Boro's Carling Cup Glory Remembered

By Anthony Vickers on Feb 29, 12 08:51 AM

DUE TO a Football League fixture/calendar conspiracy it's only our second chance to celebrate the exact anniversary of mighty Boro's famous Carling Cup triumph at Cardiff.

Not being one to miss that kind of opportunity to caress a cultural touchstone here's my nostalgic musings on the historic importance of ACTUALLY WINNING A TROPHY and what a fantastic emotional experience it was for everyone who was there.

It opened the door to Europe and fixtures inconceivable on the Holgate. It ushered in a new golden era of possibilities and excitement and raised expectation levels to unsustainable levels, the painful fall from which has left profound psychic bruising that still smarts.

But hey, let's not beat ourselves up about the hangover. Let's recall the party...


Here's the highlights, just to refresh your memory....

And here's the slightly sickly club video of the celebration night and victory parade, recorded in Pravdavision but worth a watch just because of the beaming smiles and sense that the air of possibility had permeated the players too. Although Michael Rickett's sharing the club's greatest moment has an incongruous feel.

Here's the Gazette's picture gallery from the day. And here's my celebratory Big Picture from today's paper, painting from an emotional palette....


A CALENDAR conspiracy can't stop us celebrating just the second real birthday of our glorious Leap Day delight at the Millenium Stadium on February 29th, 2004.

Eight years on, the glow from Boro's greatest success in winning the Carling Cup still hasn't faded completely.


WHITE hot iron, red hot steel... Boro finally brought the silver back to Teesside.

And it was fantastic. After 128 barren years of barren mediocrity, a life sentence of enamel shattering 'typical Boro' kicks in the teeth was over and a new golden age of European glory beckoned.

Surely with an historic log-jam in the trophy pipeline now unblocked a century's worth of cups would gush forth?

It had been snowing when we left Teesside - there were even fears the game may be off - but it was beautiful in Wales, the sunshine of a bright new era.

Suddenly everything felt possible. And all the suffering was validated. What could stop mighty Boro now?

Alas, the famous victory at Cardiff is fading now. None of the matchday squad are still at the club, the naive optimism and European dividend is long gone and few outside Teesside will remember it. Certainly not the national media.

But for Boro fans it is still a vivid and precious memory. There are plenty of cup final tickets framed in pride of place, plenty of still tattoos paraded and caressed with a beaming smile and the DVD is a key part in educating the next generation. And no doubt cult classic "128 Years Later" will be getting a poignant re-run for many tomorrow.

Cardiff was brilliant. And victory was inevitable. How could Boro have failed when urged on, as they were, by an awesome wave of tangible passion that almost blew the roof off the Millennium Stadium?

Rarely can a structure have had to withstand such a sonic boom as the aural explosion of emotion that greeted the final whistle and then echoed again and again in the aftermath of a historic communal celebration of Tees pride.

The crowd were in ecstasy; mind-spinning, heart-soaring, dream-fulfilling ecstasy. I was. Television can't convey the impact of that tangible wall of red and white noise as Boro finally came of age.

The anxiously awaited whistle - it was Boro after all! - was greeted with a jubilant full-throated claim that Boro were "the finest team in football the world has ever seen" - and for once there was the sweet, shiny proof to wave under the noses of all those who sneered and doubted.

The spontaneous post-match Pigbag was a collective hymn of victory, a flag-waving, tear-jerking affirmation of faith, a communal celebration of long awaited success that is the stuff of legend.

The air-punching Southgate Salute, cheered to the rafters, rammed home the emphatic message that Boro were now up there with the big boys. Boro were the first team in the North-east to bring back a major national trophy in over 30 years. And remain so.

And the grateful chorus of "One Stevie Gibson" showed that supporters were very much aware that the moment was chiefly down to the drive and vision of the uber-fan and champagne soaked chairman Steve Gibson deserves to see his club succeed for his massive personal investment.

He deserved to be chaired in triumph and to celebrate the culmination of a dream. He deserved his moment of vindication.

And so did the fans. It was a fitting reward for their unconditional emotional investment over those long bleak years with little dividend.

It was payback for those desolate trips back from Wembley and the near misses that have teased us for generations.

