John Neal: Boro Boss At An Historical Crossroads

JOHN Neal’s Boro reign offered spells of hope and excitement book-ended between two moments of FA Cup heartache that are burned on supporters’ psyches.

The former Boro boss died this week aged 82 prompting tributes to a widely respected coach and an old school football gentleman. And it is also an opportunity to reassess an interesting and important time in the club’s history as it approached a crossroads.

Twice under Neal, at either end of his reign, Boro seemed destined for a first ever FA Cup semi-final after being handed home draws as strong favourites.  But in his first season Boro failed to polish off second division strugglers Orient in a flurry of missed sitter at Ayresome Park and then were caught cold in the replay and a golden opportunity was gone.

And in his final season Boro again stumbled in the sixth round as they could only draw 1-1 with rock bottom Wolves at home then were punished in the replay losing 3-1 after missed chances and making costly slips at the back in extra-time.

That latter flop was an historic watershed moment. More than 10,000 fans travelled to the game – you couldn’t find a transit van or mini-bus between the Ouse and the Tyne – to share in a historic bloody nose and a collective crushing blow to morale.

In retrospect, we all now recognise that as the day when the club fractured behind the scenes and there was a seismic shift that put Boro on a bleak course towards liquidation.

By the time of the Wolves game team talisman Craig Johnston had already indicated he wanted out and chairman Charlie Amer that he was keen to cash in – and not just on the Aussie.  Gates were dropping fast as the Thatcher-engineered recession started to bite with mass unemployment and a 13 week steel strike and other public sector dispute hitting punters pockets and whole swathes of supporters getting “on their bikes” to look for work elsewhere. Meanwhile the costs of the ill-fated white elephant of the gym were escalating – and were being paid to building firms run by Amer’s family –  and the club was at a financial crossroads.  Amer was preparing the great Ayresome sales as he moved to cash in his chips at Boro and the end of the Wembley dream meant full-steam ahead.

neal

Principled Neal had marked out his own position. He vowed to quit if Amer tried to dismantle the team. Boro got a club record £580,000 from Liverpool in April for Johnston – and Neal carried out his threat and left when the season ended.

The Shildon-born boss, a dignified and measured man,  respected and effective coach,  perceptive talent-spotter and shrewd man manager, was head-hunted by Chelsea where he went on to become a pivotal figure. He rebuilt  at Stamford Bridge, bringing in quality players for peanuts  – Kerry Dixon, Nigel Spackman, Pat Nevin –  while Boro, who promoted reserves team boss Bobby Murdoch to the hot seat ,  stagnated and squandered the dividend of a successful seventies. They slowly slithered towards an abyss.

John Neal: Quiet architect of a new era

Ironically at Stamford Bridge, where he is still highly regarded, Neal proved exactly the kind of astute budget shopper that Boro needed at the time. He stabilised a club in financial crisis, rebuilt and took them back into the top flight to establish them just as Boro passed the other way in what looked like terminal decline.

The two ill-fated cup games may dominate the John Neal narrative but they bracket a couple of exciting years when Boro were full of youthful possibility and promise, flair and creativity and when the teased Teesside with a couple of delicious nearly moments –  and with a string of cult heroes that endure to this day.

When discussion turns to Boro history, John Neal’s era is often unfairly overlooked – we tend to pick out the periods of extremes – but he was a key figure in what was actually an important and relatively successful four year spell.

He arrived after a golden age when Charlton’s Champions dominated the landscape with a team of heroes that shaped the memories of a generation and set standards against which players and teams are still measured by fans of a certain age.

And he was followed by that bleak period of turmoil and financial chaos as the club went into a nosedive and that coloured all our perceptions of the past and still casts a long shadow of chill fear at what might have been.

But his four important seasons in between were productive and promising. He rebuilt and brought in some good players and laid down what should have been solid foundations for a new brand of exciting football at Ayresome. Had he been supported in his last  year rather than face a looming policy of asset-stripping by a chairman who was looking to claw back his investment who knows where he may have taken his team and the club?

