ONE of the men at the centre of last-minute discussions that saved Middlesbrough Football Club from extinction in 1986 has passed away.

Former chairman Alf Duffield, who was in charge as the club battled for survival, is understood to have died on January 2.

The businessman initially stepped in to try and save the club from financial ruin, but by the summer of 1986 liquidators had been called in as the club struggled under the burden of nearly £2m worth of debts.

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When players and staff turned up at the padlocked gates at Ayresome Park in August the club was facing the end.

For weeks the club tried, to no avail, to negotiate a deal with creditors and the Football League to enable them to play the first game of the season.

However, a last-minute deal involving current chairman Steve Gibson and London-based businessman, Henry Moszkowicz, saved the club from extinction.

Rob Nichols, the editor of Boro fanzine Fly Me To The Moon, said Mr Duffield was well known around the town by supporters and helped to keep the club afloat during its darkest hours.

He said: “People thought that he could become the saviour of the club, but he was unable to do it.

"However, it was under him that people began to realise how bad the financial situation was for the club.

“He was a well-known figure around the town and many supporters will remember his involvement in the club and that he did manage to keep us afloat.

“It should also be remembered that it was under his chairmanship that Bruce Rioch was appointed and it could be said that he planted the seeds for the eventual rebirth of the club.”