Spirited Show Was Fitting Tribute To A Boro Icon

ALASTAIR Brownlee: Voice of the Boro.

That was the message on the banners unveiled by the Red Faction before the game as the entire crowd – even the visiting Cardiff fans – clapped in choked, moist-eyed unison.

It was an emotionally charged evening that turned into a fitting tribute to a Boro icon as Boro stormed from behind to create glut of chances in an enterprising display before finally running out convincing 3-1 winners on a big night at the top.


As a poignant clip-reel of his commentary greatest hits rolled on the big screen there was a symphony of applause and chanting in stereo as a tribute to ‘Mr Middlesbrough’. It seemed every single Boro supporter was slapping their hands red roar and chanting with a rare emotional intensity.

It was a deeply moving moment and one that spoke volumes about club and the supporters and the special bond that exists between them.  This is a passionate, parochial and tight knit community that is quick to unite in challenging times.  And we k now instinctively what those times are. That is when we are at our strongest.

It is hard to imagine any other club where there would be such a sustained public expression of heart-felt sympathy for a matchday microphone man. The support and love for Ali Brownlee has been evident for months.

There have been spectacular spontaneous smart phone light shows and regular chanting since the moment the news of his illness first broke to the emotional night at Elland Road in the immediate hours after his passing when even our bitter rivals were moved to join a dignified display.

And it must be unique for a fans’ group to design and fund and produce banners celebrating a commentator with such obvious affection and respect.

But then, Ali Brownlee wasn’t just any commentator.

“A good friend I never met”. That simple message displayed on a shirt draped among the touching tributes on the Ayresome Park gates summed it up.

For most Boro fans Ali Brownlee was a constant and a familiar companion, a reliable and encouraging presence beside us through thick and thin.  Mostly through thin if we are honest. But then that is when loyalty and friendship is most tested. And most needed.

Ali Brownlee provided the soundtrack to a lifetime of matchday memories and has shared the emotional highs and low this team of ours has visited upon us over the years.
More than anyone he reflected the partisan nature of being a supporter.

And that is why even the most hard-bitten Boro fan has been genuinely saddened by his death and moved to public expressions of not just grief but recognition of his very public role as cheer-leader and emotional barometer.  He was the archetypal “one of our own” and that is why Boro supporters have united in a show of solidarity.

The build-up started long before kick-off with masses more than usual gathering outside the gates long before kick-off, serenaded by a choir and they paid their respects.


And they paid them again on the designated 56 minutes with a galaxy of terrific twinkling from all sides – again including the away fans – as “one Ali Brownlee” thundered out again and then doubled in intensity and became an urgent “Come on Boro” as the team attacked. And attacked. And attacked. It was an inspirational night.

Ali got another high volume namecheck from fans again in the closing stages of an exciting and enterprising dragon slaying victory. It was a fitting tribute.  Boro – his Boro – came from behind with a spirited show of steel and swagger to win well while playing open, attacking football. And they won to relaunch their promotion push.


He’d have loved it. In fact, he’d have gone absolutely mental over it. Imagine the gleeful, triumphant glee and full-volume hyperbole he would have gushed out over that display. We should all take a bit up a bit of that missionary burden. There is a vacuum to fill.





T WILL be a difficult evening. The emotional pre-match build-up will be dominated by the memories of Ali Brownlee with a poignant big screen montage of the Boro cultural icon’s best bits, a Red Faction set-piece tribute and some choked chanting by torchlight.

That could be the emotional fuel that helps power Boro back into promotion form and puts the stuttering season back on track. But it could equally be a distraction.  The gaffer believes the team will be fully focused and professional and we must hope he is right. The fans can help in that. They need to make sure that all the myriad feelings are channelled into creating a powerful atmosphere throughout that can drive the team on to victory.

It is a cliche but it really is what he would have wanted.


But it will be difficult on the pitch too. They always are in this division. Cardiff will be fired up after their weekend walloping of form team Brighton that has pushed them to the brink of the play-off places.  They will make it tough for Boro.  We know that.

But Boro should be fired up too. They have had three weeks and a sunshine break to bed in the January recruits and have shown in flashes in the past few games that if this newly tweaked team can click then it could be potent. The closing stages against Blackburn and MK Dons with Jordan Rhodes on the pitch showed attack intent while at Leeds there were moments of impressive movement, sparks of creativity and a lot of chances.

