Rachel Sermanni at the Westgarth

Last weekend there was another great night at the Westgarth Social Club with three young, upwardly mobile singers. First on the bill was Amy Holford a
Newcastle singer songwriter with a lovely voice and some memorable
songs in her armoury. “Sunflower,” was penned about Amy’s grandfather
and his final fight against cancer. It is a beautiful tearjerker and a
marvellous tribute to someone that was obviously so strong and meant
so much to Amy. I actually saw Amy playing the very next night at
Split Parade in Sunderland, hopefully she will be back on Teesside
again very soon.

Joe Hammill stepped out of his role at the centre of the Cattle and
Cane juggernaut to deliver a superb solo performance. Stripped of his
fellow musicians, the obvious talents of Joe’s guitar work as well as
vocals come to the fore. Compositions included “Strike a Match,” “Red”
and “Jump in the Lake” before delving into Cattle and Cane country for
“The Poacher” which we were told will not feature on the forthcoming
and eagerly awaited debut album.

Talking of much anticipated debut albums, Rachel Sermanni was on the
first night of her headline UK tour in promotion of her first long
play release, “Under Mountains.” This superbly talented Scottish
singer-songwriter sprinkled her set with sumptuous helpings from the
album such as “Ever Since the Chocolate.” Beautiful word play is a
feature of Rachel’s writing, a rich narrative style delivered with
lovely, lilting voice. Last seen in these parts at Stockton Calling at the Sun Inn, Stockton, Rachel also made a memorable appearance at Deershed Festival in North Yorkshire in the summer.

Last Friday night at the Westgarth there was total silence such is the
level of respect she has earned. One song not featured on the album
was “The Burger Van Song,” an ode to a disgruntled customer who blamed
Rachel for his stupidity at putting sugar not salt on his burger. That
was Rachel’s breaking point in her former job on a burger van touring
Highland shows. As yet no one has owned up to being that sugar man.

Photo – Tracy Hyman


Run Middlesbrough

There were record numbers of over 4,000 runners in this year’s SABIC Tees Pride 10k and 3k fun run. The sun came out, well actually it was red hot which made it a brilliant day to watch but a challenge to run. Not that something like the heat was going to stop Boro fan and proud Teessider Matty Hynes from winning the main race.

Looking back now in the week following the Great North Run it is clear that the whole region is mad for running these days. And with parkruns springing up all over there are opportunities for everyone to get involved on a weekly basis, no matter what the level of (dis)ability, age, gender etc. In this year of the London Olympics and Paralympics we’ve all been inspired to get our running togs on and hit the pavements. Why not, it is a great way to keep fit and socialise at the same time.

There was a superb atmosphere at this year’s Middlesbrough 10k. I guess the sun helped to bring people out to line the entire route, shouting on their very welcome encouragement to the runners. Amongst the VIPs there were representatives of Middlesbrough FC past players in Colin Cooper, Bernie Slaven and present coach Mark Proctor all running for the Finlay Cooper Fund. In fact raising money for charities, many of them local is a driving force behind so many people’s involvement. BBC Breakfast’s business reporter Steph McGovern was helping champion the Teesside Philanthopic Foundation whose chair Andy Preston charged past me somewhere like the 5k mark.

Everyone has their own personal goal, just finishing at all is a good accomplishment for many of us. With 4000 taking part in both races that means more than ever are getting past that Hall Drive finishing line. It all adds up to a fitter town and area. Mind you by the time I had turned into Hall Drive I was fit to drop. But look around you on any evening of the week these days and you’ll always see people out jogging. This is especially true of the 10k course whose route through south Middlesbrough is permanently marked out with kilometre sign posts.

We don’t have to wait around for the Middlesbrough 5k and 10k to keep up the running. Every week now there are regular 5k runs in the parks around our area. Saturday at 9am is the signal for the parkrun starting time when athletes of all shapes, sizes, age, genders and the rest run, jog or walk around measured routes around our parks. This is a national and indeed international movement and locally we are extremely well represented with different runs. Initially it was just Albert Park in Middlesbrough but now there are parkruns at Stewart Park, Marton; Locke Park, Redcar; Tees Barrage and further afield in the beautiful grounds of Hardwick Park, Sedgfield. These runs are totally free.