Charlton’s side had aged together and the early flourish of promotion and the first two top flight campaigns had faded into a more functional approach: They were solid and dependable and hard to beat but rarely played with the panache of the title winning golden age. They had become widely known as “Boring, Boring Boro”.

Big Jack later admitted he had been at fault for not spending to replace players on the wane – especially up front. He revealed the cash had been there but he turned down the chance to pursue the likes of Andy Gray, David Cross and Paul Mariner.  He largely stuck with what he had and the gradually ageing team became enmeshed in mid-table.

Whoever took over from him faced a tricky transitional period in which he would have to replace a revered figure in the dug-out and rebuild a team packed with players who were deemed untouchable by the faithful. He had big shoes to fill.

Unassuming Neal was neither a big name or big personality so seemed an odd choice to succeed brash and colourful Charlton but quickly showed he was a perfect candidate.

He had played at Hull and Aston Villa where he won the second division title and the League Cup before moving to Wrexham as a coach.  He built the the third division minnows into a side with a reputation for slick passing football and took them to quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1974 and last eight of the European Cup Winners Cup two years later.  So he arrived with an impressive CV.

He arrived in May 1977 to take on the politically charged task of dismantling a team of heroes and reshaping the style to deliver flair and goals.  Over the course of the next few seasons he did just that.

But it was tricky. He had to win over loyalists and that wasn’t easily done. It wasn’t long before “Neal Out” graffiti appeared near Ayresome after some early teething problems – but he quickly won over doubters as he set about his overhaul.

boro7879

                       Boro 1978-79: John Neal’s reshaping was well underway

Where Jack had been shy in spending, Neal smashed the ceiling several times. His first signing was gritty midfielder John Mahoney from Stoke for a record £92,000 then three weeks later that mark was shattered again as he went back to former club Wrexham to snap up bustling frontman turned occasional defender Billy Ashcroft for £135,000. The next year Terry Cochrane arrived for £238,000 and the year after Irvine Nattrass for a hefty £475,000. The record had been quadrupled in just three years.

But to create space he sold Graeme Souness for a record fee received of £352,000 in 1978 and David Mills to West Brom for a then English record fee of £517,000 the year after.

Others arrived too: Bosco Jankovic, Micky Burns and David Shearer beefed up the attacking options .  Meanwhile a string of youngsters were eased into the team, Mark Proctor, David Hodgson, Stan Cummins and Johnson all becoming firm fans’ favourites and adding creative flair.  It was a good Boro side. And the one I first started to watch on a regular basis.

It was a good couple of years of entertaining football as an enterprising Boro side claimed some big scalps, especially at Ayresome, although a familiar vulnerability on the road and tendency to slip up to lowly sides remained.

When they clicked, his Boro side were potent and prolific and would often rattle in the goals: Four against Newcastle, five against Arsenal and again, aided by Terry Cochrane’s iconic bicycle kick, against Swansea, six against Norwich; seven (yes SEVEN) against Chelsea.  On song they were a joy to watch.

Boro’s best crack at the league and the European slots – yes, seriously – came in 1979-80.  For much of the campaign Boro were flirting with the top six but a concerted spring offensive of just one defeat in nine pushed them right into contention.

A win over Everton at the end of March nudged Neal’s side right up into nosebleed
territory, in fifth spot and just three points off third with a cushion behind them.

Then, having teased us and raised excitement levels to hysteria, they lost four of the next five to fade away before finishing with a typical Boro sarcastic flourish and beating first Liverpool then ended with a 5-0 hammering of Arsenal.

That was as good as it got under John Neal – but at times it was fantastic along the way. Boro played refreshing football, had resilience and spirit and individuals with match-winning magic.   Yes, they lacked a bit of consistency and a prolific goalscorer to really make a difference, but then, that is a part of our DNA.

John Neal: Respect.

