ANOTHER chance to see: a blast from the archives….
INCREDIBLY it was 21 years ago today that 34,000 emotional Teessiders made the long-awaited first ever pilgrimage to Wembley. And it was fantastic. Boro were second Division relegation strugglers with the boss booted out just a fortnight before, and we were about to take the football world by storm.
March 25, 1990 was the delirious day a collective schoolboy dream came true.
It was a brilliant weekend that, back then, was the pinnacle of the club’s achievement and a landmark moment in the cultural history of Boro fans.
It may well have been a tournament mainly identified with one of Walt Disney’s most popular cartoon rodents, and one that today even fans of the clubs who won it can barely remember, but at the time Boro fans didn’t care.
We were going to Wembley. It was our first ever sniff of the national stadium and we made sure we extracted every last fluid possibility of glamour. Medical experts were flown in from big clubs to deal with outbreaks of ‘cup final fever’, a previously unknown debilitating mental condition that caused wild-eyed zealotry and foaming at the mouth.
There were cup final mugs, souvenir fanzines and even a hastily knocked-up special cup final shirt that looked like it had been designed by the YTS lad at Jack Hatfield’s on the back of a betting slip.
The first come, first served distribution – no three years season card with bonus plaque, red book/white book caste system, no Pride Cards… not even that many season ticket holders then – ensured chaotic queues that snaked from Ayresome Park up Kensington Road and along Linthorpe Road as far as the Village from the East End ticket booths and along Ayresome Street and back along Roman Road past the General Hospital gates from the Warwick Street ticket office.
The Sunday morning queue started in the early hours as ‘the lads’ – the working class hardcore from the estates who used to dominate the Holgate demographic – headed to the ground after chucking out time at the Maddison and Claggy Mat.
They were soon joined by early bird ra-ras (I got there at sparrow fart and joined at the Acklam Road junction) then other die-hards, and those who had frantically flown in from London and Dubai and offshore, part-timers, former fans determined not to miss out, then kids and nanas and those who had never been to a game but were whipped up in the rising hysteria. And barely a replica shirt to be seen.
By seven, two hours before the tickets went on sale, the bobbies arrived to control crowds and prevent pushing in and fisticuffs.
Somehow, with a mopping up operation and the ripple down of word of mouth mates’ mate spares, everyone got a ticket and Teesside descended on London en masse for the first time amid some confusion, as the clocks had gone forward that morning and coaches and cars and trains were in disarray as people raced around the town bleary-eyed and unwashed.
A beery vanguard had already set up base camp in the capital. We took over the West End, sat drinking cans on the lions in Trafalagar Square and chanting at bemused tourists on their way back from Les Mis, or any of the big shows.
And then, for the first time, we streamed up Wembley Way gazing in awe at that mythical Venue of Legends. Fantastic. A dream come true. Then we found out it was a crumbling hole with cracked bench seats, poor sight lines, rusty metalwork and streams of wee running through the concourses. That’s the glamour of the cup!
Injured Mogga led out the team – cruelly denied his chance to play – and we gave it a decent shot. We sang our hearts out for the lads and poured out our pride while Boro battled bravely and had the lion’s share of the game but very few real chances only to go down to a free-kick by Tony Dorigo.
Yet it felt like we had won. We were the jubilant ones doing all the singing and dancing while the bored Chelsea fans who begrudged even being there for such a mundane event ambled off moaning about hassle on the tube.
“Just because some bloke in blue scored a goal it doesn’t mean we lost” proclaimed Monday’s Gazette. Naive days. Now we would be demanding blood.
At the time – with cash strapped Boro only four years out of liquidation and still battling bravely against a return to Division Three – only the insane would have predicted cup final queues becoming a regular feature in our club culture.
After waiting 114 years for the first national final, the next big day out in London was comparatively short – and then cup finals came like buses. In 1997 there were two finals in six weeks with another outing less than a year later. Since then we have also queued for Cardiif, for a string of semi-finals and for Eindhoven, often with the same chaotic scenes but with localised added hurt as season ticket priority has not always delivered on its promise for all. It may be a while before we have to worry about that again.
But we should not forget the humdrum non-event of the ZDS Cup final. You never forget your first time.
Here’s the only footage I can find. I have got a tape of the full three hours on the then new fangled Sky Sports. Maybe I’ll transfer it to YouTube in the long summer months.
This is the original Tyne Tees report. Clearly it wasn’t though worth sending a camera crew down to Wembley.