You can register for these free, voluntarily organised runs at the website www.parkrun.org.uk

Then you get a barcode. Print that off take it along to the parkrun nearest you and your race time will be timed and recorded. You can then measure your progress not only against yourself and other runners at the event but also nationally and by age group as well.

The parkruns are superb socially too. Usually ending by comparing notes and telling the odd tall tale over a mug of tea in the park cafes. A great healthy way to start the weekend off before spoiling it all with the excesses of a Saturday night (ha ha).

All the details of each local parkrun can be found from the central website – so do go along and keep up the running between Middlesbrough 10ks. Good luck.



Discover Middlesbrough FC

Please join me on a couple of walks to discover more about The Boro and the former grounds where fans flocked to worship. As part of the Discover Middlesbrough festival of guided walks and open days I am offering a free tour of the former football grounds of Middlesbrough FC, pre Riverside. And for those who want a closer look at Ayresome, our home for almost a century, I will be conducting a separate tour round the estate where glimpses from the past still pop through to the present.

That all sounds a bit Dr Who I guess. Didn’t someone once say that the past is a foreign country? (L.P. Hartley – The Go-Between novel first line – I googled it) It is also like a parallel universe the entrance to which is often still lurking round every corner if you know where to look for it and how to unearth it again.

On Thursday 20th September I will be taking a party of ‘investigators,’ or members of the public to explore the Linthorpe end of Middlesbrough for signs of the early years of the club. We will meet at the splendid Central Fountain in Albert Park to view what remains of the first pitch Boro ever used and then we’ll have a walk to where the “parky” chased them to.

On Saturday the Trophy Room Sports Trail will take a close look at Ayresome Park and follow the sculpture trail designed by artist Neville Gabie to reconnect with the former stadium. There is now a plaque at Ayresome Park relating a few details about the last remaining fabric of the ground, the Holgate Wall. But that was also the wall that trapped the unfortunates interned in the Work House on the other side where they were forced into brutal heavy labour. No wonder the pioneering generations of Middlesbrough working people feared the poverty trap and the work house.

We will see where the site of the goal from where John Hendrie scored an all important winner against Luton Town in the emotional final game at Ayresome. It was a goal that would pave the way for Bryan Robson’s Riverside Revolution and all the glittering golden years that followed. Today, looking back those turn of the century years seem as unreal as the fact that Ayresome was once a World Cup venue. It all seems something of a dream now, maybe a bit like the letters that have been sandblasted into an estate wall but are only visible if the light conditions allow. “Deep in My Heart I do Believe..” Most apt.

On the tour of former grounds we will look at the site of our first professional and fleetingly the first Football League club. For Middlesbrough Ironopolis the Paradise Ground was all too soon a paradise lost.

Please do come along. You don’t need to pre-book. It is completely free. Feel free to take photos, ask questions and enjoy reclaiming some of the history and heritage of Middlesbrough FC. 1876-2012 not out.

Football Grounds of Middlesbrough Tour Thurs 20th September. Meet at 2pm Central fountain, Albert Park.

Ayresome Park Trophy Room sports trail – meet at 2pm at the Holgate grassed area – between the top end of Clive Road and the Ayresome Park housing estate. With the Holgate Wall for company (that is the Linthorpe Road facing side of the wall, next to the Holgate and Turnstile estate roads – not the side that would have faced onto the hospital and towards the cemetery).


Matchbox Cabaret

The Waiting Room, Eaglescliffe launched a new season of music, comedy and spoken word with a feast of an all day festival. I use the word feast quite deliberately because the food served in between acts was every bit as delicious as you would expect from a restaurant that has received so many national accolades.

