YEEEESSSSSSSSSS! Get in there! Boro. Are. Back!
What a feeling. What a day . What a team. What a club. What a season. What a relief!
This season has been a long slog, an emotional assault course with fraught fans battered after going through a psychological hot-wash and spin cycle – but it was all worth it.
It hasn’t been the utopian cavalier procession to 100 points we all craved. It hasn’t always been pretty. God, sometimes it has been pig-in-lipstick pug ugly.
But we’ve got there. We are over the line and that’s all that matters. Back in the big time. Back in the spotlight. Back in the money.
We all know the size of the prize and the pressure it has added.
But ZAP! Boro have just been transformed into one of the 30 richest clubs in the world in a flash. Suddenly we are a cash juggernaut and global brand again, a top-table big ticket household name from Miami to Manila.
Right now Steve Gibson is probably sat laughing deliriously in the boardroom in a snowstorm of £50 notes. No one would blame him. After seven years of financial life-support the big boss more than anyone deserves this moment of celebration. Exhilaration. Validation. God knows he had by far the most to lose.
And the fans deserve it too. We have spent seven years in purgatory. The early years in the cold shadow of relegation took their toll as crowds and morale dropped. Boro was not a happy place.
The shrivelling under Gareth Southgate, the expensive Caledonian cul-de-sac of Gordon Strachan and the belt-tightening, close calls and frustrating final furlong fading under Tony Mowbray all chipped away at the soul.
But the galvanising journey back in the last two years – and the pain of Wembley – has made us stronger, smarter, more determined, more focused and more united on and off the pitch.
Supporters have responded with quantity and quality, pride and passion, increasing numbers, colour and volume home and away.
he team, the club, Steve Gibson and the crowd have worked hard to get here.
What we have achieved together is fantastic. And famous. And just the start.
We deserve this. We have all earned it. Enjoy. Party. Let the champagne and beer flow and tattooists’ needles whirr.
But stay sharp. Next year we go again – onward and upward.
COME ON BORO.
**** RIGHT… I’m off out to celebrate. Talk amongst yourself
FLAG DAY! Boro are preparing a flag waving set-piece spectacular before the Brighton game and are urging fans to get there early. Early? I’ll be there with the milk float.
The sight of 30,000 red and white flags rippling on waves of excitement, an eardrum-bursting roar as the gladiators emerge and the Glasto bass bin pumping of heart against rib cage will get everyone really pumped up. As if we needed excitement levels pushing up. Most would probably willing swap their free pint for a Valium.
It is going to be bloody fantastic. And I can’t wait.
People keep measuring the countdown in “sleeps”. I haven’t slept since the middle of January and there’s no point trying now. I think I’ll just push on through to the end with nerves tingling and a 1,000 yard stare and then get some kip in the summer while waiting for the fixture list to come out.
Whatever else you say about Boro you have to admit we do a good display: flags, cards, light-shows, banners hailing the leader… that historic link with North Korea has served us well. Over the years Boro fans have initiated some excellent, colourful and inspirational shows of support for the team, the town, our heroes and our icons.
It was enthusiastic fans who got there early in a Gazette battle bus to distribute 30,000 red and white bits of a chest band design mosaic in the original ‘Big Cards’ show at the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Fans who drove the big cards display marking out the target – Eindhoven – before the pulsating Steaua Bucharest semi-final in the UEFA Cup (the emotional highs of which we remembered last week) . And in the last year we have had cards spelling out #Believe, SOS (Save Our Steel) and most recently 18MFC76 to mark our birthday.
The big surfer was fan funded, designed and produced. As was the Gibbo ‘One of Us’ banner. The ‘Fit and Proper’ banner. The ‘We Built The World’ banner. And the ever funny ‘Trophy Virgins’ mischievous masterstroke (you can see some of the best here). Oh, and the ‘Alves Goal Machine’ one … but we don’t talk about that.
And the Ali Brownlee smartphone torchlight twinkling, an image of the season, was a spontaneous supporter tribute that caught the mood of the moment and spoke volumes of the unity of the crowd.
But FLAGS! Flag days have a special part in our cultural history don’t they? The officially orchestrated mass fluttering celebrations echo an emotionally heightened age of possibility. They take you back to a box fresh Riverside – “the Cellnet” – when it was a colourful, smiling era of facepaint, foam fingers and Teesside Galacticos lured by Gibbo’s magic chequebook to a sold out stadium and the Red Book being a fashion item for Yarm’s ladies who lunch.
‘Flag day’ invokes the chest-bursting pride of second tier Boro battering big boys Liverpool in the semi-final of the League Cup in 1998, of Marco Branca’s dramatic debut and of Steve Baker man-marking McManaman so closely and so determinedly he went back home on the Scousers team bus.
That kind of atmosphere, that kind of start, that kind of result would be perfect on Saturday against the Seagulls.
Flags or not, the Brighton match is going to be electrifying. It is a last day £170m promotion shoot-out with the teams locked together on points. How could it be anything other than ridiculously, hysterically exciting. I’m tingling all over.
It is a game in which the crowd will need little encouragement to be loud and proud and fiercely partisan. There is a big away following too which always helps. A bit of needle always helps stoke up the decibel levels. Given the ingredients, the atmosphere will need very little nurturing and I hope the club recognise that.
No one will need prodding by MMP’s PA into a Pavlovian Pigbag. A tinny PA whacked up to 11 won’t add to the mix.
The natural sound of the crowd should be allowed to grow organically in the build-up, supporters should be given a chance to feel their own strength, to flex their vocal muscles ready to unleash a sonic tsunami.
A well-judged pre-match set-list would be great. The music for Steaua was brilliantly aggressive – I remember Firestarter booming out – and last season before the Brentford play-off there were some air-punching battle hymns before we went over the top.
But having done the rabble-rousing, having stirred the spirits I hope they turn the music off before kick-off and let the crowd feel their own naked power. And let the Boro players feel that inspirational power too.
And Brighton. Let them feel the force of a united Teesside too.
COME ON BORO!
**This is a Tinny Aural Attack remix of a bit in the paper yesterday as we start out build up to the biggest game in the galaxy ever. And here’s my Anger Is An Energy column from Tuesday, channelling the Sex Pistols and months of frustration. And you can find the shoot-out special Tripe Supper here.
Obviously we have been busy this week getting things in the bank for Saturday and beyond but it will give you something to talk about while we wait for our moment.