ZDS 25: You Never Forget Your First Time

INCREDIBLY it was 25 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.

1ZDS2                         Boro. AT WEMBLEY!  In a cup final!  For the FIRST time! 

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, and hey, it wasn’t any Anglo-Scottish Cup, 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. It was the stuff of dreams. It was something that generations of fans who had watched Camsell, Mainnion, Clough, and Charlton’s Champions had never experienced. It was a playground dream come true. It was fantastic. An boy, did we make the most of it.  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.  I’ve still  got one in the loft. Shops were decorated in red and white and cups made out of cardboard and Bacofoil started to appear although as NO-ONE knew what the ZDS Cup actually looked like they were all a bit vague.

To go you had to go to Wembley the West Ham league game and keep your ticket stub. And those tickets were first come,  first served – no three years season card with bonus plaque, red book/white book caste system, no Pride Cards, not even the old vouchers cut out from the programme  … there weren’t even that many season ticket holders then. What a scrum. Thousands who hadn’t been to a match for years seized the moment.

The system ensured chaotic dual 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. It quickly evolved into a shift system with people nipping back home for bacon sarnies and flasks of tea then having to negotiate their way back into the queue without causing a riot.

The dreary 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. It was a a long slog but 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 – 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. Thousands of Teessiders 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.


                                    Que Sera Sera: Boro “take” Trafalgar Square

And then, for the first time, through bleary eyes the Twin Towers emerged from a mist of sentiment and hope.  We streamed up Wembley Way gazing in awe at that mythical Venue of Legends, a trip denied to our ancestors.  One lot had walked from Teesside for charity and arrived triumphantly behind a big banner to join the army massing to march towards our destiny.  The optimistic sea of red surging  towards this famous old ground was fantastic. Brilliant.  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 crumbling concourses and back down the steps. Still, 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. Decent but no-where near good enough.  The team, like the crowd, were over-awed by the occasion and seemed happy just to be there.  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.


                      Bernie Slaven: no hint of fence climbing on Boro’s big day.

Yet it felt like we had won. If not won, then certainly the happier, 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.

There was some pushing, jeering and routine posturing outside from rival groups of meatheads but then,  that was routine then and it wasn’t going to spoil the fun.

“Just because some bloke in blue scored a goal it doesn’t mean we lost” proclaimed Monday’s Gazette. A bit daft but they were naive days. Now we would be demanding blood at the big chance squandered. And fans would be complaining about prices, conditions and tube station chaos. Back then we accepted it . What did we know about cup finals?

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.  And here’s the fans gallery from the Gazette.   And here’s another one from the night before and outside Wembley.



82 thoughts on “ZDS 25: You Never Forget Your First Time

  1. “George Friend backs striking quartet to fire Boro back to the Premier League”

    When I first saw that headline in the EG, I thought. Blimey! No wonder we can’t score if we are playing with a…… string quartet musical ensemble of four string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist…….then I re-read it.

  2. GHW – I think we will be on the song after two weeks’ coaching by AK. We need to sing the same hymn now on the terraces as well as on the pitch. UTB !

  3. Lets hope they are in harmony on Friday and we can drum up a decent crowd.

    If we play to the samba beat or maybe Tomlin can play triangles or pull the strings. Hopefully Ben will be fit to organ(ise) the defence.

    We need to be sharp, the last thing we want is a bum note or a flat performance.

    Anyway, bit concerned to read that Gibbo didn’t train until Friday because of a niggle. I think we need a quick roll call on our centre back resources.

  4. OFBob

    As a student a group of us regulalrly went to our local pub in Leeds, we were professional in our duty to what we called formation drinking and on the juke box was our favourite song by Dean Martin.

  5. Sorry to return everybody to the real world, but could you all concentrate on Friday and the, very serious, implications for the club if we do not win the game.

    It is said that for every action there is a reaction, and by god we are now in a position to be punished for our foolish failure to collect the points when at home to dire and struggling clubs. The fans said at the time that there would be a price to pay, there always is, and the price is now at least treble what it was two months ago. If we go out to play our game and ignore the opposition, trusting to natural class and talent to get its reward, think Leeds, then I fear we might have a problem Houston.