***

Here’s some nice words from Terry Cochrane on John Neal.

***

steam punt laptop

And here’s some easy listening:  a new edition of the  podcast – we are knocking them out with industrial zeal – and now with a name, “The Tripe Supper.”  That’s a nod to the pre-parmo Victorian foundation of our mighty club, a quirky phrase that will bamboozle outsiders but bring a wry smile to those in the know, and with an easy handle for your “talking tripe” insults and a little hint of steam-punk. Here’s No 3 in which the @GazetteBoro posse talk about John Neal and Jason Steele. 

Revealed: the Victorian laptop on which the original Tripe Supper was livetweeted

 

 

Advertisements

45 thoughts on “John Neal: Boro Boss At An Historical Crossroads

  1. Me and my mates used to watch John Neal’s team train on a field in Hall Drive when we should have been in lessons at what was then Acklam Sixth Form. We used to fetch the balls during shooting practice (Bosco was terrible!). It was John Neal’s Boro I watched when I first made the transition to the Holgate with my mates. As AV said they could be a terrific team but definitely inconsistent.

    He really is a forgotten manager but I remember spending many Saturday’s desperate to get away from my Saturday morning job and down to Ayersome Park to watch his team.

    As AV says, John Neal: respect.

  2. AV, thanks for this blog bit. I really started to follow Boro during John Neal’s time. Before that it was just a few TV matces on the Finnish TV2 . We had a live match from England every Saturday afternoon during the dark winter nights (Nikeboro – we do watch sports on TV overhere, too).

    I wrote to the club looking for pen pals then. I got a few. I made my first pilgrimage and saw Boro live at Ayresome in 1980.

    And I met my hero – I had a cuppa with the great Terry Cochrane himself. He has stayed my all time Boro hero ever since. Even above Juninho.

    So the years under John Neal were special for me. We still had David Armstrong and bought Bosco Jankovic. And he grafted in Craig Johnston and David Hodgson – the latter another all time favourite. Later, one of my highlights were to see Hodgson play for Liverpool at Olympic Stadium in Helsinki.

    I still like the all red Adidas shirt with just the lion on the chest. That is the best looking kit ever for me. I loved the John Neal years as a Boro supporter. I will never forget him. A good manager.

    RIP, John. Up the Boro!

  3. This was my starting point as a proper Boro fan too. Funnily enough, I’ve just downloaded Spike Armstrong’s book to the Kindle – must find time to read it:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Bald-Facts-Armstrong-Biography/dp/1909178640

    Wasn’t Billy Ashcroft, John Neal’s son in law and didn’t he score a couple of great goals in one match when he had concussion?

    **AV writes: I think the “must be the bosses’ son-in-law” was a wicked terrace rumour. He laughed it off when I did a “Where Are They Now” interview but did gush about what a great guy John Neal was. The best true story about Big Billy is that when he was in Holland – Twente – he developed a shock second career as a popular witty judge on the Dutch version of New Faces (to translate for younger viewers, that’s a show a bit like Britain’s Got Talent.)

  4. Billy Ashcroft wasn’t John Neal’s son-in-law?! We need some perspective here, it’s important not to let the truth ruin a good story. As far as I’m concerned Billy and John Neal were related, there was/is no other explanation!

  5. My memory is of feeling that the family silver was being sold as his reign ended. It gave the impression of the club drifting downwards, sand running through the fingers.

  6. I was sorry to hear the news. I had a season ticket in the Clive Road standing pit in those days – remember them well especially “boring boring burrah” hammering Arsenal!! in the cup and the league. But you know – I always thought Billy was his son in law!! strange that we all have this collective mismemory!!

  7. Thrashing Chelsea 7-2 was my outstanding memory of the John Neal years, apart from the enigma that was Billy Ashcroft – didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at some of his efforts. He did, however, put himself about a bit, so couldn’t fault his commitment. Sad for Neal that he had the rug pulled from under him before he could complete his team building. A very nice man.

