Thursday, 21 April 2011

Middlesbrough - Riverside Stadium

8th September 2001

Middlesbrough 1-4 Newcastle United

My Mum came from Teeside – Thornaby-on-Tees to be exact; but close enough to the town of Middlesbrough (or The Boro) for that to be her extensive family’s local club.  So this particular trip was a chance to catch up with various Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, some of whom I had not seen for some time.  

I ended up going along to the Riverside with one Cousin and his Son.  I always, and still do, found it quite funny to hear these two in conversation.  Cousin has lived in and around London for most of his adult life, but never lost a jot of his Teeside accent.  His Son, by contrast, has been brought up in the leafy Bucks town of Chesham, and sports an almost perfect BBC Home Counties accent.  A not-untypical exchange would run along the lines of:

Son:  Daddy, we are getting tennis at school tomorrow.
Cousin:  Haddaway and shite, Man!

Well, I paraphrase somewhat, but hopefully you get the message.

And the message being sent out by a clutch of Newcastle United supporters who turned up in, what looked like, white scene-of-crime overalls or decontamination suits, was that Middlesbrough was a dangerously infective place to visit without appropriate protection.  Which, as terracing humour goes I thought, was quite sophisticated.  In contrast to the Boro fan behind me whose idea of sartorial wit was to scream at the top of his voice, enquiring of Newcastle’s Craig Bellamy “Oy Bellamy. Where’s yor neck?”

Enlarge the pic and you may just make out the white-suited
Geordies in two groups halfway up the stand behind the goal.

Newcastle on the attack in the dying moments of the match.

A number of the less primitive home fans were seemingly quite excited at the prospect of viewing their new signing from Glasgow Rangers, winger Allan Johnson.  I could have told them, but decided not to, that they should maybe temper their optimism somewhat, as in my opinion their club had just procured one of Scottish Football’s Great Underachievers.  

Johnson spent much of his career dining out on an, admittedly praiseworthy, hat-trick he scored for Hearts in a match against Rangers in 1996.  He then spent the next dozen or so years shuffling from club to club making little impact at any, before in 2010 coming to rest at Queen of the South.

His spell at Boro was particularly forlorn, making his debut as a sub to minimal effect in this particular tussle versus Newcastle.  He did score in his next match - a sclaffed fluke against West Ham - but that was it, I am afraid, as far as Johnson’s contribution to the Boro goal statistics was concerned.

And yet, things began so brightly for Boro against Newcastle when Colin COOPER scored after only 4 minutes.  But once ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer was ordered off for a professional foul on 34 minutes, the home lot seemed to fall apart.  Alan SHEARER despatched the penalty with his usual vicious efficiency, to which Niko DABIZAS (59) and Laurent ROBERT (62) added in quick succession.  

SHEARER’s second, 8 minutes from the end, was as sweet a finish as I had seen in some time, and a stark reminder that football even at the top level in Scotland does not even come close to that on offer south of the border.

The Riverside Stadium, Middlesborough.

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