    If you think l’m worrying unduly, well it’s the same worry I had before, and after, the Leeds game. That game was easily the biggest game the club had played for a long time, representing as it did a three point lead, and a chance for some goal difference damage limitation. Now remind me again, how did it go? Ten things you should never do when faced with a sure thing, treat it as just another game, let anyone who fancy’s a shot have one, try lots of Hollywood balls, don’t compete too seriously against inferior players, try a few players who can’t get on the pitch normally, keep on keeping on what you are doing, you know, having lots of shots which go sailing over the bar into the roof of the stand, make sure every corner goes safely into the arms of the keeper, do not mark their only class player out of the game, it’s considered unsporting, and finally, if you can’t win the match, don’t bother with the draw, single points simply don’t matter.

  6. Plato

    As a member of the ‘a point could prove useful at the end of the season’ is totally tosh club I know where you are coming from.

    Losing at Wednesday or Bournemouth are not the issue. It is the points dropped with 25+ shots and their keeper the man of the match for routine saves that are the problem.

    Can’t undo those results but I refuse to say I am happy with where we are unless we go up. Whatever tosh we post the fact is we have wasted chances to create some headroom, I dont worry about the other teams and them doing the same. That isnt what I care about.

    But still going to be positive, it is well within our capabilities.

  7. Anyway

    Looked in the box under the bed which contains badges, certificates etc and coudn’t find one showing an FA coaching licence so must assume I dont have one.

    Checked my hairline to make sure I hadnt had an operation that scooped the commonsense out of my cranium but no scar or stitch marks.

    That means I am an ordinary football fan who has watched games for 50+ years.

    The question is why did England look better with a centre back in defence and a holding midfielder in midfield after halftime? Have I missd some football myth that if a centre back playing in central midfiled hasnt worked before for ManU and England in the past, doing it again will work?

    Sorry, just dont get it. Am I dim, sorry, you know what I mean.

  8. Ian –

    I think the enduring myth is how Phil Jones gets a game at all? Slow, ponderous – and that’s with his head as well as his feet. Someone on the Grauniad made the salient point that if he wasn’t at a BIG CLUB he’d be nowhere near the England team.

    I have to agree. It’s the same stubborn lack of trust in players from outside the BIG CLUBS which unfortunately lets England down time and time again. It’s refreshing to see Spurs players given a chance, but I think the U21’s shows you that the collective is key.

    The problem for Hodgson, as it is for all England managers since man put pen to newspaper is that any fanciful line ups ignoring the obvious BIG CLUB players will see the manager get pillioried if it results in failure. No risk, no reward.

    Still, that’s all over for now and back to Boro. We need 3 points on Friday, simple. I’m going with 2 predictions at opposite ends of the scale. Either

    A) we batter them 4-1, 3 different strikers on the score sheet
    B) a 0-1 reverse after an early goal from a corner/speculative screamer

    Fingers crossed for A.

    1. Mostly it is the same old crew from the same old clubs for England in friendlies and in group matches. Those players don’t seem to like players from other lesser clubs and they don’t like one anther’s clubs. How will that ever make a team.

      Changing the odd player makes no difference but I hope the Spurs boys get their chance properly. The same old names from the same old clubs. As I said in a previous post I’d rather watch the Conference games.

      The U21s looked good but they’ll dribble into the senior team and be discarded and the status quo will revert to default, the rich experience of playing alongside seasoned international professionals having not improved them.

      Roll on Good Friday, this is boring,


      John R

      1. I see that Amorebieta played for Venezuela against Peru last night in a friendly in Miami (result 1-0 to los Vinotintos – ‘red wines’ = Venezuela). As the game kicked off at 1am BST Wednesday I would think it rather unlikely he’ll be starting for us on Friday! May even be too jet-lagged to sit on the bench.

  9. Brendan

    Well that is a piece of news.