Matchbox Cabaret is the heading the vegetarian restaurant’s live performers appear under. In many ways that title was quite apt for the scale model hats that Jane Bombane deploys to illustrate her story telling songs so vividly.

Joe and Helen Hammill charmed the afternoon crowd with their pared down versions of Cattle and Cane songs. The sibling harmonies sounded wonderful. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person with a lump in my throat for the tender, touching, “We Were Children.” “Sold My Soul” had everyone singing along in fine style.

Everytime I see Dressed Like Wolves one of the three seems to be missing. This time it was young Matt and Ricky holding the fort and combining vocals with guitars and wheezing keyboards. If you haven’t seen Dressed Like Wolves before then you really need to make amends and seek them out. There is a fascinating fragility to Ricky’s tremulous voice and gentle melodies and an endearing quality to the almost shambling approach of the men with or today without hats. Yet there is no disguising real singer songwriting talent. These quiet men of music look set to go places.

Old Muggins follow on from the Wolves and the venue soon descends into howls of laughter as well as respectful foot tapping to Muggins music. Bob Fischer and his trio introduce woodwork lesson percussion, ancient 70s synths and name checks for Bob Langley and Kathy Secker to the proceedings. Why do you whisper green grass? Is the question tumbling from Miniature G’s lips when he is not dressed as Fischer’s red Indian spirit guide, Brown Eyes. The girls in the corner have the eyes on guitar and synth player Garry, maybe it is the Langley-esque red shirt that causes them to chant his name.

So to Jane Bombane and the venue is invaded by loads of kids absolutely fascinated by her marvellous mechanical hats. Edinburgh castle looks splendid on her head as Jane plays a wonderful old harmonium. Spell binding story telling stuff as always from the Brighton restaurateur.

Jeffrey Lewis, comic book artist and antifolk performer, closed the All Dayer with a sparkling set. The New Yorker ran through his album A Turn in the Dream-Songs in the correct order. With his off kilter, almost Herman Dune type delivery, he is observational and witty. Whilst the touring band takes the music into more textures and layers of psychedelic indie than on the vinyl. There were some sublime moments and a witty rap about squashing mosquitoes. The man has an incredible mind to come up with such cunning word play and a memory to match to be able to deliver so many stunning lines live.

Photos – Tracy Hyman



Bernie’s Backing Mogga’s Boro

Bernie Slaven is backing Boro for a good season. Restored as a radio legend on a new platform via Koast Radio and Star Radio (North East) I caught up for a chat with Bernie just before the first league game of the season. I asked Boro’s stringly different forward for his thoughts looking ahead to Tony Mowbray’s second full season at the helm of the Boro ship. Here is the interview with Bernie as we ran through the players. One thing he was most incredulous about was some of the antipathy towards forward Marvin Emnes. He was genuinely quite amazed when I told him that the flying Dutchman is not universally popular with all Boro fans.

Bernie is as outspoken as always and has no doubts what Tony Mowbray’s biggest task is and that is getting us to win far more games at home.

You can listen to Bernie Slaven week nights on Star Radio

Anyway, without any more a do here is Bernie Slaven talking to Fmttm and that means you.

Fly: Are you excited about the new season?

BS: I am. The first signing Leadbitter, I thought, smashing signing. Roy Keane paid a lot of money for him £2 and bit million to go to Ipswich. I think he has a lot of good qualities, leadership, he is strong box to box, gets a few goals, he can tackle and track back.

Fly: Do you think he is a good replacement for Barry Robson?

BS: Yes, Rosbon for me was the biggest star that came from Scotland but yes I think he can replace Robson. So he’s a good signing.

I was in Australia when I got wind that Woodgate had signed 3 year and I thought 3 year, dear me that is a long contract for someone that is injured regular. Nobody can question Woodgate’s ability. Woodgate as a footballer is top drawer. When he’s fit. Not even open to debate. But the downside is we all know and Woody knows it is his injuries. If we can get 25 games from him this season then that is a good return.

Fly: And his experience could be invaluable couldn’t it?

