Behind The Scenes At Rockliffe With Blog VIP ‘Forever Dormo’

BLOG regular Forever Dormo was whisked around swanky Rockliffe Park earlier this week as Boro invited some of their most masochistic fans – those who pay for their season tickets three years in advance with no get out clause or escape hatch – to have a look behind the scenes of what is a fantastic facility.
He wrote up his report and posted it on the comments of the last blog bit but as the debate was fizzling out a lot of people may have missed it. It deserves a wider audience so I’ve nicked it, polished it, inserted a few photos and hey… job done. It is well worth a read. Not just for the physical descriptions but for how it picks up on the mood music within the club.
Read on….

Forever Dormo wrote:
Hello chaps! Been busy lately, but I have just taken some time off work to go on one of the “three-year season-ticket holders events” at Rockliffe. Thought I’d let you know what sort of things go on there.
Put to one side for the moment the nature and scale of the training facilities, and the amount of money that must have been sunk into it. Put aside thoughts about the 5-Star hotel development at Rockliffe Hall, and the golf course that lies right next door.
The whole event was meant as something of a “thank you” to those who lay out three years’ season ticket money in one lump. But in reality, everyone who has spent that amount is probably a fairly committed supporter so the club was preaching to the converted anyway. We’d have been back to the Riverside, finances permitting, without the “thank you”, because it’s what we do.
So, what did the visit to Rockliffe entail? Arriving at 10am we were shown up to the players’ restaurant. A cup of tea or coffee and a Danish pastry (if you wanted) whilst the arrangements for the day were explained. Then it was a guided tour of the facilities there.
We had time to look at the team photos on the way downstairs (look how many England players in different age-groups in one photo, and work out the value of those players and number of Premier League and other league games played by them).
Down to the First Team dressing room…the size of it, the fact that each player has his own alcove…marvel at how many pairs of boots and trainers Varga has stored under his seat…look at the showers, baths, what looks like a jacuzzi, and where ice-bath torture is meted out. Apparently bruising might mean an ice bath then a hot bath, then ice again (etc etc), which is said to speed up recovery. Yeah…and they’ll be telling us next that the world is a geoid. Pride of place in the changies is the de-luxe hamster cage, but the animal remained well hidden somewhere inside.
I apologise if someone’s camera lens failed to survive taking photo of me sitting in Lee Tomlin’s dressing-room alcove.
The corridors outside are painted with motivational slogans. I don’t guarantee that this is 100% accurate, but things like “Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and fans will remember your name on the back” and “blood, sweat and respect – shed the first two and you’ll earn the third” etc.
The Boot Room! You’ve never seen so many boots. My guest and I had a discussion about which players might have to buy their own boots and which might have a sponsorship deal. We were given to understand that young apprentices/trainees are no longer forced to clean the players’ boots but many of them are happy to do so (no doubt for a very nice present at Christmas).
Off to the treatment room with some high tech kit, and Bryn Morris probably bemused to find a group of people watching him lie on a treatment table with a strap round his left thigh, attached to the mains (not sure whether it was delivering electric shocks to the muscle or heat, or throbbing away to excite the muscle but he was taking it like a man).
The gym had the usual weights, cycling machines, cross-trainers etc and a few hardy souls working in there. There was a sheet, rather like a school timetable for the week, showing work for Woody to carry out, no doubt to concentrate on specific areas.
We’d already seen the physio/sports science room with the biggest and tallest running treadmill you’ve ever seen, so a particularly tall centre-back would have hit his head on the ceiling if it hadn’t been raised in the middle, above the machine. Most of the electric sockets there were at ceiling height, so players below could be attached to some electric machine or other whilst undergoing the work, or treatment, or measurement, that was being carried out.
We walked into what looked like an outdoor pitch, but inside. Made with a form of astroturf it would be ideal for playing hockey, and it had a viewing gallery for parents and others to watch whoever might be playing or training there. Like an aeroplane hangar with goalposts at each end, it was colder than the rest of the buildings, and led outside to the training pitches.
The first-team squad was being put through its paces in the mist outside and one of the pitches they weren’t using, with a billiard table surface and closely cropped grass, it would have been an even better hockey pitch than the indoor one. The groundsman must have a lot of work to do – there are LOADS of full-sized and smaller pitches outside. I’m far too loyal a supporter to say who looked better in training and who didn’t, but we arrived near the close of the training session then made our way back inside. Danny Graham is very good at holding doors open.
