IN KEEPING with the nostalgia overload on Teesside on this auspicious day, I have been rifling through the vaults for pre-enjoyed articles celebrating our day of glory at Cardiff.
The Boro website have a highlights package of Carling Cup final match action that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck while gazettelive have an excellent slide show that captures the colour and passion of the 40,000 strong Red Army there on tha glorious day and the aftermath back home, while today’s paper is full of features, memories and analysis of the impact of Boro’s Great Leap Forward. Even Fly Me To The Moon have reproduced their home page lead article from the following day, in which I get a namecheck.
On top of that, here’s the Gazette’s back page stories the following day in which graceful loser Fat Sam blamed everyone bar the CIA and six foot shape- shifting lizards for his defeat and triumphant boss Steve McClaren hailed his heroes. And not to be left out, here’s another chance to read what I hammered out live and direct from the Millenium Stadium press box through a teary haze of alliterative adjective heavy emotional hyperbole:
WHITE HOT iron, red hot steel… Boro have finally brought the silver back to Teesside, writes ANTHONY VICKERS.
The 128 barren years of painful mediocrity and fruitless dreaming and those sickening Ã¢ÂÂtypical BoroÃ¢ÂÂ kicks in the teeth are over and a glorious new golden age beckons.
And how could Boro have possibly failed to succeed this time urged on, as they were, by an awesome wave of tangible passion that almost blew the roof off the Millennium Stadium?
Rarely can a structure have had to withstand such an intense sonic boom as the aural explosion of emotion that greeted the final whistle and echoed again and again in the aftermath of a historic communal celebration of Teesside pride.
The fabulous red and white army were in ecstasy, mind-spinning, heart-soaring, dream-fulfilling ecstasy – and they made sure the entire nation heard the roar.
Television cannot convey the tangible wall of red and white noise that the Borotastic Teesside travelling army generated as they cranked the volume up to 11 as their club finally came of age.
The anxiously awaited whistle – this was Boro after all! – was greeted with the jubilant full-throated claim that Boro were Ã¢ÂÂthe finest team in football the world has ever seenÃ¢Â? – and for once there was the sweet, shiny proof to wave under the noses of all those who have sneered and doubted.
The spontaneous post-match Pigbag was the collective hymn of victory, a flag-waving, tear-jerking affirmation of faith, a communal celebration of long awaited success that will become the stuff of legend.
The air-punching Southgate Salute, cheered to the rafters, rammed home the emphatic message that Boro were now up there with the big boys.
The tribalistic taunt of the neighbours in the gloating chant Ã¢ÂÂAre you watching, Newcastle?Ã¢Â? reinforced the now obvious pride at being the first team in the North-east to bring back a trophy in over 30 years
And the poignant, insistent chorus of Ã¢ÂÂOne Stevie GibsonÃ¢Â? showed that the supporters of this club were very much aware that the Brave New World that beckons is chiefly down to the drive and vision of the uber-fan and chairman.
Steve Gibson deserves to see his club succeed for his massive personal investment – but so do the fans for their equally hefty unconditional emotional investment over those long bleak years with little dividend.
The sweet taste of triumph is a long awaited payback for all those desolate trips back from Wembley and all the near misses that have teased us for generations.
And as usual, the Boro fans played a blinder.
We were louder, brighter, more colourful, more insistent than Bolton.
We wanted it more.
Boro fans had done the big day out, the gasps of awe at the impressive stadium and the Ã¢ÂÂitÃ¢ÂÂs nice just to be hereÃ¢Â? routine. This time Boro were steely and single-minded. This time we were here to win.
And it had been the same for the whole weekend as a determined Boro army occupied Cardiff to carve out their territory. Bolton fans were there, but in smaller numbers, and strangely muted.
Boro were everywhere. Boro were loud and proud, visible everywhere in Cardiff.
