple of seasons in the middle of the last decade, scoring 35 goals in 103 games in all the English competitions and the UEFA Cup, before joining Everton from whom, of course we signed him. He’s playing for Guangzhou R & F, managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, in the Chinese Super League these days, by the way.

Coming right up-to-date, Matt Kilgallon played a couple of games in ‘Boro’s colours when on loan from Sunderland in the 2010/11 season.

At managerial level, “Souey” wasn’t the only former ‘Boro player to sit in the Manager’s chair at Ewood. There was also someone called Paul Ince; while John Pickering was caretaker-manager of both clubs. He was coaching at Ewood when the disastrous spell with Jim Iley in charge was terminated in October 1978. Pickering was initially appointed as caretaker before being appointed as manager for the remainder of the season. He moved onto the coaching teams at Carlisle United, Lincoln City and Newcastle United before joining ‘Boro where he was caretaker manager for one game at the end of the 1993/94 season. In recognition of his service to ‘Boro, he was given the honour of leading the team out for the 2000/01 League Cup Final.

Finally, can anyone help me out, please? Am I right in vaguely remembering that the Mark Brennan who played 65 games for ‘Boro in the late 1980s began his career in our junior squads? He was a Rossendale Valley lad, after all. The references I’ve been able to find to him only refer to his professional career, which began at Ipswich Town who sold him to ‘Boro; but I’m as sure as can be that, although he never played for our first team, his footballing career began with a blue and white halved shirt.


I asked an old College friend who lives on Teesside and has been known in the past to have had a season ticket for the Riverside if he’d help me out with this part of the Preview. He declined the opportunity but passed my questions to a “dyed in the wool” friend of his called Doug, who I guess is from the same general era as me; and in the earlier part of his reply, was commenting on the similarities between the two clubs over the years.

“You watched Shearer and Sutton while we watched Juninho and Ravanelli and it was brilliant exciting stuff all the way. But it always had to end – for Blackburn with the death of Jack Walker and for us with financial fair play restricting our Chairman to putting in £1,000,000 every month. Sadly, we’ll never dream again about challenging Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool or City because our teams represent small towns in small places with small attendances limiting our incomes whilst Arsenal watch the money rolling in from 60,000 people watching them at enormously high prices play Borussia Dortmund (supported by home crowds of 80,000) and both clubs receive millions in additional income from ITV for broadcasting rights.”

My questions were as follows:

1] Even at this fairly early stage of the season, it feels like both Boro and Rovers are destined not to be involved in the Championship promotion fight, with both of us losing matches last Saturday which we the fans would have expected us to win. Is this a fair assessment of Boro's situation?

2] I'm preparing these questions on the day that Tony Mowbray has left the club and your answer to this question will probably have been seen either as very prescient or very optimistic by the time of the game, but who would you want to succeed him?

3] And, given that the transfer window is now closed, will whoever succeeds Mogga have the players at his disposal to begin climbing the table?

4] As someone who perhaps ought to "get out more" rather than being so avid [sad?] about football, I was surprised how few of the names I recognised in your first team squad. If you were identifying players Rovers fans would see as your "danger men" a week on Saturday, who would they be?

5] Listening to Mowbray on your club website after the Barnsley game, and looking at your "Goals against" column [particularly away from home], would I be right in guessing that the Boro's main current weakness is in defence?

6] And who, if anyone, would you see as our "danger men" for you?

I think it would be best if I copied verbatim the relevant part of the reply I got from my pal’s friend.

“I had to look on the internet to remind myself of the name of your manager and your players. I wouldn’t have had to think too hard to remind myself of names like David Dunn; Christopher Samba or Shearer. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t find myself brimming with excitement at the thought of Jordan Rhodes tearing us to shreds. In fact, despite all the stories about our defensive frailties, our aging and partially crippled superstar Jonathon Woodgate will manage that threat with little or no difficulty – if he plays.

“And that’s why Tony Mowbray has finally been sacked. Because we can put out an attack with Kei Kamara; Marvin Emnes; Mustapha Carayol; Albert Adomah and Lucas Jutkiewitz and any three of those players are, on their day, matchwinners. But only Adomah can be relied upon to put in a performance every week – the others play when they feel like it.

“So my message to you is watch out – if it’s the right day we could frighten you to death but I don’t think even our optimistic chairman believes that will happen any longer – hence our managerial vacancy.

“Finally, the question who comes next? And that’s a thorny one. The chairman knows we need to get back to the Premiership and thinks we have the players to do it (and I think he’s right.) So the obvious names are Pulis; Warnock and Holloway. But I think he realises that even crowds of 12,000 would drop to single figures if he took that direction because we want the dreaded word entertainment. That’s why ‘Boro supporters still talk so negatively about the Wally with the Brolly – he was our most successful ever manager statistically but he was boring. My money would be on Michael Phelan – enormous experience/loads of knowledge/support on the quiet from Sir Alex - the perfect candidate.”