We trooped inside for a warming cuppa and Danish pastry in the parents’ room in the “academy side” of the building.
We then had a visit to the Press Room, which doubles as a classroom for scholars at the club. An opportunity was taken to have a photo or two in the seat (on a raised dais with tables/counter in front, and the usual sponsors’ signs behind) that might be used by the manager, or by Steve Gibson when presenting a new signing. We were told the press conferences are normally there on Thursday lunchtimes(?).
There was a counter around the three walls of the Press Room (the dais being the fourth “side”), and computer connections so Press laptops could be set up. I was surprised at how small the room is. Smaller than my living room, it must be packed out when major announcements are made to the assembled Press.
Aitor Karanka and Higgy came in and said a few words, the manager being interrupted by a visit from a group of players, and the assembled mass of three year season-ticket holders had the opportunity to take photos of them, or selfies of themselves and players or to persuade someone else to take a photo. Kei Kamara was there (does he ALWAYS smile – seems a nice chap) and Tomas Meijas amongst others.
I saw Ayala elsewhere in the building and what a visit like this teaches you is that very few players are 5ft 8inches tall. Another thing is that whilst, to be fair, being pleasant and talking for 10 or 15 minutes or so to a group of strangers may not be the most arduous of tasks faced by a man, the players seemed to be perfectly amiable and happy to oblige. However the manager and Higgy obviously bent over backwards to make sure anyone who wanted a brief chat, or a photo, got one. Really good PR.
We went into an academy changing room and had a chance to listen to Peter Hood (head of Sports Science which has pleasingly been resurrected at the club, and from whom we had heard briefly in the earlier part of the tour), from the Head of Education and Welfare about the way in which young scholars and trainees are handled and brought through the system, and from Gordon Cox about the Press and similar activities undertaken including the production of the matchday programme.
After all that, and I will have missed out some because no notes were taken and I am growing forgetful, we went back upstairs to the players restaurant for a late lunch at about 2.20pm. Three course meal, no less, and very good quality. You should not expect anytime soon to hear that any Boro players have died through lack of food.
We had an eye-opener about the extent to which stats and science are used. Players with GPS devices attached during training so the distances, speeds etc can be measured and compared. If injured, and the player is coming back to fitness, the player’s stats can be compared with what he was doing before the injury took place. The information about the efforts made to teach, train, and make progress with academy members was very interesting.
The various members of staff were very helpful and friendly: those guiding us round, the catering staff, the cleaning and the laundry staff all seemed to be getting on with their work with genuine enthusiasm. It was suggested that the people there all feel is if they are being paid for working at a hobby. It was good to hear from a colleague of Billy Day, Cloughie and Alan Peacock and of other players in the 1950s/60s. They didn’t have these training facilities in those days.
All in all I am absolutely convinced that everyone on the tour had a really good time. This was a very good exercise by the club, and that view is in no way influenced by the fact that I won a prize in a draw at the end of the visit (one that I very much look forward to “using”).
MEANWHILE, Saturday sees the return of the Mac.
Our most succesful ever manager was begrudingly slow hand-clapped out of town in 2006, not least by those who would have preferred a public show trial and had long nursed their lengthy charge sheet against him: playing weak side, playing one up front to basement battlers, angling for his next big job, disdain for the public, glib ‘magnificent’ post match comments… shiny teeth. His transgressions were many.
For all his success he was never loved. And never given full credit for his achievements. And even at the moments of glory acknowledgment was only given in some quarters through gritted teeth. I have always felt sorry for those poor tortured sould that sniped all the way through a golden age and moaned about the boss right across Europe.
However, he has been rehabilitated by the passage of time and the harsh reality that his successors have failed and the club has slowly slithered back from his high water mark.
In the Gazette this week we have had some reflection on his time in charge. Philip Tallentire looked at how he grabbed the club by the throat and reorganised Robbo’s unbalanced squad and set about rebuilding. And Bernie Slaven recalled that his football and his public persona wasn’t always popular.
Both agree though that he should and will get a warm reception at the Riverside. What say you? Has time – and Boro’s subsequent drift – been kind to Steve McClaren and his legacy? Was he just “lucky” at Boro?
Is it time for a revisionist view of his time in charge? Is it time to say ‘thanks?’ And mean it.


