16th February 2016
Ali’s passing indicated to me what I have always believed, there is no justice in this world.
He was loud, infectious, charitable, biased, intelligent, funny, witty and generously helpful.
My first commentary game with Ali was against Arsenal,we went on to work together for 15 years doing Middlesbrough’s Match Day Commentary and Boro TV, for six days a week we lived in each others pockets, clocking up 500 games with record figures and picking up a New York Gold Radio award along the way.
Our highlights were commentating on three Wembley finals, we saw Middlesbrough winning our first major trophy The Carling Cup at Cardiff and the UEFA Cup Final in Eindhoven.
Ali was the master of commentary his enthusiasm was second to none, he would make an average performance sound like Barcelona at their best.
The chemistry we had on and off the airwaves was irreplaceable.
Ali was the blinkered, biased, rose-tinted, spectacle wearer, who could see no wrong in anything or anybody, I was his complete opposite. But the dynamics worked and the rajar figures we had during our time on air proved it.
We had some laughs together travelling around Europe. I recall flying to a European game and Steve McLaren came up the back of the plane and sarcastically asked me if I had a video of all my goals to show on the screens, the players wanted to see them. Ally as quick as ever, replied. “It’s only a two-hour flight we have not got enough time.”
On another flight unknown to me Ali had set me up. A very camp air steward came on the intercom and said, “I would like to wish Middlesbrough football club all the best in their game and I hope Bernie Slaven gets a hat- trick.” Hasselbaink, Viduka and co all turned round in our direction and I was totally embarrassed. Ali found it hilarious.
Ali was the ultimate pro he was vastly knowledgeable knew all his stats and always arrived at games with hours to spare, sometimes we would arrive at stadiums and they weren’t even open.
Some More funny stories are the time we were playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, we could not get parked, so Ali decided that we should try and park underneath the football ground which was reserved of VIP etc, as we approached the attendant, he stopped us, Ali turned and pointed to me and said, “Keith Lamb Middlesbrough Football Clubs Chief Executive.” The barrier lifted and we gained access, we could not stop laughing and laughed even more when we parked our clapped out Century car alongside Richard Attenborough’s Rolls Royce.
I remember receiving a phone call from him, I was still in bed, he said, “Right, Bernard this is the statement I’m putting out to enter you for Middlesbrough Mayor, I’m ready to send it to the press are you happy with it?” The coverage and laughs we had over this episode, both of us knew it was a crank, I think!
Of course it was Ali who got me involved in showing my backside in Binns window.
On a trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool, while in the car Ali told me after I heavily criticized Juninho on air, Boro Tv had received thousands of emails saying, I should be sacked. When we went live on the radio, he repeated the same thing. I instantly said, “if you or anyone wants me sacked because of my comments this will be my last show I will go.”I was fuming, the manager of Boro TV actually phoned Ali during the live broadcast and said, “tell the public Bernie is going nowhere.” While traveling back after the game Ali turned to me and said, “you know all them complaints we got.Do you know how many we actually received? It was four.” He had wound me up the two of us laughed all the way home.
I have got a million stories about Ali, I will always cherish them.
Ali’s legendary status will live forever in Teesside.
Knowing Ali he will be wanting to replace the gates of Heaven with the Ayresome Park gates.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
(There is a light that never goes out.)