THEY say there’s no room for sentiment in professional football – but try telling that to Brian Deane.

The former Middlesbrough striker is living proof that’s not the case and he’s got a special souvenir to prove it.

Clearly one with a penchant for football memorabilia, one of Deane’s favourite possessions is the light blue and white striped shirt he wore when he helped Boro to a famous victory.

It’s a memento from the day he scored for Boro in a 3-2 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in December 1998 when, according to reports, he and Hamilton Ricard reduced the home defence to rubble.

“There’ll always be a place in my heart for Boro and that shirt with my name and number 10 on the back is a lovely reminder of an amazing day,” Deane recalled from his home in rural North Yorkshire.

“It’s not that I need a reminder because I could never forget beating Peter Schmeichel to put us 3-0 up just before the hour-mark and then looking up at the scoreboard which confirmed I wasn’t dreaming.”

It helped make up for the headed goal for Leeds at Elland Road that condemned Boro to relegation in 1997.

“Hopefully the fans forgave me after that Man United win but I wouldn’t blame them if they held it against me because that’s the way football goes,” Deane added.

“I really enjoyed my time at Boro and always gave it everything I had. It was great playing with very top footballers like Christian Ziege, Gary Pallister, Juninho and Dean Gordon.

“But the best thing is that I got to appreciate what brilliant fans Boro have got and what the club means to Teesside people – it’s a real beacon for the area.”

Deane, whose career began at Doncaster Rovers before he made a name for himself at Sheffield United and Leeds, joined Boro in October 1998 in a £3 million deal from Benfica.

Under Bryan Robson, Deane would spearhead the Boro attack with Ricard where he played the role of targetman for his fellow forward.

With Boro struggling to stay up, goalscoring opportunities were in short supply but Deane ended up with 18 goals in 87 appearances, including the opener in Steve McClaren’s first win as Boro manager.

“The supporters were great to me and that is one of the main reasons I want to see the club get back in the Premier League,” Deane said.

“When I was at Boro we had plenty of good players because Steve Gibson had put a lot of money into the club but we let him down and Bryan because we should have done better.

“Steve Gibson has put his heart and soul into the club to keep it into the top flight. Maybe it was a case of us players taking things a little bit for granted because it was going well there.

“There’ll always be regrets – you always think you could have done things differently or better but, as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“What I appreciate now more than ever is that Teesside people are very much focused on Boro and the Riverside is like a citadel.

“They just want something to shout about and get a lift. That means that players are responsible for their happiness but that can sometimes be misinterpreted in the dressing room.

“Fans get frustrated and upset but as a group of players you build a siege mentality against that but by and large fans just want the club to be successful.”

Deane, now 52, has the distinction of scoring the first Premier League goal in his Sheffield United days and hung up his boots at the age of 38.

He went into management in Norway and that experience means he can empathise with his former Elland Road colleague Jonathan Woodgate who is in his first managerial job with Boro.

“Whatever happens this season, Jonathan will have learned a lot and he can put that to good use when the next campaign starts,” Deane said.

“He’s got an amazing CV as a player and he’ll have taken a lot from the top managers he’s played under ranging from Terry Venables and Gareth Southgate to Sir Bobby Robson and Harry Redknapp.

“I was pleased for Woody that Steve Gibson gave him the chance as manager, not because he had a fantastic career but that he was the ideal candidate for the long term.

“You can keep giving jobs to people on reputation and there are some folk who just keep going from job, to job, to job but the chairman no doubt looked at Woody and thought he deserved a chance.

“Not only was he a local lad who knew what the club meant to the region but also because he’s cut his teeth as a coach in the academy and also as a first team coach with Aitor Karanka and Tony Pulis.

“It was a show of faith but since then he’s shown tremendous loyalty as well because he knows more than anyone just what a relentlessly tough division the Championship can be.”

Deane, who spent two seasons managing Sarpsborg 08, can vouch for Woodgate’s defensive prowess, having come up against him his Boro days when Leeds won 2-0 at Elland Road.

“I do remember Woody when he was coming through the ranks at Leeds with people like Harry Kewell, Paul Robinson and Ian Harte,” Deane continued.

“He would have learnt a lot playing alongside Lucas Radebe when he got into the first team and he really excelled.

“He went to Real Madrid and had good career but he’ll always have wanted to do more. There’s bound to be regrets. But you can’t get that time back. The best thing is to focus on making the most of the future.

“He’ll be on a steep learning curve in terms of what happens on and off the field. Early on, maybe Jonathan wore his heart on his sleeve a little too much, opening himself up to criticism and there as a little bit of naivity in fornt of the camera

“The Championship is unforgiving; the margins are fine. His team struggled but the went on a fantastic run and he’d have been reinforcing the need not to go back to the bad old days.

“When I went into management I realised you can't ask someone to do something that he’s not capable of. All you can ask is for them to give their best when they pull on that shirt.

“Woody will have the highest of standards, having played at the top level and represented his country, but the finer points of man-management will improve with experience and he’ll get better tactically.

“The key thing is to see this season out and then push on but it will be a gradual improvement but he’ll have to get his players to buy into his vision.”

At the other end of the Championship, Leeds-born Deane is hoping that his hometown club are able to return to the top table of English football once the coronavirus crisis eases.

“It would be a massive loss for the club and the city which is a huge economic hub if they didn't go up,” Deane said. “The Premier League could do with the return of Leeds who’d give it a real shot in the arm. When I was there we finished fifth twice which shows its potential.

“But if they do go up, Marco Bielsa will have to modify his tactics because otherwise they’ll get found out.”

Nowadays, Deane is working for a company called Phoenix Sport and Media, which aims to help professional footballers make a successful transition to Civvy Street.

“It’s about preparing footballers for the next career,” Deane said. “We’re building the sort of company that I wish had been there when I was playing, with people you can rely on for advice and mentoring.

“There were plenty of people out there who were exploited when they came into money. It’ll still be going on now but the figures are way bigger. It’s like a silent epidemic.”


Boro Tales, which features a more than 100 interviews with former players and a special section on the club’s Carling Cup success, has been made available on Kindle and paperback for £9 including delivery from Great Northern Books.