Sunday, 18 December 2011

Middlesbrough - The Riverside Stadium

Middlesbrough FC
The Riverside Stadium

0844 499 6789
Official Website

Ground Number: 33
Wednesday 16th September 1998
Middlesbrough 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Worthington Cup 2nd Round, 1st Leg


1:  The club was formed in 1876 and has the nicknames of Boro or the Smoggies. The latter is a shortened version of the Smog Monsters - originally a nickname given to them by opposing supporters due to the local chemical factories in the area. The club came close to going bust in 1986 but was saved firstly by Hartlepool United who lent them their ground when they were locked out of their Ayresome Park stadium due to non-payment of rent. They were 10 minutes from being liquidated but were saved by board member and future chairman Steve Gibson who formed a consortium to get together the money needed to pay off their debts.

2:  Like most clubs, Middlesbrough started out as an amateur club. They were founder members of the Northern League in 1889, a competition which is still going strong to this day. They'd finish 6th out of 10 clubs in their first season but would go on to be hugely successful with 3 league titles and 2 runners-up spots in their ten seasons spent here.

3:  The club joined the Football League in 1899, starting in the second tier. By 1902 they earned promotion to the First Division after finishing as runners-up to West Bromwich Albion. The 1913/14 seasons saw Middlesbrough's best ever finish - 3rd in the top tier. Just two seasons have been spent outside of the top two tiers, but they bounced back immediately on both occasions - finishing as runners-up to Queens Park Rangers in 1966/67 and AFC Bournemouth in 1986/87. 

4:  Middlesbrough reached the FA Cup Final in the 1996/97 season. Starting in the 3rd Round with an easy 6-0 win at home to Chester City, the 4th Round saw another home game as they squeezed past non-league Hednesford Town 3-2. A 1-0 win at Manchester City followed in the 5th Round before they won 2-0 at Derby County in the Quarter Final. A semi-final against third-tier Chesterfield looked a fairly easy prospect, but Boro were fortunate to gain a 3-3 daw in the original game before winning the replay 3-0. The final could not have got off to a worse start with Roberto Di Matteo scoring after 42 seconds to give Chelsea the lead. Gianluca Festa had a goal disallowed for offside at the end of the first half before Eddie Newton's 83rd-minute goal sealed a 2-0 win for the Londoners.

5:  The League Cup was won in 2003/04. Victories over Brighton & Hove Albion, Wigan Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur & Arsenal saw them face Bolton Wanderers in the final at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Goals from Joseph Desire-Job and Boudewijn Zenden (penalty) put them 2-0 up after 7 minutes and although Kevin Davies pulled a goal back for Bolton on 21 minutes, they held on to win 2-1.

6:  As a result of that League Cup win, Boro made their bow in European competition, reaching the 2005 UEFA Cup 4th Round before a 4-2 defeat on aggregate to Sporting Lisbon. A 7th place Premiership finish the following season saw another bite at the cherry and this time they reached the final, losing 4-0 to Sevilla in Eindhoven. 

7:  Record appearance holder for Middlesbrough is Tim Williamson with 602 appearances between 1902 and 1923. Record goalscorer is George Camsell with 325 goals in 418 appearances between 1925 and 1939. More well known and with a better goalscoring ratio is Brian Clough with 197 goals in 213 appearances between 1955 and 1961. 

8:  Since 1995, Middlesbrough have played at the 34,000 capacity Riverside Stadium. Situated around a mile from town, it was originally named the Cellnet Stadium, thanks to a sponsorship deal with the mobile phone company now known as O2. Previous homes include Albert Park (1876-1878), Breckon Hill (1878-1882), Linthorpe Road (1882-1903) and Ayresome Park (1903-1995). Ayresome Park was a host stadium for the 1966 World Cup and was the venue for North Korea's shock 1-0 win over Italy on 19th July 1966.

9:  Famous Middlesbrough fans include Roy Chubby Brown, Chris Rea, Bob Mortimer & horse racing commentator Derek Thompson who recently called a man a 'beautiful woman' in a clip that went viral on social media.

10: The town of Middlesbrough has a population of just under 175,000. It was the first major British town to be bombed during World War 2 due to it being a producer of steel.  It is notable for being the town where the Parmo was invented by former American army chef Nicos Harris who ended up in Britain after being wounded during the war in France. It is delicious but very unhealthy with 2,600 calories and 150g of fat. Famous people from Middlesbrough include explorer James Cook, footballers Brian Clough, Don Revie & Chris Kamara, cricketer Liam Plunkett, comedian Roy Chubby Brown & magician Paul Daniels.