  8. Was sad to hear about John Neal, sounded a nice man who tried his best for Boro.

    Sorry to question the villainous Amer narrative but we did spend a few quid around then, (did we really spend nearly £500K on Irvine Nattress? Perhaps should have spent a bit more on the medical). Summer of 1981 for instance. Unfortunately, the disastrous appointment of Bobby Murdoch at this critical junction is probably the key reason for what then happened. Throw in falling crowds and the road to the Summer of 1986 becomes inevitable.

    Never seen any footage of the Orient home game – and was before my time – but have clear mental image of Billy Ashcroft’s legendary miss. Find it hard to believe that the match was not shown on TV and is not on a video in someone’s attic somewhere. Ditto the Wolves replay.

    **AV writes: Neal was given quite a bit to spend early on as Big Jack hadn’t really ever invested so there was a money available – but even then the sales more than covered that and the club were running a healthy net profit on transfers. For instance, all his early spending was covered by the Souness fee; the major rebuilding in 79-80 by the David Mills money and the tweaking in the last two years (the £110k on Bosco for instance) was dwarfed by the £580k brought in for Johnston. I haven’t done a comprehensive list but I’m certain there was a healthy surplus.

    I think the sums Amer took out of the club increased quite markedly in the latter years (not least through the building contracts awarded without tender to his own family firms for the gym and 100 club and various other works around the ground). But yes you are right that with crowds falling off quite markedly (less than 13,000 for the 6-1 battering of Norwich in 1980) revenues were falling rapidly with accelerated the looming crisis. Gate money was pretty much the only serious income then. Once Amer decided to sell to cover costs and to take out his dividend then it was a slippery slope.

  9. I liked John Neal and thought he was a good manager. He has faded from the collective memory and when we’ve been talking about the relative merits of managers during the recent eternal international break he didn’t get a look in.

    It was exciting to watch the youngsters he introduced. Mark Proctor, Craig Johnston, David Hodgson (speed merchant) and little Stan Cummins. I still remember Craig Johnston’s debut at Ayresome Park. He came on as sub, and after 4 or 5 minutes there was an almost audible buzz as people sat up and thought “who’s this bloke, he’s got something about him”.

    I was one of the 10,000 at Wolves and came away heart-broken. As close as I ever got to Wembley. Shortly after I took Norman’s advice and ‘got on my bike’ and left the area. I saw bits and pieces of the revival under Rioch whilst I was still in England, but eventually my bike carried me to Australia and I never came back. Missed the glory years.

    RIP John. Much respect.

  10. It would be very sad if the epitaph for Teesside is that it exported much of its best product – it’s people.

    **AV writes: Hasn’t Teesside always exported labour? Isn’t that what we do? #DiasBoro

  11. So FLS back to the Riverside plus Football Focus at Rockcliffe.

    Any chance of letting us know what is going on. Like many I am deeply disturbed by all this attention unless it brings more fans in and/or shows the club in a good light even though Manish seems to be shunning Parmos.

  12. John Neal was the Boro manager when I started going every Saturday as a 16-year old – as I remember he’d built quite an exciting side with a good blend of youth, experience and a few foreign players. Boro also were pretty formidable at home and rarely lost – though pretty hopeless on their travels.

    I think at the time he was viewed as under-achieving with the team but in reality he was probably under-rated and got more out of the team than we realised – a fact probably demonstrated by the slide into oblivion after he left.

    He was a pretty pragmatic manager who even managed a reverse Chris Sutton with legendary striker Billy Ashcroft who ending up joining Tony Mac and John Craggs in defence.

    Anyway, I can’t believe it was thirty-five years ago – time has certainly moved on since those days in the Holgate – a good manager for Boro and a decent guy who’ll be sadly missed.

  13. Really, it was as good an era as we’ve had.

    Around ’79 and ’80 particularly there was a vibrancy and feel in the air that we might have something here, the midfield trio especially was a joy to each and feel excited about.

