THE day after Boxing Day, when her beloved Boro had been booed unfestively from the field, may not have been the best time to look in on Hilda Moses.

“I didn’t join in the booing, it was Christmas,” says 80-year-old Hilda, still cheerful despite the 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

“I did,” says Julie Burgess, her daughter.

There are supposed superfans and there are those like Hilda to whom the term scarcely does justice. Not only is she marking 50 years as a Middlesbrough season ticket holder but she’s back at the Riverside Stadium after breaking her back in a fall on the patio while – let it be said – trying to stand on a woodlouse.

Doctors, helped by scans and X-rays, failed for several weeks to spot the fracture until Julie insisted that something was seriously wrong. Her mum already had advanced osteoperosis.

After three major operations to fuse discs in her spine, Hilda was left dependent on a wheelchair, obliged to move from her accustomed seat in the main stand to the disabled area at the front.

“I had trouble getting up the steps, anyway” says Hilda. “The surgeon did a good job, but I’m still having problems.”

The old Geordie joke about them not coming to see her when she was bad comes to mind, but struggles comfortably to be accommodated.

“She’s still in a lot of pain,” says Julie, 54, “but the biggest pain of all is when Middlesbrough lose at home.”

Hilda was born in West Auckland into what might reasonably be supposed a football family. “All the talk was of football, it was almost a tradition,” she says.

“My dad would never miss Match of the Day. My grandad, who lived with us, would be sitting watching Grandstand with his pools coupon on his knee.”

Stewart Alderson, a cousin, has been a pillar of West Auckland FC for more than 50 years; David Race, a nephew, was a familiar Northern League goalkeeper with West Auckland,. Spennymoor United and Durham City, helping City to the league title.

Former Boro centre half Steve Vickers, Evenwood lad by birth, is another relation. “Lovely player, Stephen,” says Hilda (and so, of course, he was.)

Jack, her late husband, played cricket for Crook, took Hilda to watch Middlesbrough and Darlington on alternate weekends but settled for the Boro because most of his insurance business was on Teesside.

Julie first went to the old Ayresome Park ground when she was 12, Big Jack’s time, loved it save for the ladies’ loo. “The toilets were horrible, not a place for a little girl at all,” she says.

Mick, her husband, writes music reviews for The Northern Echo and other publications and has a season ticket at Sunderland. Their 19-year-old son Jack is also a Sunderland fanatic but Rebecca, his twin sister, had a Boro season ticket until going to university in the autumn.

“I honestly thought they’d both be Sunderland supporters, especially with going to school in Durham,” says Julie.

“We have a Sunderland bedroom and a Middlesbrough bedroom, same colours but very different decoration. Mum loves them both, but thinks that the one who knows most about football is Rebecca.”

Hilda lives near her family in Durham. The little front room has Boro cushions and Boro magazines, signed photographs of Boro players like current skipper George Friend – “my favourite, always gives 110 per cent” – and a cuddly Rory the Lion, the mascot.

Another photograph shows her presenting a 1980s man of the match award to Paul Kerr, her foot in plaster. “That one was a broken ankle, falling off the bottom stair,” she recalls.

Even the little Santa Claus figures on the mantelpiece are clad in red and white.

The team has had just one Premier League season in the past decade. At the start of 2018-19, Hilda was confident they could return. Now she wonders if they’ll even make the play-offs, the Sheffield Wednesday defeat only compounding her pessimism.

“It was rubbish, terrible, 1-0 but they tore us to pieces. We need someone else up front. The manager only plays one and there’s no one to feed him. We need to start winning our home games.”

“Against Sheffield Wednesday, Pulis was constantly urging them to go forward but they didn’t seem to take any notice of him. I understand the game, I’ve been watching it long enough. I don’t even think he knows which is his best team.”

Mother and daughter will, of course, be back for more. “We miss sitting near all our friends but Middlesbrough have been lovely,” says Julie. “We have to use the disabled area now but the stewards are out as soon as they see the car, to help with the wheelchair.

“Mum still likes to yell at them, watches intently and has never fallen asleep like some. She might have a bit of a grumble, then she’ll come home, watch it again on television and start shouting all over. I’ve promised that I’ll take her for as long as she wants to go – it’s a good club, a lovely family atmosphere, and there’s no sign of her losing her passion.”

Hilda admits as much. “It’s supporting Middlesbrough that keeps me going. What with the broken back, I wouldn’t otherwise get out of the house much these days.

“I missed most of a season because of that woodlouse, so I don’t want to miss any more. I still sit there and think of my husband.”

Favourite players? “I loved Bernie Slaven, wonderful when he went to head a ball. Tony Mowbray was a real good centre half, Nigel Pearson, Stephen Pears the goalkeeper.”

The best team, she supposes – and unlikely to be alone – was that containing Juninho, Ravanelli and Emerson. “What a side that was.”

They’re smashing folk the pair of them, keen to show off their souvenirs. There’s a lovely letter from George Friend – who wants to be a journalist when his playing career ends – and an 80th birthday card with a rather shorter message from the same player.

“Never give up,” it says, simply.

“He needn’t worry, I’m not going to,” says Hilda Moses, and a December 29 home win against Ipswich Town ensures that 2019 gets off to a slightly less anxious start.