BS: If Woody plays 25 games we will learn a great deal. If he plays 5 or 10 that could be disruptive. Because young lads are looking to him as a guiding light if he is sitting in the stand injured every week then that is not a good example. Experience wise cannot buy that. Invaluable.

Parnaby – question mark against him because he has been out for what 2 years?

Fly: But Boro know all about him as he has trained here for the past season.

BS: Of course and he has been through the Academy, a cup final etc.

Ledesma – Mogga assures me he has a left foot like myself, so he must be crap. No. He has got a good left foot. Plays it round corners. Can get a goal. Scored v Bury. And then you’ve got Carayol, right winger.

The young kid I’m looking forward to most of all is Adam Reach. I’ve been hearing all these reports. Descriptions like a certain Premier League player; I’m not going to say who it is. I am going to watch him. The guy they describe him as is a very good Premier League player and I want to see if there is any truth.

We’ve brought a keeper in. So we’ve brought about seven and I think there are ten gone. So the downside is we’re three short. We had a small squad last year and now we are even smaller the following season. That’s a downside especially with the injury prone players I have mentioned. I will say it again and I said it last year and it came true, injuries, suspensions, loss of form that catches up with you and it might catch up again. It might not but you have to prepare for that.

Fly: I’m not quite as concerned this season because I think he is opening the door wider for a lot of younger academy players who are a lot closer to the right level now.

BS: Cameron Park, Luke Williams, Adam Reach. I agree with you and they are a year older now. A year more experienced.

Yes, Curtis Main. A couple of good games and he is the best player ever. Get him in. Typical fan. Calm down. The couple of games he played and goals he scored were excellent but still a long way to go. He looks like he could do it, strong, a good striker of the ball. He could be a real star.

Fly: I know he was on the bench but it will surely have been a good experience for Jason Steele being in the Olympics.

BS: Yes. When Steele first came in he was in for a fair bit of criticism. A lot of people didn’t take to him…

Fly: They forgot how young he was.

BS: That’s right. I think that he has turned that round. He’s had a few smashing games, excellent saves, man of the match awards, then he got picked for the GB team. So hopefully his stature is even greater now and he can cope more. He has improved a bit in the last year and a half. And I don’t think the stick and criticism does you any harm. It hardens you. So hopefully he has blossomed as well with another year’s experience as well. I’m looking forward to him as well.

Fly: Do you think the teams relegate from the Premier will be the biggest opponents or could they have financial problems to tackle?

BS: Yes they will have players on a few quid. We don’t know the financial structures we can only speculate. But we can only surmise they might have a few quid to spend. But we know our position. We’ll go with what we’ve got. Hopefully steer clear of injuries and crack on.

Fly: And learn lessons from last season.

BS: Yes, learn lessons from last season. The biggest job Mogga has got is the home form. The home form has been abysmal. Not good, not pretty. Some poor results. Away from home, great. But the guys that pay for season tickets, if you want to rope them in and create a better atmosphere you need to do it at home. You want guys saying, tell you what, what a game you missed yesterday, the quality, flowing football, goals, great entertainment. That’s the only way we will get them back. And Mogga knows that and I know Mogga’s style he wants to play good football.

Last year he would be as gutted as anybody with the poor football at home. He played under Rioch and Rioch used to say, we entertain the public. It is not just about winning the game but doing it with style and flair. But unfortunately at home we have not been able to do that. So that for me is Mogga’s biggest job this season, home form, get it right. No hit and miss with the fans turning up and saying I wonder what we’re going to do today, we’ll maybe win or be crap again and maybe nick it.

When I used to do all the games and I did 500 commentary games. I used to watch Juninho, Ravanelli, Emerson it was a different calibre of football. But I knew what the team was going to be, who was playing where. It didn’t matter if we got beat, I knew we would be good, we would be entertaining. And that was a thrill going to the game. Home and away. We might get beat but it will be a good show. And that was a good feeling. It wasn’t a good ending to that season but week in week out was entertaining. That’s what we need to strive for.

Fly: The players feed off the fans and the fans feed off the players.