    Ditto the front three, Hodgson appearing in the Holgate End for the FA Cup 4th round v West Brom in ’81 (he was suspended) was wonderful and summed a lovely sync between the fans and local lads and lesser players come good. And Bosco was wonderful, Slavic with a skill set unseen before.

    I still can’t believe we didn’t beat Orient but I think we’d already beaten Wolves twice in the league before we played the cup match in 80/81. It just didn’t feel right on the day and I still yearn for the likes of the Wolves occasion and Barnsley match a few weeks before.

    Proctor, Johnston and Hodgson what a trio and Spike in 79/80 was peerless.

    John Neal oversaw it all and the Press Association reports yesterday were filled with Chelsea anecdotes and positive comments from CFC and not us. The club (Boro) should feel ashamed we didn’t act quicker here but it was typical of it’s attitude to Neal somehow, even three decades on.

    When he left it was very low key and he passed under the radar a tad (Radio 2 broadcast it at the end of its 9.55pm daily sports report as the end item I distinctly recall – an add on and I feel Neal was poorly served in that we should have boasted about him more. He was worth it but equally didn’t seek the limelight.

    Of all the Boro teams since 1974, this is the team that did not achieve its true worth. We were just a couple of players short and yes, I was sure too Billy was the son in law. Had to be surely?
    And it was Crystal Palace in the FA third round round 1980 when Billy staggered aimlessly around after a bang on the bonce before belting home a last minute equaliser.

    The sales were sickening and the Amer doings were never clear to the public or fans.

    But I’m so, so glad John Neal’s team was my team during my teens.

  14. richard evans –

    The Boro have always been ‘a couple of players short. That was my Dad’s mantra when I was growing up, even Jackie Charlton’s team were a couple short. I’d argue now that today’s team is only ‘a couple short’ of destroying the Championship.

    Did Heine Otto play under John Neal?

    Kookaboro –

    I trust you put extra air in your tyres when you cycled over to Oz!

    **AV writes: Heine Otto didn’t sign until August 1981. So no.

    1. I agree re the extra two players but I always felt this team had a lot to offer and was broken up very early in its makeup whereas, say Rioch’s team, effectively played itself out before it broke up. That also was a couple of men short of course.

      Heine Otto made his debut in the first match post Neal, and while a first rate player whose commitment to the club in a most awful period was extraordinary and a beacon to today’s flighty ethos, I’m not sure he would have fitted into Neal’s side as it played with more pace than I recall Heine showing.

      But neither men have ever really been given the credit they deserve for their time at the club.

      AV –

      I’d be really interested in knowing more about the Amer happenings and whether there was much media disapproval/pressure/questioning at the time. I don’t recall it when presumably there should have been. The rot that set in with Neal’s departure led to Gibbo of course but it was 5/6 years in the wilderness and a pretty drab time with two relegations.

      **AV writes: I don’t there was much coverage of the inner workings or the finances of ANY club back then. These days there we have forensic accountants and specialist websites tracking and number-crunching clubs, all the financials are published and there are even league tables that fans boast about. Back then clubs were largely closed shops, owned by a small number of shareholders in place because their great-granddad bought two shillings shares at the tripe supper back in 1876 and run in a very amateurish way out of a biscuit tin.

      The Gazette used to report on the AGM but that was about it. And to be fair, most fans weren’t that bothered back then. Until 1992 FA rules meant directors couldn’t even take a dividend or be paid then so there was nothing in it for most local worthies and so many didn’t want to be involved directly. Amer got away with milking cash through external contracts because other smaller shareholders were happy to let him get on with running the club. It was only in the 80s and 90s that small time style hit the buffers for most clubs.

      1. Thanks AV, yes there were always fishy tales around Amer but it never seemed to be followed up in the press. Symptomatic of the times from both sides I think.

        Thinking back now, the immediate post Neal years were unbelievably bleak. Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing. Roll on Blackburn.

