Magic Moments


Promotion with Boro

Promotion with Boro

After relegation and liquidation back in 1986 the club reformed and gained promotion to the second division against all odds at first attempt.

It was a unique occasion when you consider the majority of the side were local lads. The whole team cost  something like £160,000 to assemble.

The secret to our promotion was that we had a good shape and balance to the team, played good football and had a great manager at the helm in Bruce Rioch.

First Appearance at Wembley

Boro at Wembley

Boro at Wembley

One of my ambitions when I came to England was to play at Wembley. In 1989 I got the opportunity to play on the hallowed turf. The competition was called the Zenith Data Systems Cup the critics would say it’s a nothing trophy, try telling that to the 70,000 that packed Wembley, the opposition on the day wasn’t Mansfield, Tranmere or Halifax it was Chelsea, they had players like Kenny Dixon and Tony Dorigo. Apart from it being my first visit to the Twin Towers it was Middlesbroughs first visit in over 100 years, some of the clubs greatest ever players, Wilf Mannion, George Hardwick, John Hickton and Brian Clough never made it.

If I’m been brutally honest the game itself passed us by and we were beaten 1-0, Chelsea’s full back Tony Dorigo scored from a free kick.

But to play at the National stadium 4 years after arriving from Scotland was no mean feat. On the day of the game my personal triumph was the headline, “From the dole queue to Wembley”.

Meeting the Pope

The Pope and Me

Pope John Paul II, Jack Charlton and Me

In 1990 I was one of 22 players to be selected for the Republic of Ireland, for the World Cup Finals in Italy. Some of the other players were Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, John Aldridge and Packie Bonner.

The manager at the time was big Jack Charlton, World Cup winner with England as a player back in 1966. Jack originated from the North East of England and managed Newcastle United for a brief spell and Middlesbrough where he guided them to the 2nd Division title in 1973.

During our tour of Italy for the finals Jack was asked by the kit man if he could arrange a visit to see the Pope. Jack obliged and on one of our days off we ended up in the Vatican, every player and staff attended. The following day I was told I was in every national paper back in England, at first I thought I was on the move from the club only to be told, I was alongside Jack Charlton and the Pope himself.

As a devout Catholic to meet and be so close to the late great Pope John Paul, will live in my memory forever.

Match Day Commentary

Match Day Commentary

Match Day Commentary

As a player I was fortunate enough to play 380 games for Middlesbrough. After I retired from the game I ended up doing live commentary as a summariser for Century Radio. I clocked up 500 games watching Middlesbrough domestically and in Europe, FA Cup finals, Carling Cup finals, UEFA Cup finals and I loved every minute of it, not as good as playing football but a very close second.

In 2007 after ten consecutive years and winning a New York Radio Award for the show, we lost the commentary rights.

Locally there was an uproar. The radio and local papers received 1000’s of disgruntled views via emails and letters as did the football cub.

The balance of the match day commentary then was perfect, one would defend the team whatever and after a 5-0 thrashing I would tell the truth, but we both lost the job.

People speculated it was my fault for having such strong opinions. I would rather not have a job than be in a job where you’re saying what other people want you to say.

On the airwaves your the peoples eyes and if your not truthful as to what you are seeing you are conning the public.

Tunnel at Ayresome Park

Ayresome Park Tunnel

Running onto the pitch at Ayresome Park

I loved nothing more as a player than running out the tunnel at Ayresome Park.

The smell of woodbine, pies and bovril. The grass gave off an aroma as well. The holgate end was always packed irrespective of the capacity.

The crowd would chant my name, Bernie Bernie Slaven, Bernie Bernie Slaven.

I had a ritual before each home game, I would drive to the ground listening to my favourite band at the time U2, I always wore Nike boots and I wore the number 7 jersey and said a prayer. I would always warm up in front of our supporters in the holgate end and would have several shots at the goalkeeper, before returning to the dressing room for our pre match team talk.

We would line up alongside our opponents and run out the tunnel with the power game blaring out the tannoy system.

Wembley Port Vale Trophy

Port Vale at Wembley

Port Vale winning the Autoglass Trophy at Wembley

As a player I was very fortunate to make 4 visits to Wembley, the Zenith Cup final with Middlesbrough, the Autoglass Trophy and the play off final with Port Vale and I was part of the Republic of Ireland squad who played England.

The only silverware I lifted was the Autoglass Trophy when Port Vale beat Stockport County 2-1. I was fortunate on the day to grab the winner.

If I needed a boost before the game, I got it when I heard my old  boss at Middlesbrough, who got rid of me was doing the summarising for the game on TV, Lennie Lawrence. In the opening hour I ran about like a man possessed, set up the first goal and grabbed the second.

After the game not only did I pick up a winners medal, but I was voted man of the match by non other than Lennie.

So all round it was a memorable day, and Port Vale lifted their first trophy in the clubs history.

First Goal for Boro

Bernie Slaven Goal Celebrations

First Goal Celebrations

I arrived at Ayresome Park in 1984/85. After scoring 31 goals north of the border, I was Scotlands top goal scorer, with unfashionable Albion Rovers.

It was important to get off the mark as quickly as possible, my debut for Middlesbrough was away at Leeds Utd, unfortunately I didn’t score and we were beaten 1-0.

The following game i made my home debut against Bradford City the game ended 1-1 and I was delighted to open my account.

Thankfully it was the first of many, wearing the red shirt of Middlesbrough, the goals continued to flow but the goal celebration changed.

Binns Window

Bernie in Binns window

In Binns window

There is a saying in Middlesbrough, if it’s not likely to happen, if it comes off you will show your arse in a local department store in the centre of the town.

Well back in 1999 on live radio I predicted ahead of our visit to Old Trafford to take on Man Utd, a team we had not beaten in 68 years, that if we won I would do the dirty deed.

After 90 mins at the theatre of dreams the score board read Man Utd 2 Middlesbrough 3. The travelling Boro fans were chanting Bernie, Bernie show us your arse.

On the Monday morning I arrived at the managers office at Binns, within an hour the room was full of journalists local and national, don’t forget it was Christmas and the press were looking for stories. I put on my red tartan kilt and got one of the girls to write 3-2 on my bum cheeks.

As I entered the window of the store i couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a couple of thousand people inside and outside, trying to get a glimpse of my rear.

If only I had kept my big mouth shut.

Boro TV

On Boro TV

Me on club channel Boro TV

Boro TV went out on the TV screens in a low budget pilot screening in 1997. It overtook Manchester United in the race to set up a dedicated football club TV channel.

Alongside myself were Juninho, Craig Hignett and Dave Roberts as presenters.

The following year myself and Alastair Brownlee were approached to take up the job presenting regular shows.

It was aired for the first time on Comcast channel 9 on 19th February and was on twice a week. Eventually Ntl would take over.

The channel’s focus was the weekly magazine show Totally Red.

At first the studio and equipment were very basic, in time we developed and became a professional production.

The part of the show I was most involved in was Bernie’s About. I interviewed past and present Boro players and some local celebrities.

This has now helped me with my books Bernie’s About.

I continued to work for Boro TV for 5 years until the end of 2002. I had a dispute about my wages and I was sacked. I later took them to a tribunal for unfair dismissal, unfortunately I lost, but at least I had stood up for my principals.

Despite this I enjoyed my time at Boro TV, the channel eventually came off the screen a year or so after I left.

BoroTV Limited returned as an independent production company directed by Adam Nolan, who was producer of the original shows. Despite not going out live on a TV channel, they continue to cover most Middlesbrough games and produce DVDs for Middlesbrough Football Club. BoroTV Limited also produced Lucky Slaven and Legends Uncensored.