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.

yessWe’ve had some dark moments of fear and doubt, grinding games, the January jitters and a moment of blind panic in a lost weekend before the season was rebooted.

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.


**** 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.


**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.



  1. A late Exmil challenge Play-Off Super-Soaraway Score Slug-Fest entry:

    Sheff Weds 1 – Brighton & Hove Bottlers 1
    Brighton 2 – 0 Sheff Weds

    Derby 2 – 1 Hull
    Hull 3 -2 Derby


    Derby 2-0 Brighton

    I’m banking on some crahahazy defending throughout which leaves the neutral wondering how the hell any of these teams would survive in the Premier$hip League. None of your namby pamby safe predictions for me. Glory or rank embarrassment.

    Thanks Exmil!

  2. This is 469th post. What is the record, AV? I think we went higher after then loss to Cardiff in the FA Cup. I have a Trabant won for 400th post in there. But that was not the last post.

    Up the Boro!

    **AV writes: I think we got up over 500 on one of the deadline days and maybe post-relegation too.

  3. It’s lovely to read all the comments on this board, all in the warm afterglow of escaping from the clinging swamp that is the championship, but, and there always is a but, could I make a request of posters? Please stop calmly telling everyone of the long list of our players who are worthless and will definitely not, repeat not, be good enough for the premiership.

    Two of the teams who went up last season, simply got stuck into the higher league, enjoyed themselves very much and had a good time. I think we are in that class, with our manager showing himself pretty good at team building and our chairman ready and able to help him recruit as and when, I look forward to an enjoyable first season plus the pleasure of seeing quite a few of our favourites really shining in their new world.

  4. Just listened to a very well known pundit on the five o’clock show discussing the play off’s. He is a senior citizen with a distinguished career in the game behind him. Imagine my amazement when he got onto the subject of Brighton. This grown man got all teary, ‘I feel really, really, really, really sorry for Brighton, they deserved. To go up to the prem. If only they had not drawn with Derby they would have been able to control the game with Boro, and would have gone up.

    And this guy is trying to tip the results of football matches for the public on a weekly basis. Brighton could not play one side of Derby, they were lucky to get a very late equaliser,(since you ask it was a high ball into the box and a deflection, in the seventh minutes of the four minutes overtime). As for controlling their game with us, that is something that they did not aspire to, hammering high balls into the box is not control. Mind you, they did control our playmaker Ramirez, in fact they controlled him right off the park.

    Ps. I won’t tell you the name of the pundit, but his initials were Mark Lawrenson.

  5. Just got the result of last night’s play off. In my opinion a perfect example of how the loyal fans of all clubs are treated, they have no say or control over the behaviour of the management or players, who do what they want. But the fans are the people who have to live with the consequences of that behaviour.

    Brighton suffered the equivalent of a collective nervous breakdown after their game with us, I’m not going to recap the events of last weekend. But to throw a massive strop and ignore the playoffs, not to mention the colossal prize attached was not wise. They were by any measure the hot favourites to win them, now one must think that their heads have gone and so has the prize. When a little time has passed and reason returns, there will be an awful lot of anguish around the club, unless, of course, they get their act together even at this late stage. Let’s hope so.

  6. I see all the rumours have started from Arsenal old timers to Morrison and Wheater it would be good to see the target list. My own feeling is that there will be a lot of players on the list that we haven’t heard about but hopefully will make an impression.

  7. Surprising, how many bloggers are disrespecting our team by proposing a complete break up and a remodel using second hand and worn parts. Would they choose that way forward if it was their car they were taking on a strange journey. I think we must leave ak to steer the ship into the top flight, so far he has shown that he knows what is required to construct a team, and he certainly knows more than we do about competing in a top league. By that I am talking about the imponderables; skill set, tactics, mind set, emphasis,(defence or attack?) and of course the constant attention to morale as the season progresses. Should be good fun.

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