EVERY fan of every club will have favourite games: memorable wins, cup runs, promotion, titles and stand-out performances.

But what about the most important games in a club's history? Games that defined an era and changed the future.

That is exactly what the latest helping from Middlesbrough club author Anthony Vickers explores - The Games That Shaped The Boro.

From the birth of the Boro all the way through to the current day and the highs and lows of the Riverside era, Anthony picks his way through the history of the club using milestone matches as a hook to dig deeper in his usual colourful style and with great detail.

"The story starts with an embryonic Victorian club’s bitter battle to survive and flourish and unfolds through two teams packed with potential denied glory by the outbreak of war, and into the modern age of the Ayresome Angels, Charlton’s Champions, liquidation, the Rioch revival and the Riverside Revolution," says Anthony.

There's Camsell, there's the day calamity was avoided at Hartlepool in 1986, there's the Battle of Stamford Bridge and onto the brave new world of the Riverside. There's Cardiff, Eindhoven, Brighton and there's the game that never was - Blackburn and all that followed in 1997.

"Middlesbrough's history is a series of seismic shifts condensed into one moment, one game when the direction of travel was transformed, when the character or content of the club is reconfigured for good or ill," writes Anthony in the book, which is on sale now.

"The entire history of the club has been shaped by a fateful fixture list of sliding doors moments."

Long before Anthony put pen to paper, the process of writing his fourth book as the club's official author started with painstaking research, hours of studying old meeting minutes, match reports and other newspaper clippings.

"The games themselves are the hook to hang various strands on," says Anthony.

"I do mention the matches obviously but it's more the subplots and the impact that game had on the years to come. The matches themselves are a starting point.

"Time and again the entire direction of the club has revolved around a single epoch-defining game. Boro’s proud past is peppered with folklore fixtures heavy with history that changed the club forever.

"Obviously many of the watershed moments are firsts that left a massive cultural footprint but not all of them. Not all of them are games of huge emotional highs. And not all of them are games that were recognised as so important at the time. Sometimes it's only with the passing of time that the historical impact of a game becomes clear."


Anthony learnt a lot himself along the way.

"I wanted to do matches that highlighted the great heroes of the club, so there's a Camsell match in there, there's a Mannion match and there's a Clough match," says Anthony.

"The Camsell one I found really interesting. Obviously we know the story, he's a cut-price signing who scored 350 goals for the club, an absolute goal machine who was neglected by England, we know that.

"I picked a match when he scored five goals away at Man City, a top of the table clash where two teams were going for promotion and he absolutely ripped Man City apart. Everyone hailed Boro as champions elect and he was clapped off the pitch by the Man City players. That seemed a good place to start.

"Going into the cuttings files, not just the local papers but the nationals as well, Boro were briefly the cutting edge of unfolding tactics and were a revolutionary team. The offside law had just changed. The FA were very concerned about the lack of goals and tweaked the offside rule and Boro were the first team to adapt to this.

"Boro devised a tactical system that suited the skillset of this young striker - Camsell. He got 59 in the league, another four in the FA Cup and the team scored over 100 goals on their way to promotion. And other teams very quickly adapted. We know Dixie Dean scored 60 the following season but almost every club's record scorer was in the seasons after. I never knew that. English football was in this massive flux and Boro had a man with the perfect skillset to adapt to the new rules."

One game that never went ahead had to feature. The Blackburn fixture in 1997 that Boro were unable to play due to a virus sweeping through the camp. The postponement infamously led to a three points deduction for Boro, who went on to be relegated from the Premier League by two points.

"It's the ultimate in counterfactuals isn't it," says Anthony, who has a theory on the game.

"That was a crazy season, absolutely surreal. For me, that season revolved around the Blackburn match. There's a really simplistic way of looking at it and saying if Boro had gone and played they wouldn't have had the points deducted and they would have stayed up, but I don't think it's anything like that simple.

"Boro would - should - have gone to Blackburn on a run of 13 without a win. Boro were in a really precarious place and I think if they'd have gone to Blackburn and played the YTS lads and the tea lady, I think the season would have disintegrated. But the reaction to the three points was an incredible emotional engine which actually drove that season. I actually think it revived that season and drove Boro on through the cup runs and the anger held the club together through the summer after relegation."

That's just a taste of what Boro supporters can expect from The Games That Shaped The Boro, which is on sale now from the MFC retail club shop at the Riverside stadium, priced at £15, and also available online.