Of course, Boro didn’t win and for some that is the only thing that matters. End of.  But in that game Boro looked a far better, brighter, more coherent and more fluid outfit than the one that laboured leaden-legged through back-to-back defeats early in January.

They looked sharper, more inventive and hungrier. Rhodes added zip. Ramirez added guile. De Laet has good engines.  So there were positives to add to what was widely lauded as the best team in the Championship just six weeks ago.


Since then though the top of the table has been squeezed . While some results have gone Boro’s way in recent weeks, none of our rivals has taken full advantage and really punished us and some of the steam has been taken out of Sheff Wed and Brighton,  Aitor Karanka’s  long-time front-runners have been pegged back to third place by bargain bucket Burnley in what is shaping up to be a familiar summit squeeze.

Boro have had a wobble. All teams have them.  And this wobble  was not of the order that Hull, Brighton and Burnley experienced earlier on.  Hull slithered to fifth while Brighton and Burnley slipped out of the play-off places completely so Boro’s own inertia has not been so strategically damaging, however frightening it feels for fans.

The team remain well placed. And Boro have two games in hand. But it vital that Boro quickly regain upward momentum, pile the pressure on their peers and get themselves in a position so that cashing in those fixtures makes a dramatic difference to the dynamics.

Victory against Cardiff will make the form table look healthier, swing the maths back in our favour and be a platform for a renewed second half title challenge. Success, tonight and in the weeks and months to come, will be the best tribute to Ali.

Usual drill: predict the score and how the game will pan out and then all back here later to recalibrate our expectations and emotions based on the result. I’m putting my daft quid on Jordan Rhodes first goalscorer tonight. If that comes in the first half I’ll go for 2-0.


105 thoughts on “Spirited Show Was Fitting Tribute To A Boro Icon

  1. A bit stuck last night, out on hollies in Fuerteventura and dining with Mrs Smog…….having surreptitiously got Boro+ running on my phone, the dodgy restaurant wifi seized up, and 3’s local partner didn’t fancy this inside lark, so I was being bounced around Boro+ updates that went from Boro v Forest (what! I was even there for that one), to 34 mins, then back to 21mins, etc etc. So I knew we were behind, but not sure we’d equalised as I kept going into a time warp. Black holes here on Fuerte obviously! But eventually I got the Proppa news, 3-1. A decent performance by all accounts, which was needed…..but THREE POINTS!!

    Having caught up on the highlights and of course RRs report, I remain a happy man. Will Ramirez continue occupying Number Ten? Will De Laet get antsy being on the bench? Will Jordan boob in front of goal again? Will Stewy finally cry to be subbed after realising West Ham is where his heart really is? (Bit cruel that one, I don’t mean it!) Who knows…….it’s not about who is right or wrong on this blog.

    We can invent a team (or do the footy equivalent of race night using old pre recorded matches we can all predict and them moan about later…. get £5 entry it’s a good business plan, you heard it here first!)

    What it is about is how many points you can rack up in a season. That was three more. Can we have three more next time please?

    Happy bunny. UTB

  2. In the same way no wins in five did not make us a bad team, one win does not mean that our (mini) slump is necessarily behind us.

    We were fantastic last night and produced a great performance.

    Ramirez looks a quality player and for me even though he missed chances I thought Rhodes looked a real threat. His movement off the ball and his prowess in the air is superb.

    Him and stuani up front would batter this league. Sorry i digress!!

    The question is can we maintain this high level of performance from now till the end of the season? Why did we look so good going forward last night when we have previously looked so blunt? Did the suspension to Adam clayton help the team? (And that’s not meant to be a dig at clayts who’s had a fantastic season). Can we produce a similar attacking performance away from home or will negativity seep back in?

    Aside from those questions which I don’t think we can answer yet last night was a fabulous performance, an amazing atmosphere and boro and AK deserve a massive amount of credit for responding so well to the recent form coupled with going a goal down.

    **AV writes: I think the main reason we looked so good going forward is that Cardiff didn’t come and dig trenches but actually pushed forward and had a go.

  3. Tomorrow looms and an awful day for Ali’s family. I hope that everything goes well with the cortege on such a long journey.

    I trust someone be it BBC Tees, MFC, the Gazette or even the main supporters groups ensures that once the brave Mrs B and family have dealt with the sad events to come that they can have some space.

    Even from afar, and not as far as some, to me he was the voice of Boro, He was and still is one of our own but we must allow his family time.

  4. Nothing sells better than bad news. Very quiet here after a fabulous win over Cardiff.

    I know debate is more difficult if we win comfortably. But never the less, let’s enjoy. We have a great squad and a more than decent manager.

