Boro’s Golden Ticket Christmas Party

It was the hottest ticket in town and only the most special champion children were invited. Middlesbrough FC’s Golden Ticket Party was the place to be this Christmas time.

Usmaan Shabir and Aitor

Nearly the entire first-team squad and manager Aitor Karanka delighted some very special children to give them a unique Boro Christmas treat at the club’s Golden Ticket Party held in the Riverside

Every year the club honours “Champion Children” who represent the most deserving causes in the local area. Included are youngsters who have fought against serious illness or have bravely cared for brothers and sisters following the loss of a parent. Other youngsters shop for an elderly neighbour or care for a sick relative.

The Boro Champion Children judged to be the most deserving were the VIP guests for the very best party in town.

Adding to the fun was a visit from Santa Claus himself with a special present for each child. Boro mascot Roary the Lion was there to help with the games. Players and Boro staff joined in helping colour in pictures and designing Boro shirt models.

Andy Halliday

A good few autographs were signed and photos posed for. A balloon modeller made the most bizarre and fantastic animals. Tattoos applied by a face painter, while food and music were laid on for all. And at the end of a superb afternoon the children were each given a Boro party bag to take home.

Photos taken by Tracy Hyman

Interview Usmaan Shabir (pictured below with Boro striker Curtis Main and mascot Bee Active)

Usmaan, Curtis Main and Bee Active

Q: Have you enjoyed the party?
Usmaan: Yes I’ve enjoyed everything.
Q: Are you queuing for your present off Santa?
U: Yes
Q: Would you like a Boro win?
U: Ideal present would be probably Fifa14 for my xbox.
Q: I think the first time we met you were showing the Boro players how to play on the xbox on the big screen at Butterwick Children’s Hospice. Did you get any autographs today?
U: Yes I’ve had all the players’ autographs.
Q: Great that there are so many players here.
U: I know it is brilliant. I’ve actually asked to be a mascot as well. I would love to be a mascot, walking on the pitch with Marvin Emnes would be brilliant.
Q: Oh that would be a good thing for Christmas wouldn’t it?
U: Yes it would be.

Boro Manager Aitor Karanka

Aitor with Amy and Charlie

Q: Are you enjoying the Golden Ticket Party?

AK: Yes, I think it is very important for them, that they feel as close and I think it is important for us to feel they are as close to us.

Q: I have heard before that you feel that the club is like a family. And this is the club being like a family with the fans.

AK: Yes I think it is always good to have this feeling because we never can forget all the people who are behind us supporting every game. We need to be close with them.

Q: Unfortunately in the last three games we have conceded goals right at the end which have been so costly.

AK: Yes I have been disappointed but we need to keep working but the players attitude is always good we need to improve and not make so many mistakes.

Q: There have been a lot of Boro supporters at away games lately does this help the players?

AK: It was lovely with the Middlesbrough support we had in Leeds, Birmingham, Derby. In all the stadiums where we played there were a lot of people from Middlesbrough and we need to win our  games for them.

Q: Would your Christmas wish be to win some games over Christmas time?

AK: All my life I think health, family and a lot of things are more important than football. When you are a coach or a player you want to win the games but I think there are a lot of things more important than football.

Photos –


Doctor Parnaby of the Boro Academy

Middlesbrough’s Academy Manager, Dave Parnaby was recently rewarded for his incredible achievements in developing Boro’s youth system by receiving an Honorary Doctor in Professional Achievement from Teesside University.

Middlesbrough’s Academy was awarded Grade 1 status in 2012 under the new Premier League EPPP rating and so remains a top facility nationally.
Before taking up his position at Middlesbrough, Dave was a teacher at Longfield Comprehensive School in Darlington and coached England under-15 school boys. He has long been recognised and respected as one of the most talented academy heads in English football and it is very fitting that he has now been honoured by the University.

Dave (left) with Vice Chancellor Graham HendersonQ: Dave we are standing in front of a wall of those honoured like you at Teesside University. I can see Wilf Mannion, Steve Gibson, George Hardwick, how does it feel that your picture will be alongside them.

