“It’s HIGNETT! And the Premier League can throw open its doors and welcome Middlesbrough”– 1998 vs Oxford
“The referee says that is enough, history has been made at the Millennial Stadium! 128 years in the making, 128 years of hurt, but we never stopped believing!”Ali Brownlee 2004 vs Bolton
“Boro are back, Middlesbrough’s Premier League exile is over…”2016 vs Brighton
The good times, the memories, the nostalgia.
The moments of sheer ecstasy that we have associated with Middlesbrough Football club over the last 25 years.
The days of ‘Juninho, Sao Paulo, Brazil’ and Emerson (and most recently Karanka, Ramirez and Valdes) going AWOL are behind us and we’ve stumbled across a huge transitional period ever since.
After the exciting 90s, Steve McClaren did the unthinkable and brought more success to the club than Bryan Robson ever did and brought the Boro their first ever trophy as well as a European adventure which will be in the memory of many Boro fans until their dying days.
But since then the decline of Middlesbrough Football Club has been quite surreal. The money has come and gone and come again.
We’ve had six permanent managers (excluding Steve Agnew), a near relegation to League One and only a mere three seasons in the so-called ‘top flight’ since McClaren’s departure.
It’s a new era for Middlesbrough Football Club.
It’s probably not as good as watching Juninho play but it’s a new era. It’s an era with a big elephant in the room and no one has really addressed it.
There’s something not right at the football club. And I think this has been going for a long time too.
The dwindling crowds, the moan and groans, the “I’m not coming back until he leaves” has been going on for the last 10-12 years. Even Steve McClaren at one point got a season ticket thrown at him and that was the most successful period in the clubs history.
But over the last 10-12 years, we’ve seen Southgate, Strachan (shivers), Mowbray, Karanka, Monk and Pulis and each manager has one thing in common. The crowds have stayed away for the majority of their reigns.
That means something is broken at the football club.
Times are hard, we’ve had double-dip recessions, the price of living has gone up along with unemployment in the area, we’ve lost our steel to a degree and I’m yet to see this ‘Northern Powerhouse’ take shape.
But I don’t think this is the reason as to why we’ve lost 10,000 fans every home game.
I appreciate the style of football can play a huge part but I feel there’s a distance between the fans and the football club at the minute.
When Gibson rescued the club in 1986 he brought togetherness and ‘Teesside steel’ back to the club and to the town. The Boro became the town’s heartbeat and every Saturday was about the football and nothing else.
However, the club and football, in general, has changed since then. It’s become commercialised over the last few years and the potential football clubs have to grow financially is incredible.
TV deal after TV deal, the use of social media and the additional investment with kit/sponsorship will make football teams in the top two divisions (if not already) multi-million pound organisations.
It’s become all about the money and not about the fans.
Football would be nothing without fans, it wouldn’t. Fans make moments special.
If you don’t believe me, would Maccarone’s header against Steaua be fondly remembered in front of an empty stadium? Would Southgate lifting the Carling Cup mean anything if the fans weren’t there to see it happen? Would Juninho be renowned for having a ‘magic hat’ and would Stuani’s goal against Brighton mean anything to anyone if no one was there to see it?
There’s a huge groan and moan at the Riverside at the moment, a selection of fans are fed up about style and poor performances but even if we were playing scintillating football do you really think there would be a sell out every week? I don’t think there would be.
The club needs to come together with the fans again, it has distanced itself from its own fans and is trying to sell itself as a middle-class club.
A prime example of that is selling a third kit for £75. The Boro created 1986 shirts and they didn’t sell out.
But that’s not it, their social media is monotone and never engages with fans. They hike the prices up on something every weekend and season tickets are at an all-time high.
They’ve lost their connection and it’s a real shame.
I love the club and going to matches has helped me overcome dark times in my life. It’s a club I’ll always support and follow regardless as to where I end up because it’s in the blood.
The club should look at German clubs and even English rugby clubs and build the club around the fans.
We need to bring this togetherness back off the pitch to help make a success on it.
I appreciate you may think the style of football may come into play, but it’s never really been about that. If a Boro player gives 110% we tend to give it back.