It’s the 25th anniversary of Boro’s last league match at Ayresome Park. Manchester Metropolitan University historian Dr Tosh Warwick, currently collaborating with Middlesbrough Football Club on their Ayresome Week celebrations, shares his memories of attending the match as an 11-year-old


Officially opened in September 1903, the iconic Ayresome Park was home to Middlesbrough Football Club for 92 years. Since leaving Ayresome Park in 1995 for a new state-of-the-art stadium on the banks of the River Tees, Boro have enjoyed an unparalleled period of success.

The Riverside Stadium era has seen Boro reach five major cup finals, enjoy silverware success in the 2004 League Cup, achieve a second qualification for Europe the following year, finish runners-up in the 2006 UEFA Cup, and experience the rollercoaster ride of a couple of promotions and a few relegations.

Yet, despite the relative Riverside success, for many Ayresome Park will always be the spiritual home of football on Teesside.

A quarter of a century on, it continues to inspire nostalgic reminiscence of star players such as Clough, Hickton and Mannion. It evokes talks of resilience centred on the fightback led by Rioch’s Class of 86 featuring the likes of Mogga, Pally, Parky and Hammy. There are few references to mediocre years of mid-table struggles and muted excitement at the loan signing of Dwight Marshall or Andy Peake standing over a free kick.

My first match at Ayresome Park was in 1988 as a four-year-old and I remember nothing of it. Boro beat Sheffield United 6-0 and Stuart Ripley got a hat-trick.

Fast-forward seven years and with the Robbo Revolution about to go in to overdrive, Boro were on the cusp of a promotion that would ensure they started life in their new stadium in the Premiership.

As an 11-year-old the prospect of an exciting, world-leading ground captured the imagination, but there was a little bit of the young historian in me that appreciated the heritage Ayresome Park embodied.

I would immerse myself for hours in Boro programmes, Red Roar and newspapers for facts, figures and news about the club’s history and contemporary Boro heroes. Even today on the rare occasion I hear reference to Louth, I am at pains to share the knowledge gained from my Ayresome studies to reveal to anyone that will listen that Paul Wilkinson is from that very Lincolnshire market town.

If it happens to be a Boro fan, I spend the ensuing five minutes encouraging them to reflect on how much he would be worth today and how he would be England’s centre forward.

As for the last league match at Ayresome, I remember the build-up and the various permutations for getting tickets. As a non-season ticket holder at the time, my Dad and I had to get tickets the hard way through an early morning trek to Ayresome Park to queue for Teesside’s equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.

With us having had a good season and on the verge of promotion, a win in the Sunday fixture against Luton Town would ensure we had one foot in the FA Carling Premiership.

My pre-match memories of the historic day are of spending the build up in The White Rose pub on Marton Road, growing frustrated at every passing second I wasn’t in the ground. I had to watch the build-up on TV in the pub and remember the disappointment at seeing my out-of-favour hero Wilkinson appear in the Tyne-Tees studio and with it confirm he wouldn’t feature in the big match. Frustration at unprecedented levels, we eventually left the pub about 15 minutes before the 2.55pm kick-off and arrived at the ground too late to see the parade of Ayresome’s greatest players and cult heroes. One distinct memory I have is of finding out the name of the new stadium in the unceremonial surrounding of the Holgate toilets/walls behind the stand from a bloke sharing the news.

I have faint recollections of standing in the corner of the Holgate End and John Hendrie’s winning strike inducing pandemonium, as well as memories of fans flocking onto the pitch on the final whistle and my dad’s disdain for Me, Mark Page’s protestations against it.

After the match when the ground had almost emptied, we stood and took in the surroundings of the old stadium.

After leaving Ayresome Park for the final time (well at least the last time from a match - I returned later that summer having missed Stephen Pears’ testimonial) I remember walking down the alleyway from the Holgate to Warwick Street and acquiring a 1994/95 Boro kit mug.

With all the victorious players assumingly still inside celebrating, I made do with having the mug (that I soon accidently smashed) autographed by Hatters midfielder Scott Oakes who had helped put Newcastle United out of the FA Cup the previous season.

Now, 25 years on, I will be glued to the #BoroWatchAlong replay hosted on the Boro website as part of the Ayresome Week celebrations I am collaborating on with the club.

In these difficult times of lockdown, the screening and #AyresomeWeek will hopefully provoke nostalgia amongst older fans and bring a welcome reprieve from wall-to-wall Covid-19 coverage. For younger fans, the screening and the Ayresome Week theme of the Virtual Classroom resources developed with MFC Foundation, will help introduce the famous old ground to a whole new generation of Middlesbrough fanatics and might even help inspire a future Boro historian!

More information on Middlesbrough FC’S Ayresome Week, including a call for supporters to share memorabilia and memories can be found here:

Community and education resources inspired by Ayresome Park can be found in the Virtual Classroom at MFC Foundation here: