IT IS 25 years since bankrupt Boro called in the liquidators.
An unbalanced and demoralised team had slipped meekly into the third division in front of collapsing crowds and the board had been unable to tackle the debts that had steadily spiralled out of control towards the then crippling Â£2m mark. The post-Wolves watershed firesale and Charlie Amer’s sports hall folly had come home to roost.
With few assets – few of the team were saleable – and a summer without gate income looming (an no TV cash in the pipeline) things looked bleak. Boro were dead men walking. There was a stench of death about Ayresome Park.
On May 21st 1986 the club called in the liquidators and were put into a corporate controlled coma as a small group of determined individuals set about saving the day. It was to be a traumatic summer that would shape our psyches and underpin our thinking for decades as a re-engineered club set about a great escape and spectacular revival.
We talked about the impact of liquidation and the galvanising, bonding power of the subsequent fairytale climb back to the top table last week when looking at the emotional impact of the Gary Parkinson dinner. No doubt we will discuss that dramatic summer of 1986 in depth over the next few months as the 25th anniversary of that crucial game at Hartlepool looms in August.
We all know that 1986 still has traction. We measure our progress from that point rather than the Tripe Supper. How much though?
Some questions: How did you feel? Did you think we had gone for good? What if the kids had not been good enough? What if Rioch had walked away? What if the cash could not have been raised? What is Henry hadn’t answered the advert in the Times? Where would we be now? Other clubs have had brushes with the abyss – Wolves, Bristol, Aldershot – but none have come out fighting with such spirit and such success. What made Boro different? How close did we actually come to being erased from history? What would you have done? Support a revived Northern League club or walk away for good? How important has the club’s renewed vigour been to Teesside and to you personally? What were the most important ingredients – board, players, the gaffer or the fans? Will we ever expereince such emotional unity ever again?
A few things to ponder over the next few days while I am recharging the batteries.
Watch out for my big in-depth interviews with Mogga this coming week. He tackles his philosophy, his quest to liberate players from the shackles of coaching, his evolution as a coach, how he has always been emotionally wired into Boro – but how he never dared to dream he would ever manage them. I think it is going Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday.