Saturday, 2 April 2016


Last week I went to North Shields with the Two Petes. One of the Petes supports Newcastle, the other Middlesbrough. We stood next to the Ashington dug out.

Midway through the first half one of the Ashington coaching staff, annoyed by the amount of time the Robins midfielders were being allowed on the ball, bellowed, 'He's had four touches and you're twenty fucking yards away'.

'Sounds like a metaphor for life,' Boro Pete said gravely.

Which reminded me of this bit from the WSC book Always Next Year published fifteen years ago.

Saturday afternoon. Four burly men with voices that rumbled like cement mixers and made eavesdropping compulsory even for those several streets away stepped out of the concrete bunker that houses Potters Sporting Club in the Dundas Arcade. The weather seemed to be working overtime to confirm Mrs Emerson's notorious description of Teesside as ' a dark and terrible place'. Sharp rain fell from a sky the colour of tarmac and the wind cried 'Murder'. The quartet set off on the long, grim march to the Riverside Stadium.

I was a few yards behind them. The collective mood matched the elements. The previous week Peter Taylor's Leicester City had slaughtered Boro at the Riverside. The home team's performance was so hopelessly shambolic that even a language as rich and diverse as English could not fully do justice to it, though the bloke behind me tried, yelling so hard and ceaselessly at the back of my head that when I got home and looked in the mirror I resembled a member of  Motley Crue.

At one point in the second period the visitors had strung together close to a dozen passes in Middlesbrough's half. Muzzy Izzet and Robbie Savage have many qualities but I think it is fair to say that it takes opponents of rare incompetence to make them look like Cruyff and Beckenbauer.

'Fuckyerbastardshitfuckinchristonanfuckinstickborojesus,'  the bloke behind me howled.

Even that was more coherent than Bryan Robson's tactics

The memory of the crushing defeat lingered like a marital argument. Today's visitors were Bradford City, a team who hadn't won away from home since the last days of Byzantium. That fact only made home fans more apprehensive. If you were looking to end a losing streak Boro were the team to play. Always. Or so it seemed.

As we crossed the road by the Ayresome pub with its stained glass windows of those secular saints Graeme Souness and Bernie Slaven, one of the men said, 'If we get beat off Bradford today and Robson doesn't resign I'm going straight to the Transporter and chucking myself off.'

'You'll have to get in a queue,' his mate said.

'Aye,' another added, 'They'll have a ticketing machine like the DSS.'

'Number 976, a position is now available to deal with your suicide claim.'

And on we walked into the darkness of the afternoon.


  1. Harry,

    The skies are grey in Norfolk this Sunday morning and that made me laugh out loud.

    UTB, John

    1. Cheers John. At least Boro seem to be back on track...This weekend at least.

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