It’s fascinating [well, to me, anyway!] how crowded is the middle of both the actual Championship Table and the Form Table both are.

Before last weekend’s games [‘Boro v. Doncaster; us at Blackpool], the Form Table of the last six League games had us 12th [11th in the actual Table] with 7 points, from 2 wins and a draw, out of 18, while ‘Boro were 16th [their place in the actual Table] with one point fewer from 1 win and 3 draws.

Last weekend’s results, however affected the Form Table significantly. By Saturday night, the margin of ‘Boro’s 4-0 victory at home to Doncaster on Friday night had lifted them up to 8th in the Form Table [14th in the actual Table] with 8 points out of 18 while we were one place below them in the Form Table [but two places above them in the actual Table] with the same number of points, but a poorer goal difference. Both teams have kept two “clean sheets” in the last six league games.

Sunday afternoon’s result in the Championship, however, lifted both clubs one place in the Form Table but actually pushed ‘Boro down a place in the actual Table, which is where they were at the end of the weekend’s round of matches on Monday night.

So, although there are matches on Wednesday and Friday which could change things, at the time of posting this, the Form Table shows 8th v. 7th, while the actual Table shows it’s a game between 12th v. 15th. All of which makes it really too close to call.


One of the worst things that can happen to someone preparing a Preview like this is that the opponents sack their Manager about 10 days before we’re due to play them! Not only do you have to re-write certain sentences and the questions you were about to send off for the Opponents’ Opinion, but there’s also the chance that the old manager’s successor, whether temporary or permanent, will have our opponents more fired up.

So what team do we put out to collect the three points? Our options are limited not only by the injuries suffered by key players but also by the fact that Hanley’s serving the last of his 3-game ban and, to a lesser extent, by the fact that Campbell’s beginning his ban. I’ve not been to as many games as I should have this season and followingall the “debate” there’s been about our defence on the Blackpool preview thread, I’m going to suggest the following as the starting eleven next Saturday afternoon.


Lowe, Dann, Kilgallon, Spurr;


Marshall, Taylor; King;



Subs: Kean; Kane, Songo’o, Marrow, Judge, Dunn [if fit*], Best.

*Yes; I know you can’t pick him if he’s not fit ;-) – he just seems to have slipped off the radar and, with Campbell being suspended and the state of our injuries, we seem a bit thin on the ground for players at the moment.

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Got my tickets, 245 miles and 4 1/2 hours each way so I'm hoping for a good performance and result

Fair play - just the piffling 210 miles each way for me. We must be mad!

Can't be worse than driving 3 and a half hours home from the charlton game - soaking wet from the rain on the walk back to the car. Very uncomfortable, reflecting on a shocking performance and result, burnley gloating on the radio. But here we go again!

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Can't be worse than driving 3 and a half hours home from the charlton game - soaking wet from the rain on the walk back to the car. Very uncomfortable, reflecting on a shocking performance and result, burnley gloating on the radio. But here we go again!

Don't say that!! Your only going to tempt fate

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Im going for 0-0 with this. I reckon managerless Boro will come seeking a draw and succeed. A bigger than usual crowd because of ticket offer so it's bound to fall flat lol

0-0 with Boro missing a late pen just to add some drama. A point earned for us.

17,100 (2200 Boro)

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They played more of a 4-2-3-1, but why would we want to play 4-4-2? Why does everyone seem to think it is the answer to everything. We get out played in midfield and forced to play direct which plays into our opponents hands.

Same team as last week for me.

I didnt see boro's last game but the report on their website says they played 442

We get outplayed in midfeild becasue the other team has 5 in there. If boro only have 4 in there then its an option to do the same

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If we press from the start with a high tempo then we can win it.

If we start as slowly as we did against Charlton, and sit back with 2 defensive midfielders, we may get a similar result.

That's true. Our side seem to play better when we get amonst the opposition straight off. We aren't a great passing or tackling side but with the younger players and better fitness than last season then we seem better able to play at a higher tempo.

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That's true. Our side seem to play better when we get amonst the opposition straight off. We aren't a great passing or tackling side but with the younger players and better fitness than last season then we seem better able to play at a higher tempo.

Evans was a big loss for this. His energy in there with Lowe kind of set the tempo for playing that way

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Evans was a big loss for this. His energy in there with Lowe kind of set the tempo for playing that way

Correct. Don't worry though Dicksons coming back :) Maybe judge could go in there short term, quite a busy player.

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