Final Farewell Speaks Volumes About Boro

THE LAST  time that particular route was jammed with Boro fans, it was the victory parade after the Carling Cup triumph after Cardiff.  It is fitting then that the Red Army lined the same streets to celebrate Alastair Brownlee, a presence so intricately woven into the personal and collective memories of the town.

Fitting too that the day was marked by a public display of emotion, because that is what Ali conveyed so powerfully in some of the proudest and most intense moments in the lives of many Teessiders.

Fans turned out in their thousands to show their respects at the Riverside in scarves and shirts and at Ayresome Park, along Linthorpe Road and Borough Road for the public procession of the cortege. Lifelong loyalists and the next generation joined in quiet contemplation and respect for an iconic figure woven into the fabric of the community.

It was as close as Middlesbrough can get to a state funeral.

Ali-stadium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an amazing turnout after what has been a testing and emotional week that has shown our community at its best.

Middlesbrough is a passionately parochial town – in many ways it is just a big village – and in many ways over the years that has been a weakness. But during dark times of economic turmoil or a human tragedy that touches us all, it is also a source of great strength.

We are quick to unite and pull together and show exactly how tight knit a community we are.  We have seen that over the last few days. The reaction on every level to the passing of Ali Brownlee has been incredible.

Middlesbrough supporters have done themselves proud at what is really quite a shocking and saddening moment. They have been compassionate, supportive and celebratory in just the right measure and their overt displays of emotion have been quite moving.

And the public process has helped everyone come to terms with the loss of a massive cultural presence, someone everyone regarded as a friend.

The sincerity and intensity of the public shows of appreciation for him have been quite staggering. The smartphone torchlight tributes, the chanting and fan-funded banners unveiled at matches have been visually striking and deeply moving and have caught the imagination and even prompted support from opposition fans swept up in the moment.

On Teesside we may take it for granted because it is what we do, but outside observers must be taken aback. Other fans who have seen our display – even Leeds, as harden and hostile as they come – were moved to join in. And that was much appreciated. And press men from other clubs and the nationals have been left gob-smacked by it.

It must be unique for a football crowd to hail en masse the name of a local radio commentator.  That speaks volumes not only about Ali Brownlee and the esteem he was held in, but of the crowd itself. In Boro we really are all in this together.

The club have done themselves proud too. They have judged their reaction to the situation perfectly and made the stadium the focus of the public mourning in a way that has given the family time and space.

1team

For them Ali has long been part of the furniture.  He has been a familiar face at Ayresome Park, the Riverside and Rockliffe for decades and the chairman and the manager were quick to say in touching terms that Ali was a great supporter and a great friend of the club.  Aitor Karanka is a Basque. He understands that football is a vehicle for identity.

They reiterated the simple and striking message: He’s one of our own.

The old Ayresome gates have become the symbolic centre-piece of the supporters’ tributes while the pre-match build-up before the Cardiff match and the kind words in the programme were lovely.

 

And the visit of the cortege to the Riverside – and the presence of Aitor Karanka, his staff and the players – was a nice touch too and helped fuse the public and private elements.

The way the week has unfolded and the unconditional outpouring of love and respect at matches and along the route of the cortege towards Ali must have been great comfort for his family.

The service for Ali at St Mary’s, the family Church in Acklam where he was married to Wendy, was packed too with his nearest and dearest plus many friends and colleagues and a host of familiar Boro faces past and present from over the years.

George Friend, Jonathan Woodgate, Stewart Downing and Ben Gibson were there. David Hodgson, Alan Peacock, Gary Pallister, Craig Hignett, Curtis Fleming, Gary Gill, Bernie Slaven… all people who knew and loved Ali Brownlee the man and regarded him a warm and staunch friend.

Gordon Cox, whose life, career and love of Boro were entwined with Ali’s said some beautiful – and very funny words – in warm personal tribute to his great friend .

And there were some powerful and appropriate moving musical moments with Joe Hammill from Cattle And Cane doing a breath-taking rendition of Infant Hercules and there were also the strains of Chris Rea’s Steel River at the end of a moving service.

It was a service that spoke of Ali’s intense pride in his family, his football club and in the Teesside that he loved.

I’m sure he would have been proud too at the way the community he championed so passionately has expressed itself over a testing and tragic week.

And I hope his family can take comfort from and pride in it too.

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13 thoughts on “Final Farewell Speaks Volumes About Boro

  1. Thank you Ali for being our eyes and touching our emotions so faultlessly over all these miles and for all these years. You will never be forgotten. RIP to the best friend I never met.

  2. What else is there to say, my son worshipped Ali in the same way he worships Woody, Stewie et al.

    I hope Ali’s family can find some small comfort in the wave of support and love which has swept Teesside in what is a very dark time for them.

  3. Why not an Alistair Brownlee Memorial pre season game between Boro and another. Top team, or a three team tournament over a weekend before the season begins, something like Boro,Celtic and a European team,
    I’m sure the crowds would be fair,

  4. It’s at times like these that I miss home so much. Like many have said I didn’t know Ali, but I felt like I did. Like many I feel that I’ve lost a friend, which I know is illogical because I never met him. I am terribly upset.

    The Gazette coverage has been excellent, congratulations to all. I watched the tribute video with tears welling up. Middlesbrough Football Club have been brilliant also. I remember my own fathers passing and remember the sense of loss, and the return home for the funeral and people I hadn’t seen in years and some I’d forgotten about who told me I was growing up ‘just like my Dad’. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion and my Dad was much older than Ali. I really feel for his family with him passing away at such a young age.

    Fortunately through the wonders of modern technology we’ll always have access to Ali. I’ll always be able to go on the Internet and hear about “the greatest Australian since Ned Kelly” or be invited round to Ali’s house for a parmo. What a great and gracious man. He has added so much to my life.

    Thanks to AV for his post and giving us the opportunity to share our emotions with a group of online friends. I really hope the Boro can provide a fitting and happy ending this season, but I know that Ali will be watching and supporting regardless of the outcome.

  5. Ali was unique. No disrespect to his replacement but the Boro hour will never be the same again.
    Still doesn’t seem real.

  6. Slaggy

    he will be sat there watching Boro and will turn to God and say ‘come on God, youre the expert summariser what do we need to?’

  7. Need to step up tomorrow and make the game in hand count.

    (Hope you’re watching BBC4 AV, the mechanics of a classic album)

    **AV writes: It’s been on a few times before. Watching the footage, listening to Marquee Moon.

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