And as usual, on the big day, the Boro fans played a blinder. We were louder, brighter, more colourful, more insistent than Bolton. We wanted it more.

Boro fans had no time for tourism. We had done gasps of awe at an impressive stadium and the "it's nice just to be here" routine before. They were single-minded and steely. This time we were here to win.

It had been the same for the whole weekend. Bolton fans were there, but in small numbers, and strangely muted. Boro were everywhere. Boro were loud and proud, visible and confident.

The heart and soul of the Boro operation, the Teesside Embassy in the Principality, was the Gatekeeper, the epicentre of hope on the eve of the game as the masses gathered.

It was a gigantic cavern of a pub 50 yards from the entrance to the Boro end with ample room to drape banners and acoustics perfect for belting out terrace favourites. The air of confidence, of determination in there was inspirational. How could we fail?

Among the banners was one that said simply "Erimus" - the town's Latin motto which means 'We Will Be'. Just before kick-off that prescient banner rippled across the back of the North Stand.

Elsewhere banners proclaimed "Smoggies on Tour" or declared the owners to be from York, Billingham, Derby, Perth, Yarm - and even from just down the road in Gwent.

There were the flags of Boro's League of Nations squad: French, Italian, Brazilian, Cameroon and even Basque.

The Boro crowd were a magnificent spectacle in a magnificent arena. Under the roof, with sunlight breaking through the corners the eerie atmosphere was added to by the billowing smoke left by the pre-match pyrotechnics.

And they went through the eardrum bleeding decibel barrier as Boro got off to a flyer with two quickfire goals.

Legend Joseph 'one' Job came sliding in at the far post to stab home a low Bolo Zenden cross before two minutes was up. The ball in may have been a wayward shot but who cares?

Then Job was bundled over just inside the box by Emerson Thome in the seventh minute and Zenden stepped up take the resulting penalty and slipped as he made contact - or dribbled it forward illegally if you are equipped with jaundiced Samovision - and Boro were two up. I was deafened by the roar. And almost sick with excitement and fear.

As usual, Boro fans were put through agonies as a dream start threatened to almost turn into a nightmare through 83 minutes of paranoid tension.

When Bolton hit the post the roof almost came down as the intake of breath from 30,000 cynics fearing a 'typical Boro' moment created a vacuum for a split-second. And there were further scares as time ebbed through a long pregnant four minutes of added time.

But there was no spoiling the long-awaited Boro party. It lasted for months didn't it?

Great memories of a brief moment when we really were winners. It felt like the beginning of something special. And it was: a tentative European debut, a highest ever Premier League finish and a more determined push to Eindhoven via Rome, Basel and Steaua was to follow. That was all fantastic too.

But for now, just bask in the belated glory of Cardiff.

Happy birthday, dreams.


Stephen said:

Watching the video back - Slaven is the only person in the world who, rather than praising Juninho for the run in the last minute, would rather moan about where Ricketts was :-)

Jim Woodcock said:

Wow AV - makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up just reading through and remembering this. Seems like yesterday, well it was only 2 years ago!!

spartakboro said:

Not wishing to dampen the memories or hinder the ghost of ecstatic BUT Boro had previously won a piece of silverware in the Anglo-Scottish Cup. I know cause I was there, in my short trousers in the Boy's End looking down on the pitch at Ayresome Park as the floodlights illuminated it all - Lest even we the Boro devotees forget.


**AV writes: Yes. And the North Riding Senior Cup. And the Cock Of The North Tournament. All the biggies.

Nigel Reeve said:

I remember it well...........

Smogonthtyne now on the moon said:

Why have I got tears stinging my eyes. Why is there a lump in my throat? Why do I think we are going to go unbeaten from now until next season?

It's only a game, right?

steveh said:

Thanks for that Vic. I've got the lump in the throat and the tears in the eyes again.

No matter what ever happens to our club they can never take that day, that moment, away from us.

A moment to treasure.

borobythesea said:

What can one add? Still the greatest sporting moment of my life.Just a perfect day

spartakboro said:

**AV writes: Yes. And the North Riding Senior Cup. And the Cock Of The North Tournament. All the biggies."

In no way shape or form does the Anglo-Scottish Cup come near to the legendary success the Boro achieved in Cardiff. So there's an element of truth in what you say AV.