  15. Had a look at the pictures from the Chelsea play off match. People think the top flight is a bit of a closed shop. At that time, for several years it was difficult to get relegated!

    Second bottom of division one played the third from division two, the winners played the winners of second against third at home. We were the first, if only second tier team to get promoted through that route because it was heavily loaded towards the first division team.

    I could barely listen to the match at Stamford Bridge and spent the game game cutting the grass. One stripe and check teletext, next stripe and check teletext. I came in for the last fifteen minutes and I remember listening as Stuart Ripley broke through, he must score but didnt. Then listening to commentary of the trouble after the match with us absolved, the commentator even mentioned stewards getting involved but not stewarding!

    Sad news about Phil Hughes, how on earth many more didn’t suffer the same fate in the days before helmets.

    1. I remember that play-off very well. I was at Acklam park where a typically large Teesside crowd was watching Yorkshire playing cricket. There was an enormous roar. Some had been listening to the football on their radios. The players seemed surprised and were clearly unaware what was going on.

      The announcement came a short while later – followed by another roar. I seem to remember it being drawn out……that “Chelsea……. will play next year…..in….the SECOND Division and M’bro in the FIRST…..”

      Quite a few friends have told me subsequently that the away match against Chelsea was one of the most frightening events of their lives – being charged by an army of thugs without any certainty of getting away without serious injury.

      And to Phil Hughes. A freak accident. Very sad. But hopefully considered so rare that it will not put people off playing sports with hard bats and balls. He collapsed within seconds of being hit, and obviously lost consciousness so at least he won’t have suffered at all, apart maybe from those few seconds.

  16. Boro pre ’86 an amateurish club run out of a biscuit tin, surely not?

    I can remember the ‘Gym scandal’ very well, there were plenty of rumours flying around. My Dad came home from work one day and told me the Gym had been built out of exactly the same bricks as Charlie Amer’s new house, which obviously was clear proof of shady goings on!

    Was Amer any worse in his way than some of todays owners? Probably not, there are so many owners who put self interest before the club/fans there are probably too many to count.

  17. Woodie’s ‘two weeks away’ in September has morphed in to January. With Muzzy and Rhys due back as well that will pose some selection problems.

    I wont be holding my breath, even if back in training lots can go wrong.

  18. Extremely tragic news about Phil Hughes which is currently, as can be expected, very much at the forefront of news back home in Oz. Sad news too in regards to the “quiet man” and a very good Boro boss, John Neil, but at least he, unlike young Mr. Hughes, had a sporting life way beyond a mere 25. Sad, very, very sad.

    On a brighter note, and after the bad news to date we really need some;

    England 4-0 Germany!

    Shalke 0-5 Chelsea
    Man City 3-2 Bayern
    Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund
    Wolfsburg 0-2 Everton

    Get in!

    Kookaboro,

    Highly commendable of you to get all the way to Oz on your bike, but you should have caught a plane like me, Mrs. PPP and the three lads did, it’s much easier on your legs mate.

  19. I was too young for that Wolves away game but my brother and sister went – at least one of them came back in tears. It was presented as an extremely portentous evening.
    I’m sure my brother told me about a rammed and raucous Holgate witnessing a 1.0 drubbing of Sunderland courtesy of a Headley header prior to it.

    Certainly Amer didn’t have the best reputation – though shamefully there was a rumour his son was attacked in a proxy attack.

    Thank The Lord for Gibbo.

  20. Just listened to the brilliant Tripe Supper podcast, AV. Great stuff! More please.

    However, could I point out that even if Teesside was bleak in the late 70s, as you say, it has never been, nor ever will be, black and white !!!

    1. I must be “getting down with the yoof” because today I watched/listened to the “Google+ Hangout With Ben (Gibson) And George (Friend)” on YouTube. It wasn’t exactly Play for Today or even “Poldark”, but it was better than “Professional Masterchef”. Coxy getting grief over his hair….