My first visit to Middlesbrough came in 1998 as Wycombe Wanderers were drawn away to them in the League Cup 2nd Round. Around 300 Wycombe fans made the long trip north and I went on the Indies coach, which always stopped at a pub, as opposed to motorway service stations. They were not as organised back then and just stopped at a random pub as opposed to one that did good food and drink. I remember having a couple of pints of Strongbow in a huge posh place that looked like it was hired out for weddings. It was then on to the ground where we were met by uncompromising and miserable stewards who formed two lines around our coach and told us we were not allowed to walk around and visit the club shop or get food. So straight into the ground, it was with the usual overpriced and imaginative food. One thing I recall is them announcing the prices of tickets for their upcoming game at Chelsea and I was shocked at £20 with no concessions which seems cheap nowadays.

Wycombe actually played pretty well on the night, despite being down the bottom of the league and yet to win a game in the league, in fact, it would take us another month to finally record a victory. In front of an attendance of 11,535. Wycombe had a number of injuries and although Boro made 6 changes from the weekend it was still an impressive side including Paul Gascoigne amongst others. Hamilton Ricard opened the scoring on 37 minutes. Both sides had chances but the tie was sealed when Gianluca Festa converted from close range four minutes into injury time. It was then a long journey home, with me getting back at 3.15 am. Back then, the League Cup was two-legged for the first couple of rounds. Back at Adams Park, Wycombe took the lead in the first half but a Hamilton Ricard equaliser put any hopes of a comeback to bed, though 1-1 was a credible result on the night. I did visit the ground later on whilst in the area, but could only get outside photos.


I'd been wanting to revisit Middlesbrough for a while now and it was high on fellow hopper Anwar's list too as he was yet to visit. I'd originally tried to go a few years ago when they played Manchester United but they were not selling tickets to new customers. There was also the chance to visit earlier this season, but the £30 minimum ticket price put me off, as did the tight timeframe for getting to my next game. The cup games were always going to be the ones to go for and so when Anwar declared himself available for the FA Cup game against Peterborough, I put aside any idea of a train trip down south or into London and seized the opportunity. The days before were spent planning parking and eating places amongst other things, as well as researching the history of the club. The Friday night was spent booze free and I was in bed by 10, wanting to get a good nights sleep with a long journey the next day. Annoyingly, I only got a patchy night’s sleep, but still felt fine the next morning. Waking at 7, I got up, got dressed and had breakfast before leaving at 7.30.

I got to Anwar’s at 8 and after securing tickets, we were on our way. It was a long journey but thankfully a clear one with us getting a to Middlesbrough at 12. The drive in was a pretty industrial backdrop which made a change, but all day parking was a bargain at £2. First stop was lunch, the Resolution was the one remaining Wetherspoons in Middlesbrough that I'd not been to. Steak and Kidney pudding and chips with a pint of Legbender cider were enjoyed for little over £7. From there we had a look around the shops, me getting a couple of cans of Irn Bru from Home Bargains to drink on our way to the ground. We arrived at the ground at 2, with me having a Parmo in a bun for £4.50. Though not the biggest or best value, it was delicious, tasty and fresh and amongst the best food I have had in a league ground. Our seats were excellent, right on the halfway line and high up, good value for £15. The game was a pretty decent one, end to end. But at halftime, it was still goalless with Peterborough edging it. However, Boro came out second half all guns firing and scored a quick-fire double on 47 and 48 minutes. Firstly, Britt Assombalonga followed up with a header after a great save from the Posh keeper. Then, a minute later George Friend converted a low cross from a few yards out to give the Championship side a commanding lead. Substitute Lewis Wing made sure with a screamer from 25 yards on 62 minutes. Then a well-worked move saw Assombalonga finish well with a low shot from just inside the area on 70 minutes. This was a far cry from the side that had let me down on a bet against Burton in the League Cup last month and a big improvement on the first half. It was 5-0 on 87 minutes, Ashley Fletcher heading in from a few yards out. It was a decent game to watch and one that was well refereed, not that it was a difficult one to do so. I had just over 20 minutes walk back to the car and after driving to Morrisons in Stockton (something made slightly trickier by out of date maps on my Sat Nav) to fill up with petrol, we were heading south by 5.45. It was a good run home, the time going quicker thanks to BBC 5 Live which provided commentary of the Blackpool v Arsenal match for Anwar and then a phone in. We were back in Aylesbury at 9.15, with me getting home at 9.40. I caught up online before Match Of The Day started, having enjoyed a great day in one of my favourite parts of the world.


The RIVERSIDE STADIUM is a smart new build, similar to Derby County's Pride Park which was built around the same time. It has an all-seated 34,000 capacity and as you would expect, views and legroom are excellent. The tea bar at the ground is pretty decent and a good opportunity to try the local speciality of a Parmo. I didn't check out the bars in the ground, the only booze at the tea bar was Fosters. There are a few food places near the ground, mainly pop up stalls. The town is a 20-minute walk away and has a good range of outlets, including two Wetherspoons. The Resolution is a good example and has live games on big screens. When I stayed in Middlesbrough before, the Chairman was an excellent small, independent pub. Other than that, there are a huge range of takeaways and pubs. Overall, it's a great and friendly town and club to visit.


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