Yet still, this was Big Jack's first piece of silverware against similar level opposition and I don't believe he had the zillions to spread about like confetti at a wedding as had the newborn Middlesbrough Football and Athletic Club Ltd at the time of their/our rise to prominence. I believe he spent £30 000 on a certain Graeme Souness.

I for one at the time felt euphoric that Boro, for the first time as a professional team, had won silverware and will always be grateful to Jack and his team for doing so.

1975-76 Anglo-Scottish Cup Participants:

Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Bristol City, Carlisle United, Chelsea, Fulham, Hull City, Leicester City, Manchester City, Mansfield Town, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Sheffield United, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion Aberdeen, Ayr United, Dundee, Falkirk, Heart of Midlothian, Motherwell, Queen of the South, St. Johnstone

I don't believe the clubs mentioned above were only in the competition to smell the Bovril wafting from the stands and cast envious eyes over the hot pork pies.

Don't forget - The Anglo-Scottish Cup 1975 MFC inaugural winners.


**AV writes: Actually Big Jack's first bit of silverware was the second division title - and that was a far more important and prestigious win than the Anglo Scottish Cup. I couldn't tell you who won the Anglo Scottish Cup in any other year. Or indeed the ZDS any other year than 1990. Or the Anglo Italian Cup, Texaco Cup or Guinness Soccer Sixes. If you got involved with some "banter" with Geordies and Mackems and threw the Anglo Scottish into the mix they would laugh.

But the League Cup is a trophy that fans across the nation can reel off a list of previous winners because it is acknowledged as an established national competition with real credibility. That is why it was a quantum leap forward.

kev B said:

Amazing memories AV, and perfectly summed up. I'm still proud of Boro and the fans that weekend. and as you say ... STILL the only NE club to lift a trophy in over 30 years.

kev B said:

South stand and SE corner CASH for England game tonight .. .now if its ok for this game why not every Boro game eh? Might make for increased attendances at the Riverside? Discuss.

Ian Gill said:

Apart from Carling Cup memories a quick glance at the U21's brought a smile to my face.

Steele is on the bench which is fair and I didnt expect anyone else to be involved but I get a little sniff of cynical marketing from all the stories and praise of MFC by sundry FA parties.

Wonderful youth set up, praise for Parnaby and his staff, praise for the academy, praise for the club. Praise from Gate about Mogga playing the kids when the only bench they have got close to was in Pallister Park.

You would just think they were trying to sell tickets.

Could just be me being grumpy. Not a bad turnout, well done to those who went,

**AV writes: There was a discussion on twitter a few days ago about Academies and how Boro compare to other teams. It was noted that Boro currently have 19 home grown internationals at various levels, mainly with England, on their books. Only Manchester United and Manchester City had more. Most clubs, even the rest of the Premier League big boys fell well short. And a lot of their Academy products play for other nations.

That's not bad productivity. We must be doing something right. It is more than just marketing. How many of them make the big step up is the real test or course.

David of Redcar said:

There was a lot to be proud of in 2004:

Ross Turnbull
Anthony McMahon
David Wheater
Andrew Davies
Matthew Bates
Alan Harrison
Andrew Taylor
Gary Liddle
Anthony Peacock
Chris Brunt
James Morrison
Peter Masters
Jason Kennedy
David Knight
Peter Masters
Jason Kennedy
Tom Craddock
Andrew Taylor
Adam Johnson

The youth cup finalist/winner squad..

How many of these came from outside of the North East?

Holgate Ender said:

We won a cup. How great was that? I was terrified going to Cardiff because I'd been to all four Wembley games and came away sickened and angry and bitter and convinced we would NEVER win a real cup ever. We couldn't beat a rubbish Chelsea team who didn't look bothered in the ZDS and we couldn't beat awful Leicester with Juninho and our team of superstars.

But we won at Cardiff and it was unbelieveable. It was nervous as hell for the last 20 and a brilliant atmosphere under the roof and it was a dream come true. I don't mind admitted me and my brother cried. And we're both steelworkers. Pathetic. (Although he started it).

It was brilliant. That and Europe. It shut up the Geordies and Mackems big style. You'd have to be about 90 to remember Newcastle winning a real cup. I was at primary school when Sunderland won one.

