The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Now that Middlesbrough and Queen of the South are seemingly friends forever, let’s take a look at Boro’s previous besties, and one relationship that turned sour.

Boro take the pitch at Victoria Park (Image from Middlesbrough FC)

By Daniel Cochran

Hartlepool United

No debate here. Pools will always have a special place in Boro hearts due to their role in keeping us afloat during the dark days of 1986.

With the Boro locked out of Ayresome Park, Hartlepool opened the gates of Victoria Park for our fixture against Port Vale on August 23rd. Had the game been called off Middlesbrough would have been expelled from the football league.

Cover from Hartlepool’s The Blue Print (Jan 2018)

And in 2018 Boro fans repaid at least part of their debt to Pools, raising money to pay for wages and running costs, and turning up to matches to show support when Hartlepool were themselves threatened with liquidation.

Over the years a host of Boro players have made the move up the North East coast to play for the Monkey Hangers. Sometimes it’s youngsters on loan, more often it’s old stagers towards the back end of their careers. There’s even some, such as Colin Cooper, Matthew Bates and Craig Hignett, who’ve gone on to manage the team (with – let’s put it kindly – mixed results).

Banik Ostrava

In 2004 the Czech side were Boro’s first ever opponents in a major European competition, and it was the actions of one man who brought the two clubs together.

Vladimir Janak – an Ostrava native – posted on the FMTTM message board weeks before our visit to the Czech Republic, giving fans translation help and details of hotels prices, train times, restaurant reviews – and even sorting out coaches and a street team to help confused Boro fans navigate the city. There was even a truce declared with the Ostrava ultras, as Miro relates in Steve Spithray’s excellent From Shrug to the Moon, “…I contacted the toughest core of the hooligans. They agreed to meet me and they even agreed to take part in a fans’ friendly match I organised to build some bonds between both sides…it ended with a six-all draw.”

In return, Boro fans had a whip round to fly “Boro Miro” and his son to the Riverside for the home leg, as well as warmly welcoming Banik’s 100+ fans to the town.

Darlington

It’s all kicking off in ’85 (Image from Teesside Live)

Darlington generally had good relations with Boro, who often loaned young players to the Quakers. This changed during a fateful FA Cup tie in January 1985, when violence from Middlesbrough fans inside and outside Feethams led to 16 arrests, rumours of slashings and the Newcastle Journal hailing “horrendous scenes of hand-to-hand combat and bodies being carried out of the ground on stretchers”.

The relationships between the clubs was damaged further in 1986 when fans, “armed with bleach, Stanley knives and pool balls”* fought running battles through the streets of Darlington. This time 103 people were arrested.

Thankfully, things have improved a lot since those days, but then again the two clubs haven’t played a competitive fixture since 1987…

*Evening Gazette – 2nd Aug 2015

Queen of the South

Boro’s latest flame lie north of the border. Queen of the South have already worked wonders with mercurial winger Isaiah Jones, as well as giving goalkeeper Sol Brynn a run in the side.

Now they’ve taken 21-year-old striker Sam Folarin under their collective wing. If he develops anywhere close to the way Jones did during his time at Palmerston Park, Steve Gibson will be sending a few bottles of whiskey up with our next youth prospect.

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