19 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes At Rockliffe With Blog VIP ‘Forever Dormo’

  1. I don’t care if McClaren was lucky or that he wasn’t as media savvy as ‘Arry or Holloway. The fact of the matter is that he delivered what I had craved for as a supporter, success, silverware and the chance to travel to places in Europe that I would never have visited without my team playing there.
    For that I will be eternally gratefully to him and those that helped achieve it.
    I will stand to applaud the guy, it is the least he deserves.

  2. I was about to write my thanks to Dormo on the previous blog before this was posted – great entry to read FD and good to see that the club are continuing to roll out thoughtful snippets of PR.
    On McClaren, I suspect that “time – and Boro’s subsequent drift”, as AV puts it, have indeed thawed the icy stand-off between him and many fans. Some wanted him back after (and, indeed, during) Mowbray’s time which tells it’s on own story.
    My own view is that his football was too often uninspiring, that he had Steve Gibson’s best years in terms of financial backing and that his open ambitions for his own career were irksome and disrespectful.
    More frustrating still was that his single minded short-termism left us with an ageing and expensive squad that couldn’t be sustained. That, of course, was permitted by those above him but McClaren’s loyalties lay so obviously with himself. Despite results (not all of which were good) he was a hard man to like at times.
    I don’t believe that the “subsequent drift” was inevitable, but McClaren contributed to it and his Boro legacy is one of both great success and laying the foundations for future failure.
    He did achieve results though – better results than we’ve had before or since and better than we’re likely to have again. You have to respect that and should he receive a round of applause on his Riverside return it would not be undeserved.
    An enduring but unendearing character in modern Boro history.

  3. McClaren is unquestionably the most successful manager in the history of the club. That’s why it’s so strange that he is not loved and worshipped by everybody.
    Didn’t Gibbo once say that if McClaren said that grass was green he would go outside to check?
    **AV writes: He did indeed. Gibbo was stung by his flirtations with Newcastle and Leeds and their personal relationship started to break down. The contract wrangling over the last year or so was very messy.

  4. Interesting post Dormo and congratulations on your Hospitality prize – though it sounds like some fancy footwork was required with your wife to avoid it turning into a Hospital prize.
    Our Champions League facilities are probably not really sustainable for a mid-table Championship team – so let’s hope Boro get it right on the pitch next season. It sounds like our attack may have finally discovered how to play 4-2-3-1, though some cynics may say that it’s always easier to play once there’s no real pressure on the results anymore.

  5. Forever Dormo –
    Great piece on the Rockcliffe visit, Pretty much the same happened on my visit there except surprisingly there was no one on the treatment table on the day I was there.
    A Good PR exercise from the club to give some of the fans an insight into what goes on in the week leading up to match days,and to view the fantastic facilities.
    One of the guys who spoke to us said some of the young academy players don’t realise how good they have it and its only when they get sent out on loan that they realise what they risk losing if they don’t up their game.
    AV –
    I think that’s what partly turned the fans against Steve Mac,the rumours about him going for the Newcastle and Leeds jobs. You can’t knock the success he brought us but you always felt he was just using Middlesbrough as a stepping stone to better things.
    The fact that he also lined up the England job and it was made public before the UEFA cup final didnt go down with the fans too well either. Wasn’t great timing. I’m sure he wanted to win the UEFA Cup but he knew it didn’t make any difference to his career one way or the other. He already had his dream job to go to.
    Funny how things turned out that season. It could have been so different for him if our season hadn’t picked up after the fan threw his season ticket at him during the 4-0 home defeat to Villa. We next beat Chelsea and went on to the FA cup semi final as well as the UEFA cup final.
    He never came across as a very sincere person to me and stories I’ve heard from people in the game about how everything even down to his post match press interviews are rehearsed,nothing was spontaneous with him, he was too concerned with his public image!