Big clubs win cups. Now. In living memory. That's how you measure it. Crowds and beating Royal Engineers in 1908 don't do it. Winning cups is what counts. And we've done that. They say no-one takes serious but we are the only team outside the big five to win it in 20 years except Leicester (and they beat us in the final).

All the Geordies would kill their grannies or give up their Greggs loyalty cards to experience what we did at Cardiff.

tim from sa said:

Went straight for my 128 dvd after this to keep the feeling going.

It was a great day to be a Boro fan and always will be.


Memories. It was pointed out to me at the time that I was most probably the first Boro supporter to leave home to watch that Carling Cup, the reason being that I had to travel half way round the world to get there as I live in West Australia.

I regret none of it and the memories will live with me forever.

InGabon said:

Don't know if you've tinkered with the system AV but this is the first week I've been able to log on to the site without crashing since last year!

Off topic I know but am I right in saying that if a football club hasn't got enough money to apply for a "Grade 1 Academy" they won't be allowed to get the best young talent?

If this is true, it's a complete disgrace and another case of pandering to the have's while the have not's sink further into the mire. Where will the likes of Crewe be now without the money from their talent and indeed where does it leave us in the current financial climate?

It seems that there is going to be an audit of clubs very soon and without the knowledge that we can get Premiership money next year, I would very much doubt if we would qualify for the Class 1 Academy.

RIP Boro.

Nigel Reeve said:

I love a bit of nostalgia, I've got my rose tinted glasses on and the foam hand, marvellous!

I couldn't get to Cardiff, but we had a great party in my house in Barnet, the neighbours clearly thought we were mad (no change there then). My son who was five at the time spent the whole match playing in the back garden, hopefully one day we'll get the chance to go to watch Boro in a cup final together. Although right now he'd kill to see Boro in the play off final.

Ian Gill said:

AV -

As I said in a previous post it is difficult to get it the point over in an email or post.

I didnt intend any criticism of the fine work done by the academy just the fact it become FA 'front page' news when tickets needed to be sold.

We dont see the info that people like yourselves do, nor are we aware of the discussions that take place amongst like minded footie folk you mingle with.

What we can see is the evidence of our own eyes, maybe all the FA gush is from questions posed by the likes of yourselves and they dont really give a monkey's about MFC.

**AV writes: I don't think there is anything cynical about. The FA press people were due to come to Boro for the match, had to do a programme, started doing a little bit of research on England/Boro/Under21s and came up with a nice easy line. Yes they used it in the promotion stuff. Of course, you would be daft not too. Imagine the problems the same programme staff had when they host games at Oakwell.

Andy R said:

Once you are married (or if you have kids) it's not very PC to say so but that day was the best day of my life - and I couldn't even go to Cardiff.

I managed to get to a pub in London to watch the game and was the only person watching with any interest. I screamed out loud for both Boro goals and cried unashamedly at the end. I couldn't have cared less about the funny looks.

Thanks for the reminder.

jiffy said:

Only 8 years ago.

Seems like a lifetime to the dross we have now

How the mighty are fallen.

Criminal negligence by those in charge

Nikeboro said:

**AV writes: Yes. And the North Riding Senior Cup. And the Cock Of The North Tournament. All the biggies." and "If you got involved with some "banter" with Geordies and Mackems and threw the Anglo Scottish into the mix they would laugh."

I'm with you, AV. Having never won a big trophy, it was an embarassment to only be able to boast these tiddlers.

It would have been different if we'd been in an Arsenal-style trophy drought which was partly relieved with the Anglo-Scottish Cup. But it wasn't - that was all there was in the trophy cabinet. Thank heavens for 2004.

NB. What's more, Big Jack didn't sign Souness. He was bought for £35K before Charlton's arrival - my understanding is that Harold Shepherdson was pivotal in the signing.

John Powls said:

8 years ago? Blubbed like a baby at full time and don't mind admitting it.

Interesting loan signing of a winger - Adam Hammill - who has done well at Championship level, including scoring against Boro!

Let's hope he's actually played on the wing to give us a different dimension and some width.

Also interesting to see that the U21s (without any Boro players on the field) can draw 5,000 more than Boro for a top of the table clash against Reading. Hmmm......