DP: To be classed in the same arena as those people is quite humbling really, emotional but I am very, very honoured and delighted to be here.

Q: How many years have you headed Middlesbrough’s Academy?

DP: Sixteen years now Rob. I started in 1998 under the Charter for Quality, when Mr Gibson came and had a chat and Mr Lamb. I have got to give special thanks to Keith, it was Keith who brought me to the club. And another big thanks to Ron Bone who pointed me in the right direction of the club. Ron has been at the club now for 26 years and deserves as much credit if not more than me. I’m the Academy Manager, I’m at the forefront of everything and I get nice days like these. But everyone in the Academy, in the six departments that we have, deserves as much credit as I do.

Q: This is recognition of incredible progress that has been made under you.

DP: Again, I keep repeating myself but the progress we’ve made, I’m at the helm organising but real credit goes to people like Wendy Thomas in administration and operations. Peter Hood has been with us six years in Sports Science and Ron as I say 26 years, the whole of the coaching team which is a big, big coaching team deserve as much credit as I do and I will go on record as thanking them all personally.

Q: What age do you first get kids in?

DP: We have Development Centres now Rob, throughout the region with 6, 7, 8 year olds. But our first Academy team is actually our under 9s. So we run teams from under 9s all the way through to under 21s.

Q: You are looking after the education then as well as player development?

DP: Yes, we have embarked on what we term as the day release programme, where boys come into the club from school on a day to day basis. So 15s and 16s are on a day and a half, 14s and 13s all day Tuesday. And the 11s and 12s come in all day Thursday and up to now it has proved very, very successful. A nice education environment and two nice classrooms. A real credit to Barry Dawson and his team in the education department for providing the environment but also credit to everybody around for looking after the young players that we have.

Q: A phenomenal number of young players have come through to play first team football over the years, this must bring real satisfaction to you and all the staff?

DP: Yes any team that fields academy players, every member of staff throughout the country has a great thrill when a young person coming through the academy steps out on the first team pitch and we are no different, we are thrilled, it is the big talking point. Debuts are special, when they have come all the way through and we get a hint that someone’s going to make their debut. So, that is a really, really special moment for everybody at the academy and it is always the talking point around the building when it happens.

Q: I imagine when one young player makes it that it is a boost for all the other kids right through to the very youngest.

DP: It is. We always use it as a measure. Whoever it is they could be the next one. But as I said earlier it is a long, long process, a very patient process. But the bottom line is that the boys have to have potential first and foremost and then they have to develop that potential with talent. What we call the four corners. The technical, the tactical, physical, psychological and social. All that fits into the jigsaw. And they don’t always fit together sometimes.

(Above Vice Chancellor Graham Henderson left pictured with Dave Parnaby – right)

Fly: Because you are trying to produce rounded..

DP: Yes rounded individuals. There is great satisfaction for everybody as well. So, hopefully when they leave, they leave with lots of humility, respect and honesty. They are our core values running throughout the club.

Q: They were special circumstances but when we fielded that Academy produced side at Fulham it must have been a very proud moment.

DP: Absolutely. I remember driving down with Stephen Pears. We knew it was going to happen the day before the game but we drove and actually got lost in London and so we arrived right on kick off time. Fortunately Mr Gibson was there that day and I always remember him saying John Hall wanted to do it but I’ve done it. All credit to him.

Q: Obviously that was just before reaching a UEFA CUP Final with a team including several players that had come through the Academy.

DP: Yes that was a special day for us as a club and although it was a pity about the result but to achieve what we achieved that year was massive in itself. Hopefully, in the next year we will be sitting in the Premier League if Mr Karanka can run a string of results together and then we maybe on the way. And the league is that wide open anything can happen really.

Q: Aitor Karanka he is someone that as well as working at a top club in Real Madrid he has coached at youth level in Spain.

DP: Yes very much so. He comes from a coaching background, a teaching background. He understands the psychology and the technical levels of young individuals. But at the same time his job is winning football matches. Our job is to produce players to go into that winning environment. It is not an easy task. As I say it is a long journey. His is pretty short term; he has to get results now.

Q: I watched the Under 21s recently in the cup against Everton at Riverside and there looked to be a few useful prospects.