  6. I am not surprised by Forever’s trip. Any dealings I have had directly with club employees have been very good.
    Many years ago we were up for a family funeral and I took my son for our first look at the Riverside and buy tickets for a match at Derby. Popped in to reception and they give us a quick tour of the ground.
    Shirt and ticket and my lad was infected, until then he was just a lad who liked football with a dad who suffered from peculiar mood swings.
    On to McMoses. Never quite loved him but my views on him were coloured by a match at the Baggies.
    We were too close to the relegation zone but were comfortably leading 2-0 at half-time. Our defence was in slippers reading the papers, JFH and Viduka had their defence on toast.
    Just over the hour mark and they went down to ten men. Mac’s response was to take a striker off and play 451. They threw Davies up top and just launched it bypassing midfield.
    We were penned in but got away with it.
    He was going to leave in the summer whether he got the England job or not. The rebuild was on he cards, the league form was poor, just over a point a game for 18 months, expensive ageing squad.
    Oddly I wish him well at Derby, he seems a different manager now. If Leicester and Derby went up it would be a blow, local matches gone.

  7. Great post, Dormo. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to report back.
    Spot on comments all round on McClaren, too. A likeable enough guy on a personal level, and I personally witnessed acts of great kindness and consideration. For his achievements he certainly deserves an ovation on Saturday.
    But his own CV always seemed to be paramount in his mind, and his treatment of TLF, and clean-sheet obsession frequently had me fuming. He has fallen on his feet at Derby. Young Cloughie was finally getting his reward for bringing through some promising young players, and I, for one, fancied them for a play-off place under his management.

  8. Dormo –
    facinating description. I could really see you touring at Rockcliffe. Even without the pictures AV has added.
    Mind, I have been to Rockcliffe myself. As I am not local, they have shown me the place around. So I have seen the places Dormo told us about. I really think that this is a family club and always helpful.
    The same has happened at Riverside. And Navi. The club and the fans are just fabulous. Let’s hope we get back to the PL and see some more fans at the stadium. That is what Steve G and the fans deserve. Up the Boro!

  9. Good post Dormo.
    I was also fortunate enough to be invited along and had a similarly positive experience. The only things I would add are that, George Friend is a very nice bloke, Albert Adomah is a seriously nice bloke and that it was little surprise that the mirror in Seb Hines’ alcove is broken. Explains a lot about his injury record.

  10. Len –
    The upturn in Derby’s form had been coming. The problem had been their defending at home. They had a set way of playing but were nearly as leaky as us.
    Mac tightened that up and unsurprisingly they haven’t looked back.
    I guess they are half a season ahead of us.
    **AV writes: And a 20 goal a season striker in Chris Martin (not that one.)

  11. So the difference is that Derby have Chris Martin in attack – whereas Boro have been playing most of the season with a conscious uncoupling of the front two.

  12. Nice one, Werdermouth!
    I hope we have a nice respectful round of applause for McClaren, before we take his team apart. Here’s hoping…

  13. I have full respect for what Sheetevee achieved at Boro. His time was coming to an end though. Burnt some bridges, others were burnt behind him.
    Finally winning a Cup and a European cup final plus the other Brucie bonuses. Full credit.
    Watching two solid banks of four with no-one spring forwards. The ball passed round a flank triangle, pressed, ball back to the Rb or CB, repeat the triangle, back to RB or CB then hoofed forwards. How many times did this happen? Ball lost, opposition pressing forwards again.
    I remember watching a game on TV and we weren’t playing that well. The opposition fans sang McClaren for England, taking the mickey, and the Boro fans sang McClaren for England even louder, in unison, clearly in hope.
    Had he stayed maybe things would have been different, however the team wasn’t planned for another four years. The mercs either upped and left or finally got shot and put down.