Smoggy In Exile said:

Ah I remember it well. I was down in Hull, visiting the in-laws at the time, and insisted that we all traipse down the pub to watch the game. When we arrived they were showing another game beforehand (can't remember what it was now) and I sat patiently waiting for the landlord to turn over the TV.

And waited. And then it was five minutes before kick off. I sauntered over and reminded him of his duty as a custodian to let me watch the game. He said he would turn it over for kick off. The bar got busier, and kick off, well, kicked off, and still no game! I went back to the bar - shouted over the top of the queues, "Aye, I'll turn it over in a minute". By now there were shouts from around the rest of the pub, but still the screen stayed on the previous game, where they were by now conducting tedious post-match interviews.

Finally, 10 minutes into the game, the TV gets turned over. 2-0. 2-0! Seriously, 2-0? Were it not for the lip of the table in front of me, my jaw would actually have hit the floor. 10 minutes in, and I've missed two bleeding goals! The smile broadened across my face and I sat back in my seat with the smug air of a man who knew it would all come to pass.

After the game I had to drive back to Teesside. Driving down the A1, the 606 phone in on full blast, honking the horn to celebrate - marvellous stuff.

colin said:

My claim to fame that day? The red ballon on the pitch next to kevin Davies (no, not Michael Ricketts), as he shoots for the flukey goal, is mine.

There is a picture of me on the boro banter wallpaper with said balloon in hand if proof were needed. Get in !

Ian Gill said:

Smog -

I watched it in my local pub. I think there was Liverpool on before that plus the pub had just started doing Sunday lunches and it was packed.

We gradually worked our way from the bar along the tables until we got close to the TV, by this time I had had a couple of juices and I had a similar situation about the TV channel.

Eventually it was switched just as Mendi got the ball in midfield. Out to Zenden then on to Job and in to the net. Jubilation with my son and I leaping about and the rest of the pub baffled.

Percypieblocks said:

AV. The John Jo Shelvey link won't go away, why do you think that it?

Come on spill the beans.

**AV writes: Well there was certainly 'something' in it. There was a general inquiry of the "if we can agree money, would he be available" kind in January. There were eight or ten or so similar inquiries for a string of players who ticked a lot of boxes - Championship experience, not in their PL club 25 man squad, young and hungry, style that fits with Mowbray's, etc - as the gaffer was drawing up his list. That's routine. They ask about a lot of players

It was initially indicated that Shelvey may be avaliable and he was written into the short-list and last week, when Boro stepped up their recruitment, Boro made a firmer approach but were then told that, actually, he wasn't available after all and that Kenny Dalglish preferred him training with their first team with one eye on next season. So that was that. It never got any further. The player never spoke to Boro. There was no haggling over money. No medical. It never really got beyond the very early stages. A lot of mooted deals fizzle out like that.

It was only because of the @mrsbailey tweet, the flurry of excitement in Teesside cyberspace and a few hacks going off half-cock that it appeared to have more substance than it did and the story took on a dynamic of its own.

In some ways it is an echo of the Becchio story back in August. Someone spots a Boro scout at a Leeds game, next thing it is all over the message boards and gossip sites and in papers that don't bother to check (because if they do they may get told 'no' so they have no story, and before you know it Ken Bates is blasting Boro for an approach that Tony Mowbray never made and never planned to make.

BoroPhil said:

Still vividly remember it all.

The snow at the Riverside before we set off. Staying in Birmingham the night before as that was as close as we could get to Cardiff. Going out for a Chinese in Birmingham. All the Boro fans in Cardiff. The goals. The state of disbelief that we were 2-0 up. Schwarzer's mistake. The nerves for the rest of the match as we somehow hung on. The relief at the final whistle. Watching my Dad stand there and shake his fists above his head for what seemed like forever. Going into work the next day very tired! Unbelievable memories.

That 2004 youth team is pretty amazing, 14/18 are current professionals? 1 in the England squad, 8 in the Premiership or Championship? That's some success rate.

Mohammad Abdullah said:

Adam Hamill wow!!

However Mogga could have got it correct.