BS: Of course they do. The players need the fans and the fans need the players but the only way to rope the fans is to try and get good performances at home. Away that is great but at home.. The reason I think we’ve not been able to do it at home is because teams come and just put up two banks of four. We do it on our travels and counter attack and we’re good at it. But then at home when we’re asked questions, come and break us down, we’ve not really got that. We’ve no real width. I wasn’t live at a lot of the games but I know there was no real width and there was a lack of creativity in the last third. That is why we struggled at home. Other teams just play banks of four.

Fly: Width and pace?

BS: Yes for me you need that. I wouldn’t like to play in the Middlesbrough team with no wingers, with guys cutting in and having a shot. I would be saying give me the ball, I am here to put the ball in the net.

Fly: So hopefully we have changed that..

BS: Carayol and Reach. If Mogga goes with the wingers and those two blossom I think we are in for an interesting season.

Fly: Halliday also can play on the wing.

BS: Yes. I’ll be honest I thought is he still there? He needs to start stamping his authority as well.

Fly: I think he was a player that suffered because he was bought as a young teenager but billed as a first team buy.

BS: Yes, hopefully he blossoms this year. He could be like a new signing even though he has been here for two or three years.

I see Kevin Thomson is saying he wants to play and get a run of 10 or 12 games. He needs it because I know the coaching staff rate him very, very highly but I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen it in Scotland at Rangers and Hibs but at Middlesbrough nothing, not a jot. So, hopefully he can keep clear of the injuries and he can start playing as well and show us what he’s got.

Fly: And what of Rhys Williams being given the captaincy.

BS: I think that is a good thing. He’s an elegant, stylish player. He knows he’s good and he is good and he can get better. But the question for Mogga is where does he play him? I think he is a better centre back than he is a midfielder. I’ve watched him midfield and he just does enough. I think he has got more in his locker but he just does enough but when he’s centre back I think he looks the part.

Fly: For him it will be a great experience playing alongside Woodgate.

BS: I would say that Williams and Woodgate, if both of them steer clear of injuries, that will be the best centre back pairing in the Championship without a doubt. I would say that confidently.

Fly: Someone who gets a bit of stick at times from some sections of the fans is Marvin Emnes. But he has to be one of the best goalscorers since your time.

BS: Does he get a lot of stick?

Fly: Yes, not everyone appreciates what he does.

BS:  You know I’ve mentioned this to guys at the club that when I’ve seen him I don’t think he looks strong and they say he is as strong as an ox. Sometimes I look and I don’t see that but they’re seeing it on a daily basis, every game and pre season.

Fly: I think you see a very different player in the flesh to on tv because of his movement off the ball.

BS: Last season Emnes, 18 goals that is a great return. This year I believe he can do it again. He will have to do it again. If he is going to get a tag as a goalscorer. And then next season he needs to do it again. Am just delighted he’s still here, I thought he would have been off. There were a few sniffing about. But he is already on the scoresheet, as a striker that is all you want. And he is back in the groove and I’m sure he will be looking to beat the 18 goals he got last season.

But you say his movement is good. The lads assure me he is strong, despite when I see him he looks weak. He’s not great in the air but he has got quick feet and he gets goal. So for those that are giving him stick. What do you want? Eighteen goals last year. Do you want 18 goals or do you want to be running about like a headless chicken?

Years ago if you were a goalscorer you lived or died by your goals. Now people camouflage it. They try and make it as if goals are not important, as long as he is working hard. Nonsense, if I was a manager I would want a striker to score 20 goals. If he is not a great worker it doesn’t really matter I will get someone alongside him to work. So, if you are a striker you need to score goals and Emnes is scoring them so long may that continue.

For those giving him stick.. well, obviously they don’t know what it is like to score a goal. There is no better feeling and he’s good at it. He scored a great goal at Bury 20 odd yarder. So good luck to him. I call him Bob Marley because of his locks and every time he scores I say to my mates, “we’re jammin’” Good old Bob.


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