    Ayala – injured.
    Woodie – broken toe but ‘fit’
    Omeruo – injured
    Gibbo – niggle last week
    Amorebieta – Miami.

    Reminds me of when we were promoted second time under Robbo and we had an injury crisis pre season, first match in the expanded Riverside we played against Leeds with four full backs as the back four. Daft thing was Leeds were incredibly defensive and it was 0-0.

  10. I’m working at home today and it’s quiet for once so a chance to catch up on all things Boro – an unusual opportunity since Xmas.

    Just 7 Games left, eh? Hard to believe. By this stage of most seasons one team has gone clear and/or a small group of teams have pulled clear to battle for the remaining automatic place. Not so this time.

    Forest were the early pace-setters and looked like they might go on to dominate the division. However, once the Pearce-return feel-good impetus wore off (not the first time it has happened with that manager), they crumbled and fell away badly. Barring a miracle come-back, they look unlikely to even make the play-offs.

    Derby were an obvious promotion favourite and have been there or thereabouts all season. They have often looked the best team in the division but that applies mainly going forward; their defence seems fragile. They were inferior to Boro in both games. Derby have been erratic, dropped away over the last month and will now have to do very well to avoid the play-offs.

    Newly relegated Norwich were a favourite for many. However they took a long time to adjust and, with a new manager, have only belatedly come with a late surge. If they can sustain their run they have a good chance of automatic promotion but might run out of games.

    I suspect that Bournemouth were on nobody’s radar for promotion – more likely as relegation possibles. Nevertheless they are a sound, balanced team that has shown durability, having recovered when it looked like they had finally blown up. With an easier run-in they must have an excellent chance.

    Watford are a surprise package. After last season they looked to have a good chance but, after their managerial instability, every rule says they should fighting relegation. Yet there they are, looking good and getting better. They might have the scoring power to make the difference.

    Ipswich were fancied by many. However they made a slow start and look a little short of the other contenders. Town have never put a good enough run together to break into the top echelon and their best chance now looks to be the play-offs.

    For different reasons, Wolves were also fancied by some if they could maintain their newly-promoted momentum. They have looked like surging for the top at times but, ultimately, don’t look strong enough to produce a breakthrough. Like Ipswich, with so few games left, their best chance seems to be to make the top 6.

    What about those clubs that were tipped pre-season but haven’t made the grade? After coming down from the PL, Cardiff were a prospect. However Solksjaer soon proved inadequate and Slade has yet to make an impact so they have bumbled along in mid-table and the story is much the same for Reading. Wigan were rated a prospect but, despite some good players, have bombed and look likely to be relegated.

    Where do Boro fit into all this?

    Hardly anybody tipped them pre-season as automatic promotion candidates although, along with many supporters, many fancied us to edge into the top 6. Consequently, having been contenders for most of the season, Boro have exceeded expectations.

    Based on sound organisation that gets the best out of players and, in particular, on a tight defence, we have often looked the best equipped for the PL. An outstanding run post-Xmas saw us burst through. There have been times with the possibility of pulling clear but that has not materialised. Over the last month the defence has at times looked less solid and Boro’s lack of goals remains a worry, especially if it comes down to GD.

    Starting tomorrow, it’s all to play for and just 7 games to do it. It’s never been tighter. It looks like 2 teams from the current top 4-6 and Boro have as good a chance as any.

    **AV writes: Let’s start ramping it up now for a big weekend. I’ve had a few days off and come back raring to go. LET’S DO THIS!

  11. Time to get back “in the zone ” for the final seven games.

    All quiet at Rockcliffe, nothing much coming out of there regarding the fitness of all the defenders, especially how close Ayala and Fredericks are to returning.

    Fitness of those two plus Ben Gibson’s tight hamstring not getting worse are the key to our promotion prospects!!

    **AV writes: Ben and Woody are fine. Fredericks back in full training, Ayala in light training so I don’t think he’ll be risked this weekend. New boy slotted in, Amorebieta flying back today, won’t be available for Wigan but should be OK for Watford if needed. We’ll be fine.

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