  14. Great Post Dormo –
    Good to see the Club get a bit of positive PR on the back of it as well.
    Regarding Mac, like him or loathe him (I don’t think there is any in between sentiment towards him) he achieved more with the club than any other manager in our history. Granted being in the right place at the right time in history always helps but he did achieve more than Robbo who arguably had the same resources at his disposal.
    What he left us with was what was required to achieve what we achieved, he didn’t personally write the cheques for the players or discuss contracts and lets face it if in our own jobs we could recruit apprentices or trainees or seasoned experienced craftsmen with a proven pedigree and your directors were behind you I think we would all have made the same choice.
    The only difference perhaps is timescale and that it was all short term planning but lets be realistic, what football manager nowadays can do anything but short term planning, 18 months is a long stint at some clubs.
    For me his persona was one of his weak points but there again we were appointing a manager not a HR person. Likeability is a desirable asset but scores low on the rating criteria for a manager.
    Had Mogga not been one of our own and with previous history that we knew and understood he possibly could have been regarded as dour and direct. To me Mogga is typically Teesside and we accepted that.
    Mac was an outsider but he stayed in the area long after he left Boro so that perhaps tells you what he genuinely feels for the area and its populus. I used to see him regularly on the KLM Amsterdam/Teesside flight long after his England sojourn so he definitely made roots here.
    I think he deserves a polite and respectful round of applause. His main points of contention seems to be that he wanted to advance his career, is that so wrong or so bad?
    Had he personally not been so desperate to succeed we may never have seen Cardiff or Eindhoven. Having ambition is not something we should use as a stick, most of us here have it and lets face it how many managers take charge of clubs who have ambition, not many in my book.
    The football management profession has a huge list of Journeymen go anywhere Managers who will rise to mediocrity at best and take their pay day and go when like most they fail to deliver or live up to unrealistic expectations.

  15. Redcar Red –
    I don’t think anyone can be peeved at Steve McClaren for having ambition. In fact, that was probably one of the reasons he was hired in the first place and the same goes for Karanka.
    But there is a respectful way to seek a “bigger” job, and then there was the Steve McClaren way.
    As Ian Gill said though, he seems a different character these days and perhaps the lows at England, Wolfsburg, Forest and Twente (in his second stint) have changed his outlook. We’ll see.
    He still deserves praise and respect from Boro fans but it speaks volumes that the man who delivered our first trophy, highest ever Premier League finish and a UEFA Cup final is not held in the same regard as, say, Bruce Rioch.

  16. Andy R –
    Indeed not the same regard as Rioch. Or Charlton. Or probably Robson as well.
    Mac is respected for his achievements but not his behaviour.
    If I was there on Saturday I wouldn’t boo the man, but nor would I applaud him.

  17. Andy R –
    If my memory serves me right Mac did not endear himself to certain members of the press with briefings through favourites.
    **AV writes: He had no time for the local press. Not that he was hostile, he just didn’t see what they were for. If he wanted to release a story he shaped it himself through a nominated national writer (Paul McCarthy of the People). He learned that from Fergie. I think ithat has cost him at clubs where he has hit problems.

  18. “The People” – that proud standard-bearer of all that’s best in journalism; that newspaper of record. Or not.

  19. Listening to snippts from Radio Derby. They were rude before the match and whinged afterwards. They didnt even know we played 4231. They got the dig in about bellowing smoke. They even abused the stadium!
    Apparently they dropped down to our level and were disappointing. Too slow and didn’t play with enough passion.
    Whatever anyone says to me in Derby my paper will show 1-0.
    A final bit about the press and MacClaren, one charge I heard from national journos was that he leaked to favourites, I believe he was briefing it wasn’t his fault at the world cup to his pets.

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