    But still today is dedicated to Ali Brownlee. For me his commentaries vere priceless. RIP.

    Up the Boro!

  5. Russell Slade thinks his team gave the ball away.

    There are two schools of thought, the first is Russells and it is valid. The second is that we were back to hunting whether it was an individual player or groups of players.

    Pressure brings turnovers and as in rugby turnover ball is the most dangerous because it leaves defensive leaves exposed. The higher up the pitch the more dangerous it is.

    It comes back to how you approach the game. I don’t think it was just down to Forshaw, we have seen it often this season. For example Albert was over the opposition like a rash. It can leave you a bit vulnerable yourself because of the space it leaves but it leads to a more open match.

    On to something I heard on the radio on the drive back – Talksport I am afraid. I was switching about but this is the gist.

    They were talking about Spanish football following Barca’s win at Arsenal. Neither of the presenters enjoyed La Liga a great deal and would switch over after a time even when watching El Classico.

    They didn’t like the exaggerated diving and rolling around, always trying to get cards for the opposition. They didn’t absolve English clubs or players but one made the point if Barca came to England and played that way every week it wouldn’t be long before they became hated.

    A bit extreme but I can see their point, we watch them demolish teams on TV but hidden amongst their silky skills are the dark arts. We hate teams who collapse and seem to be not playing the game the correct way, same for all fans.

    I suspect our view would be that they are brilliant but why do they have to do that. That would go for most fans in England. Maybe they have a point.

  6. Well, what a difference a change of personnel in key areas does. Ramirez will only get better ( what are the loan details AV. Is it with a view to buy?).

    Forshaw finally gets a chance to show what he can do and again on Saturday, part of me is hoping Leadbitter picks up a yellow so that Forshaw’s run is extended.

    **AV writes: Ramirez is a loan until the end of the season. There was a suggestion just before he arrived at Boro that he has signed a pre-contract to join Penarol in Uruguay next season and a $5m figure was mentioned, although I never saw that confirmed anywhere. If it were the case he will be a free agent so that $5m can’t be a transfer fee but it may be the value of the package or even a buy-out fee. Contracts seem to be a minefield in latin America.

  7. Jarkko

    Some of us are here rain or shine, good news and bad unless holidays, family or work intrudes. Obviously there are quiet times.

    Not to come on the blog in the day or so after a match is a bit like going in to the Navi at 5.00pm on a Saturday and talking about the wheat harvest in Manitoba.

      1. Manitoba

        the northern coastal areas are unaffected by the warmer summers of the interior, allowing polar bears to thrive in spite of the relatively southerly latitude.

        Wheat and polar bears – No, I don’t think so! Wait til I get down the Navi.

      2. Extensive agriculture is found only in the southern areas of the province, although there is grain farming in the Carrot Valley Region (near The Pas). The most common agricultural activity is cattle husbandry (34.6%), followed by assorted grains (19.0%) and oilseed (7.9%).[28] Around 12 percent of Canada’s farmland is located in Manitoba.[29]
        Manitoba is famous for its Tyndall Stone.

        Well , there appears to be but!! No I can’t see it takin off in the Navi unless it’s quiz night!

        And there you have it folks – wheat in Manitoba, Canada that is!

        Hang on, is there another one?

    1. I think the blog is quiet because of Ali’s funeral taking place. It puts our emotions, opinions and feelings about a ball and 22 players into perspective. It doesn’t feel right just now to berate players, managers or tactics nor to celebrate, wins, victories or indulge in opinionated arguments.

      It was extremely brave and generous for the Brownlee family to share what is normally a very private and personal occasion with the Teesside Public. I remember very little of my own Fathers funeral as the day seemed a surreal and foggy haze at the time. Even now many years later I can only recall a couple of key points, one of them being was the cold weather bizarrely. I gave a reading but I have no idea or recollection at all of what I said at the time. You are literally numbed and I’m sure the procession through the streets of Middlesbrough and through the Riverside will be a blur to the Brownlee family today.

      I hope the outpouring of love, warmth and support for Ali somehow makes their burden a little lighter especially over the coming days, weeks, months and years. Going forwards they will have many moments tinged with pain and sorrow but hopefully they will gain strength from the respect and admiration that their Ali was afforded by the Middlesbrough public during his final moments with us. I’d like to thank them for sharing that.