What happens then to the points, if we beat Pompey and they
Then go out of business?

borobythesea said:

Nice signing in Hammill. As I recall there were some on here suggestiing he'd be a good signing prior to his move to Wolves

Jarkko said:

Hammill? Well he is tested on the Championship level (Ex-Barnsley) and did not cost much money (unlike Tarmo Kink). I think we needed a player like him - even though we have young players like Reach, Franks, Luke Williams and Halliday breaking trough.

And Adam Hammill is not just a player returning back from an injury (like Nimely was). As Mogga has been following the lad for a long time (since his Liverpool days I think) this could turn out to be a nice addition to our side. Somehow it feels like we have signed the best player from Barnsley (his former club before Wolves). I have confident in Mogga (like with Juke).

But more importantly we will have Thommo back from suspension (no, not injury) and Bailey tomorrow, too. And Robson is back - and we can even use Rhys there in MF, too if needed. So a lot of competition in central midfield.

Interesting to see the Boro line-up at Portsmouth tomorrow. I predict a 1-3 win for Boro tomorrow.

Up the Boro!

Grove Hill wallah said:

Boro's Pompey Romp!

John Powls said:

Think we missed out with Liam Lawrence going on loan to Cardiff. But at least we don't have to face him or Huseklepp who's gone to Brum at Fratton this after.

Mogga's right about March. We could do with coming in like a lion today avoiding the Lamb at the end (do you keep seeing him at Wem-bur-lee too?) and not needing to beware the Ides in the middle!!

Nikeboro said:

tim from sa said:' It was a great day to be a Boro fan.'

No it wasn't. Not for me, anyway. Having been embarassed, let down, humiliated and gutted after the previous finals, I didn't dare have any expectations in 2004. The safest psychological stance was to expect nothing but the worst - pessimists are rarely disappointed.

All of that emotional body armour was blown away by two quick Boro goals. But then, the afterthought - what if we lose after being two up? How could we face the world if we lost (yet again) after that start? I'd have to emigrate and become a hermit.

At least previously we could 'enjoy the occasion' and glean some pride in having made it to the final. But we'd drawn water from that well too many times. It was time to put the cup in the cabinet or forever hide our heads in shame.

The self-doubt and tension became agony when Schwartzer dropped his clanger. I'd rather have my teeeth pulled. You didn't dare allow yourself any shred of hope. It was unadulterated misery - just kill me now.

So when the final whistle went, my emotions went through 180 degrees - I was all over the place. I had a PhD in dealing with anticlimax, adversity, 'typical Boro' and crisis but had such little preparation for dealing with Boro success. How are you supposed to feel when you're a cup winner?

So I remember that evening with great fondness and pride, not to mention relief, but the day until 5pm was unmitigated worry, terror and dread.

Nikeboro said:

BoroPhil said: 'That 2004 youth team is pretty amazing, 14/18 are current professionals? 1 in the England squad, 8 in the Premiership or Championship? That's some success rate.'

True. Unfortunately only two of them are still with Boro - and one of them probably only because of his injury record.

Nikeboro said:

There's been a lot of criticism of Thomson especially when paired with Arca (John Powlis' 'tippy-tappy twins'). Yet Mowbray perserveres.

It's reminiscent of his dogged perserverence with Hoyte earlier in the season, in the face of a lot of criticism. He seems to have been proven right, at least in part. Hoyte has definitely benefited from more games and his manager's confidence.

Yes, Thomson slows the game down and it feels like he takes the impetus out of some attacks. But perhaps that's what TM is seeking - a more considered approach.

British football does tend to be hurry-scurry, 100 mph all the time and the continentals long ago mastered the art of the blistering injection of pace from a slow, deliberate build-up. That's certainly an option for Boro with the benefit of Emnes' pace - and now Hamill.

TM has recently described Thomson as a 'game controller' and might reflect what he's looking for. We have nobody who can shape a match, dictate the pace and translate the managers' ideas into actions on the pitch. Maybe that what Mogga sees in Thommo.

If he can finally, belately get a run of games, I for one will be fascinated to see how it pans out with Thomson. My inclination would be to get rid asap but perhaps that's why I'm not a football manager.

Ian wood said:

I was in Belgium watching it on tv, and I was crying like a baby when the final whistle went. I had to be consoled

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