      Obviously George is very media Friendly and Ben Gibson could hardly do any wrong with the Boro faithful (“next Boro captain….”). Possibly a pitch at a transfer in a year or two to Man Utd from him, though I suspect Arsenal could also use him (and Liverpool) if we didn’t get to the Premier League by 2016. No doubt the next one will involve controversial political views winkled out by questions posed by Gilligan, Paxman, Humphrys and David Conn (well, got to have some football questions)..

  21. Interesting article about the sad death of Phil Hughes. Geoff Boycott talked about the changes in the game as it became safer the main one being helmets.

    When he played there were no helmets so the game was played differently. You made sure that you got out of the way of bouncers, tail eneders wandered to square leg and fast bowlers pitched the ball up to them. Batsmen either played the hook well or didnt bother so fast bowklers didnt bowl it as much.

    Helmets have made the game safer but serious injuries still occur in part because the helmet gives a sense of security. Tailenders prop forward because they are covered in protection.

    A cricket ball is very hard indeed.

    Every sport has it’s risks, the Bolton player Muamba at Spurs in the cup, sundry rugby injuries, motor and horse racing, alpine sports.

    When somebody goes down in a heap fans should hold their breath rather than abusing the player. The problem is some players can go down in a heap all too easily.

  22. Excellent piece.

    John Neal was my first Boro manager, or rather he was manager when I first started watching the Boro. A quiet, shrewd builder of a team, undemonstrative but effective.

    RIP

    Sorry I didn’t post on the post Wigan blog bit. The reaction to the draw on it in part inspired my latest blog

    http://thelawaccordingto.uk/

  23. PP’s latest blog is spot on and well worth a look.

    Loved The Tripe Supper. It’s an inspired title. The Saatchis couldn’t have done better and would have relieved you of a couple of million in the process. Congratulations to Steve, and all the participants.

    Met John Neal a couple of times. Lovely man. Perhaps a little too self-effacing at times, and I think he rather underestimated Craig Johnston, whose brashness was not always to his taste. If Billy Ashcroft had turned out as well as John Neal hoped, he would have been not just a very decent manager, but possibly one of our best. We certainly played entertaining football under him, and he will always be fondly and respectfully remembered.

    1. Len –

      so true. Both the podcast as well as Neal and Ashcroft.

      At least Billy terrified the opposite defenders. Pity about the lack of goals. Alsves of the time with big hair.

      Up the Boro!

  24. Got my ticket for the Boxing Day game at Blackburn this morning. Main Jack Walker stand.
    Nee trouble. It may be advisable to get in early if you intend to be there. If all the Boro tickets go, there may be a Wigan-type security operation imposed later.

  25. Thanks, Andy.

    BTW, Whilst your on PP’s blog, have a look at his piece on his cute dog, and why he was quite happy for it to have a middle name. Classic.

  26. Pleased there is a minutes applause for John Neal.

    AV

    Any idea on ticket numbers for tomorrow? Hopefully a big walk up crowd.

    **AV writes: It was heading towards 16,000 this afternoon. Normally most of the walk-up sales are on the Saturday morning so I think we could be safely over 18,000. Maybe more.

  27. I’ve just finished reading David Armstong’s autobiography and what an interesting read it is, if a little sad. His hatred of his ex-wife is undiminished but he appears to have retained a soft spot for the Boro.

    For a player of his talent to end up on the dole because of a severe injury and a messy divorce is astounding and I guess wouldn’t happen today. I wish him well for the future and remember some great times watching him play.

  28. Spoiler alert, Marin B. has just revealed the plot, cast and outcome of Spike’s book! I couldn’t go and watch Titanic for the same reason, some bugger told me that it sank at the end!

    1. As he reveals most of this in the promo blurb for the book I don’t think I’ve done too much harm! Look away now though, PPP. I can also reveal he went to play for Southampton after he left us!

  29. At a book fair I picked up one of George Bush’s books from his personal library. It was rare because he hadnt finished colouring the other one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s