There’s something broken at Boro & it’s driving the fans away

“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.

A fan throws his season ticket at then manager Steve McClaren

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?

Cristhian Stuani celebrating with the Boro fans following the promotion clinching draw against Brighton

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.

3 thoughts on “There’s something broken at Boro & it’s driving the fans away

  1. I totally agree with this article. Having given up my season ticket around a decade ago now, I can’t justify spending so much to go and support the team I love. TV money makes ticket sales irrelevant (especially with such low attendances). I was lead to believe that the cost of policing games was what kept ticket prices high, but I’m sure if we had reasonably priced tickets to entice fans back, you would see an improvement on the pitch.

    Players seem to lift their game when the fans are up for it, but the club doesn’t do anything to inspire the fans any more. I don’t think it’s doing any favours that you can now watch all midweek championship games live on Sky. I predict this will encourage many more to give up their season tickets next year if we are still in the championship (Especially those with kids, who can let them see it on the TV and get them to bed at a reasonable time.)

    I’d love to see the club massively reduce ticket prices and fill the stadium every game, generating some atmosphere and injecting some life into a team who would then know who they are playing for and can see and hear how much it means to them.

    UTB!

    1. Interesting to see that a club like Huddersfield (a working class town not a city) has significantly cheaper season ticket prices, even during their premiership seasons, than MFC and they have a relatively full ground, great atmosphere and play attractive football, even now in the bottom 3… MFC have taken the piss out of loyal fans for a decade or more, dining out on European glory days…but that’s all in the past. We need to get real, and start again, thinking a operating like the club that emerged from the 80’s and grew “with” its fans rather than thinking we have a god given right to be in the Prem. get real, get back to basics, clear out most of the players and management team, and enjoy being a football club loved by its local supporters… and if that’s in the championship, that’s nothing to be ashamed of…

    2. Best article I have read in a long time, the club is all about business now & doesn’t belong to the fans anymore.
      There is a blatant disconnect when the players criticise the fans for showing passion- where is the passion on the pitch?
      Clayton has the gall to criticise fans who scrimp & save to go watch this team then goes home to quaff vintage champagne at a birthday party and places it all over social media – there are too many rotten egg big time Charlie’s in that dressing room who couldn’t give a damn about the fans, the area or the badge they wear on their chest – the message to you prima donnas is do not come to an area of hard working honest ppl and expect to not put a dishonest days graft in – we simply won’t stand for it – we work hard for our money & expect no less from you!.
      We know that the fare served up is awful from Pulis but we went into this open eyed – we knew how he played with his tactics of a lone striker & everybody else keeping the ball away from our goal but we accepted it (wrongly).
      The tactics need to change to entertain the crowd – that is all we ask play some attractive football & we will give you our hearts, our souls & our undying loyalty – we only ask for the same in return when that crest is on your chest.

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