The heart and soul of the Boro, the Teesside Embassy in the Principality, was the Gatekeeper, a gigantic cavern of a pub 50 yards from the entrance to the Boro end with ample room to drape banners and acoustics perfect for belting out all the terrace favourites.
A thousand shirts of every design – Heritage Hampers ZDS specials, Dickens, Evening Gazette and ICI as well as newer models – merged in a sea of red united in the conviction that victory was imminent. Among the banners was one that said simply Ã¢ÂÂErimusÃ¢Â? – the town’s Latin motto which means Ã¢ÂÂWe Will BeÃ¢ÂÂ – in a bold statement of intent.
Just before kick-off that prescient banner rippled across the back of the North Stand.
Nearby was the Come On Boro mega-banner, the biggest in the country, designed and funded on the Internet by the resurgent Red Ultras of the PeopleÃ¢ÂÂs’Ã¢ÂÂ Republic of Teesside.
There were banners that proclaimed Ã¢ÂÂSmoggies on TourÃ¢Â? and Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂve Only Come For the Fresh AirÃ¢Â?; banners that declared the owners to be Reds from Billingham, Derby, Perth, Yarm and even from just down the road in Gwent. There were the flags of BoroÃ¢ÂÂs League of Nations squad: French, Italian, Brazilian, Cameroon and even Basque.
The Boro crowd were a magnificent spectacle in a magnificent arena.
Under the roof, with sunlight breaking through the corners the eerie atmosphere was added to by the billowing smoke left by the pre-match pyrotechnics.
Almost immediately the Red Army sent the decible level soaring as Boro got off with two goals in seven minutes. But, as usual, they were put through agonies as a dream start threatened to almost turn into a nightmare.
When Frandsen hit the post, the roof almost came down as the intake of breath from 30,000 plus Boro fans fearing a Ã¢ÂÂtypical BoroÃ¢ÂÂ moment created a vacuum for a split-second. And there were further scares as Bolton pressed forward.
But there was no spoiling the long-awaited Boro party.
During the long pregnant four minutes of added time, the emotional intensity was almost unbearable. Airhorns hummed, whistles grew more urgent, Boro fans hopped from foot to foot in gleeful anticipation… then, Cardiff exploded in a wave of pure unadulterated long-overdue and well-deserved pleasure.
THERE is generally a certain gentlemanly decorum and studied objectivity about the match day press box. It is frowned upon to jump up and punch the air while screaming Ã¢ÂÂgerrinthereyoueffingbeauty.Ã¢ÂÂ
Stuff that. This was BoroÃ¢ÂÂs Carling Cup Day Ã¢ÂÂ Cardiff, February 29, 2004.
I was buzzing. I had my smoggy badge and Boro socks on. I was bursting with Teesside pride and passion. I wanted to win.
The professionally aloof tabloid rat pack may have directed icy looks as the laptop, notebook and all sense of journalistic detachment went flying roofwards in a glorious EIO after One JobÃ¢ÂÂs goal. So what?
And when BoloÃ¢ÂÂs second goal went in, I turned to the assembled ranks of hacks to scream something unintelligible which meant Ã¢ÂÂstick that up your ignorant, poisonous anti-Boro pipes.Ã¢Â?
Undignified behaviour, I know, yet strangely satisfying.
The whole day was fantastic. The whole weekend. Boro were fantastic. But how fantastic were the fans! It was a privilege to be part of the 36,000-strong Red and White Army.
Cardiff was worth every penny Ã¢ÂÂ and more. For all those who stood by the club through dark days of liquidation and relegation, victory was an affirmation of the faith.
And for all those who never made it despite years of yearning, both players and fans Ã¢ÂÂ the likes of Wilf Mannion, Willie Maddren, Harold Shepherdson, Mike McCullogh, John Ovington, Fred Appleton, David Bingham, Tim Lloyd, Ken Sigsworth and thousands of others Ã¢ÂÂ the victory is a poignant tribute.