    2. Just watched Ali Funeral cortège on Twitter so sad I was going to go to the riverside but I’m too upset .

      He will be always be the voice of the Boro for me

      God Bless RIP

  8. Wonder if there are any Boro supporters in Manitoba???

    Come in Manitoba Boro Supporters Club – are you there???

    And no wise cracks about how I should go out there and start one up on me own.

    Btw, I’ll be popping down to FIFA HQ tomorrow morning to see the gilded and the great of the sport we know and love. I will of course be holding me nosey for the period I’m there. In addition they’re opening the FIFA Museum no less. Seen it from the outside and I’ve been in the adjacent cafe with it’s not one but three humungous TV screens that are so BIG they give you a headache just watchin them,

    Happy Days

      1. Thanks for that Jarkko! I’ll make a note of that – Ice Hockey players from Finland but no wheat! Right got it!

        Now BTW, btw, Oh, how we gushed and pushed forward the argument that we was second in the league and all was well – forget that 5 games without so much as a sniff of a win – now we’re not but the plot or shall we call it the shout is ‘forget we’re not second – for did we not win with aplomb in our last game!’ ‘Be gone ye doubters of the mighty AK coz he’s washed the floor with you scabby doubting individuals and while yer at it tighen yer tie, getta better suit and sing the Boro anthem, scabby individuals that you are!’


  9. Spartak

    It aint your lucky day, I only used the term as a tail end to my post but now you mention it.


    The central wheat fields including Manitoba were fundamental to the quality of British flour which is technically superior to European flours. The long hot summers create high quality wheat resulting in high protein levels but lower yields. You will see the term Strong on bags of bread making flour, they may even mention Canadian wheat.

    This produces a better quality gluten hence the abiltiy to produce a loaf that can be sliced and bagged/wrapped. It also stales less rapidly than typical European breads – it is why for example French bakers shops open morning and afternoon. (Fresh bread is also nice)

    Crumb Compressibility and Squeezability of Bread, Ian Gill, University of Leeds 1976.

    How sad is that!


    A great turnout for Ali.

  10. Brother-in-law went to Leeds about the same time. He did Chemical Engineering though not Bread squeezability.

    Wonder if there’s a link between the two?


  11. Spartak

    Certainly is. My first degree was Chemical Engineering then I did a Masters in Food Engineering. I got a sponsorship from RHM – the Mothers Pride, Hovis and Kipling group

    Basically Food Engineering is only Chemical/Production Engineering with foodstuffs and their associated problems. A big brewery is only an ICI with hops!

    On the Manitoba front, Canadian Garfleld Weston expanded Bakery production in Britain to use wheat from Canada. His grouping was Sunblest, Mothers Pride was RHM, Spillers French was the other big grouping. They all bought bakeries to secure outlets for their flour.

    There are lots of misconceptions about bread, especially white bread. Ideally millers would rather not waste money separating the husk from flour. They would rather sell brown flour at a premium.

    Big bakers would rather scrap half their machinery and sell uncut brown bread at a premium rather than having to condition, slice and bag white bread.

  12. Have you ever been to Germany Ian? One of the big differences to England is the quality, and variety of choice, of their bread.

    1. If a Finn moves abroad, he will miss the bread and a special licorice but stronger than elsewhere. Or it is actually ammonium chloride, but Ian must be better explaining that. Kids, even men love that over here.

      And bread. Especially the bread made of rye. Cannot buy anywhere than here!

      Up the Boro!

      PS. Listened an hour to BBC Tees today. Touching. Alistair Brownlee RIP.

    2. Steve

      Yes and many other places.

      The bakers will make what sells, they are there to use flour from the mills, they are not fixated. There is greater variety around London because of the diversity of cultures.

  13. I’m beginning to think we are about to hit a bit of form, and I do mean beating Fulham at the weekend. I have been impressed big time by Ramirez, like he just might be a big player, same as Fry. Now to pick up two big players in a fortnight is special and the proof will be seen in the next few matches so watch this space because I think the good times are coming.

  14. Great to see such a turnout across the town and the club clearly got it right. This season will always be dedicated to Ali and I still believe that we will make the top two.

    The Leeds game was the first sign and then Tuesday night confirmed it. Boro are back.

    Crosses it into the middle…….


  15. Man. Is it oba yet? Can we talk football? If we turn up like Tuesday, (on paper) sounded, I reckon 2-0. However the slippery banana skin is there as is Ross. I reckon 1-1 with JR cancelling a seemingly inevitable RM strike a reasonable result (minimum requirements really!) UTB

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