BORO V EVERTON 1988 - Remembered
By Mick Richardson
Tuesday 23 Apr 2019 12:13:00
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Boro's distressing and divisive defeat at Forest yesterday re-opened wounds again in another dark chapter in a season studded by damaging defeats. It was hard to take, embarrassing said one longtime fan, as we passed in the street. I thought you might like to read an article written of better times or more heroic times. Bruce Rioch's battling Boro taking on the cream of the top flight in Champions, Everton. Mick Richardson shares with us what it was like for a young boy taking in his first Boro experience in an epic cup game that lit up dear old Ayresome Park.

On the 3rd February 1988, FA Cup fever spread across Teesside like wild fire. Bruce Rioch had somehow clubbed together a team of local lads and steered them away from the clutches of the Third Division. Not content with that, he was now putting together a serious challenge for back to back promotions to the top flight. We were sitting 3rd in the Second Division and had been drawn against top flight side Everton, 4th in the First Division and what’s more, the winner of this tie would play mighty Liverpool in the next round. It was all up for grabs.

Back then I was 13 years old, small and stick thin. Whilst the Parmo had arrived on Teesside, my dad’s giro hadn’t and so any growth spurts mainly came from nutritional, Hustler school, free dinners. That said, the old man still found enough cash to purchase one children’s ticket for the Holgate End for this match. I was buzzing. Though mam was somewhat disturbed, her wee boy, swamped in a crowd of over 28000 was surely no safe place to be? She kissed me on the cheek as I opened the front door and grabbed at her rosary beads.

I arrived at the Clive Road entrance quite early on. But then so did hundreds of others and I mean hundreds, the word queue hadn’t been invented then. Loads of pissed up blokes, fresh out of the Park Hotel, Levi 501’s hanging over the crack of their arses, all jostled for position to get through the limited turnstiles. I noted their Butt cracks for one simple reason, back in 1988, that was my head height.

I waited patiently for my turn to enter the Holgate, but it was murder. Not literally, but it could easily have ended in serious injury. The crowd had swollen to thousands at this point, as the sands of time had clicked toward kick off and Clive Road was awash with an army of Boro fanatics. Kids were passing out and I vaguely remember one lad being lofted onto a police horse to allow him to breathe. I asked the chap in front of me if he could help me escape the crowd but upon turning his neck to see if it was possible, he simply replied “son, there’s no way you can go backwards, your safer going in” and with help from some other blokes, they hiked me out of the heat and farts and placed me on his back. My hero.

Inside the ground and the atmosphere was bouncing, you couldn’t see the electricity in the air that night, but you could certainly feel it. As always, the Holgate ebbed and flowed and every now and again surged, as Mowbray and then Laws went close early on. Only fools or the inexperienced placed themselves on hard barriers at times like those.

As the bookies had predicted, Everton scored the opener. Big Dave Watson steering a header past Pears. Gut wrenching really and an unfamiliar feeling to me. Boro had an unbeaten home record stretching way back to September, how very dare the Toffees. But Boro didn’t lie down; going into the last minute, the red warriors won a corner at the Holgate end. Gary Hamilton swings it over and my boyhood hero, living legend, Tony Mowbray sticks his head on it. Absolute scenes, sheer pandemonium and limbs everywhere. I’ve never felt ecstasy like it. Mogga stood on the hoardings, both arms aloft, if only you could bottle moments like that.

Into Extra Time and Boro are battering Everton now. Rippers off the bar, the atmosphere cranked to fever pitch and ‘well blow me down with a feather,’ we do it again. Big Al Kernaghan. I actually feared for my life at that point. The Holgate erupted. Grown men throw me about like a rag doll and kiss me like a long-lost son. Somewhere in the melee I rip my coat, “for god sake, stay on your feet, don’t go down,” I’m advised by one Holgate veteran, his face awash with elation. I could have cried I was so happy, but Trevor Steven ruined it.

In some sick twist of fate, Everton themselves equalise in the last minute of extra time. No f-ing way. Those 90 minutes sum up what supporting the Boro is really like. So so nearly. I was an emotional wreck at the end of it.

I walked home, head in a spin. I opened the door and Mam is waiting for me, she takes one look at me and see’s my anguish. I’m tired, battered and bruised. I have tears in my eyes and my coat is torn. I look like I’ve stood toe to toe with the ICF. She berates herself for letting me go. Holding me, she attempts to say sorry as if it was all her fault. After a long, tight cuddle she holds me at arm’s length and allows me to speak.

“Can I go to the replay mam?”

 

Mick Richardson

(Author of the Boro Phallacy)

Also available for kindle on Amazon



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