On the 22nd August (today), its 25 years since Middlesbrough Football Club was saved. The board of people who made it possible were, Chairman Colin Henderson, Steve Gibson, Graham Fordy, Reg Corbridge and Henry Moszkowicz, without that consortium of people the club that had gone into liquidation could have folded and disappeared for ever.
Every day I sat in front of the TV and prayed we would be saved. Looking back at events from a personal point of view, it was a total nightmare. I arrived as the season was underway and here I was involved in relegation, liquidation and administration. I had just bought a house ten minutes from Ayresome park. I had my first mortgage and was struggling to pay it as our wages were stopped. Despite the disruption and carnage we continued to train under the guidance and influence of manager Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd. With the gates locked we trained at places like Hutton Road, Stewarts Park, Albert Park , Marske Woods and Longlands College, after training we had to take home our own kits and wash them and we eventually picked our wages up at the Town Hall, but for the first couple of months we weren’t getting paid at all, things were getting that bad my Father was providing me with a few quid and second hand furniture.
Despite the troubles we were experiencing the comrade and togetherness created an unbelievable bond, don’t forget all the lads were in the same boat and the majority were local. Some of the things the players got up to, like nailing players boots to the floor and smearing ralgex into the crutch of players pants, (not good when you have just jumped out of the bath with open pores). Another prank was cutting the end off your socks and urinating in the communal bath as you can imagine it soon cleared. This all helped us keep team spirits high..
Looking through the team and we all know the qualities they had, but what were they like as characters?
Stephen Pears – quite a likable guy, the only time he lost his rag was when you chipped him at training. Nickname – Ginger.
Gary Pallister – cool and composed at all times on and off the park he was quite and reserved at the start, as soon as he became my mate that changed. Nickname – Pallo.
Colin Cooper – punctual, professional at all times, he was one of the original bleached blond brigade. Nickname – Coops.
Tony Mowbray – always in control, never over indulged in the pranks and the laughter, always had an aura about him. The lads used to say Bruce Rioch was his dad. Nickname – Mogga or Punch.
Gary Gill – off the park poser, bleached blond hair, tanned face designer gear, loved a laugh and a carry on. Nickname – Gilly or Bird man.
Gary Hamilton – not noted for his height, but noted for his well endowed member everyone of us felt inferior when he was getting undressed. Nickname – Hammy or Stumpy.
Brian Laws – fairly straight laced, not one to go to pubs and clubs or join in the horseplay, the word I am looking for is sensible. Nickname – Lawsy.
Archie Stephens – a typical Liverpudlian, bold, brash, funny and tough a real character, one of the few that smoked cigarettes, Woodbine I think. I roomed with him once and thought the room was on fire. Nickname – Archie Hatchet Head.
Myself Bernie Slaven – when I first arrived quiet and subdued, as the years rolled on, I became more reserved and quiet, ha ha Nickname – Wolfman.
Stuart Ripley – Highly intelligent, too bright to be a footballer. I remember he asked me to move his car and as I turned on the ignition french lessons came out of the stereo system. Nickname – Ripper or bungalow.
Gary Parkinson – Fancied himself as a bit of a singer, loved a laugh, a great lad, if you had a daughter you would want them to marry someone like him, not a bad bone in his body. Nickname Parky.
Alan Kernaghan – Not short of confidence, I used to share digs with him, I remember going into his room one night and seeing a magazine hanging out from under the bed, when I pulled it out it was a lads mag, when I looked under the bed there was hundreds of them, in fact they held up the bed. Nickname – Kerny.
Lee Turnbull – Quite, local and like-able, one of the youngest members of the squad.
Bruce Rioch – Strict disciplinarian, always smart, short tempered, he struck fear into some of the younger lads. Nickname -Colonel Gaddaffi after the Lybian leader.
Colin Todd – A fairly warm person, he was a good number two, he was the good cop if you like the heated exchanges in the dressing room he would act as the coolant. Nickname – Toddy.
Tommy Johnstone – The physio, when you went into the treatment room with a knee,hamstring or ankle injury, Tommy always assessed the groin area first. That’s one of the reasons the treatment room was always empty. Nickname – T.J.
What we achieved as a group of players after being saved was truly magnificent. No money, local lads, going from 3rd,2nd to top flight football in consecutive seasons was far greater than Sir Alex Ferguson winning the premier league title. Those lads that stuck with it during that difficult period built the foundation for today’s success. The club could have quite easily disappeared into oblivion. Its all about the future, but the class of 86 should always live in the memories and should never be forgotten. The players genuinely loved the club and wore the shirt with pride. The biggest attribute they all showed was loyalty. They could have all escaped like Don Oriordan and Peter Beagrie as the club had breached their contracts. But the passion for the club was so great they stayed.