DP: We were disappointed with the performance first half but second half there was a lot of reorganisation by the coaches. Then we were a bit unfortunate not to come out on top.

Q: But we are still in a position where the Academy can produce future talent?

DP: Oh yes without a doubt. If you look at all our age groups there are good players in each age group. It is getting the jigsaw right with all of them Rob, if we can do that we will continue to produce.

Q: The link ups with Atletico Madrid seem an exciting new move for the club.

DP: Yes, it is an educational process that as well. We are developing links, developing ideas, recruitment ideas, technical ideas and player exchange ideas. It will take time. Joe Public won’t see instant rewards for the link because things like that take time to build up relationships. We have to decide what works and doesn’t work and what applies to our programme and what doesn’t. So, there are many, many facets to it all.

Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity of offering condolences to Dave’s son, Stuart and wife Paula on the tragic loss of their baby, just one month short of the full term of the pregnancy.


Christmas with The Kids at the Westgarth


Tonight the great Edwyn Collins comes to play at the Westgarth Social Club. There will be a full house and I’m quite certain that the atmosphere will be superb. For that is what we have come to expect from The Kids Are Solid Gold gigs at this intimate Middlesbrough venue. Every show is an event and a couple of weeks ago we were treated to a big pre Christmas party, courtesy of the Kids. Christmas with the Kids.


Christmas came early with the Kids Are Solid Gold. The first Saturday evening in December was the date for a pre-festive treat featuring the very best up and coming local and national acts all delivered gift wrapped on two stages at the Westgarth Social Club. The cast included, Embers, the next big thing from Manchester and an international performer more used to the Academy sized venue stages, what a privilege to be able to enjoy Sarah Blasto in an intimate setting in Middlesbrough.

I walked into the Westgarth just as Silver Trees were signing off in the concert room with the delicate breathless sound of harmonium and soothing voice. I am sorry to say that I had already missed Liam Sanders a talented Teesside songwriter with a penchant for hard hitting lyrics. Downstairs the crowd was building for a young band from York. The Littlemores have plenty about them, they play catchy guitar pop tunes, with clever lyrics and project themselves with bags of personality. They have a couple of really big, outstanding songs.No wonder the battle of the band winners at Fibbers have received radio play on 6music by the discerning Tom Robinson. I am going to tip them to go to places.

Siobhan WilsonSiobhan Wilson with delicate guitar and voice conveyed her country and Scottish influences to hush the audience to complete silence. The young singer paused for a dedication for the tragedy that unfolded just the night before in her home city of Glasgow. A city she says where performers talk about Teesside and the Westgarth in hushed tones, thanks to the Kids and the many talented acts from the banks of the Clyde we are almost twinned centres these days. It was a wonderful set that charmed the crowd.

Talking of west Scotland, there were beards, hats, checked shirts and a frenzy of guitars from Scottish firebrands, the dynamic Fatherson. People have mixed the band up with Cat Stevens Father and Son on social media and so the singer/songwriter has earned a Fatherson song namecheck in return. Singing about their “Hometown” Kilmarnock, Fatherson lifted the roof downstairs at the Westgarth

Back upstairs and Sunderland’s Lilliput just get better and better and better. Golden harmonies on sun-kissed and blissed out 60s sounding songs even attracted Boro centre forward Lukas Jutkiewicz to the party. A wonderful band they should be back headlining for the Kids next year. It will be a joy to hear their awe inspiring voices again.


The downstairs stage headline act is really starting to turn heads. First footing to the north east out of Manchester Embers create incredible intense, emotionally depth charged music. Anthemic, euphoric, totally gripping, Embers do not so much smoulder as spontaneously combust.

Sarah Blasko

Finally and in complete contrast, all the way from Australia, the very wonderful vocal dexterity and visually gripping platinum-selling Sarah Blasko. What a phenomenal scoop for TKASG, the Westgarth and Middlesbrough to be entertained by this internationally famous enchantress on her European tour to promote the new album, I Awake. Sarah uses the movement of her dancing feet and sparkly gloved hands to capture and captivate the crowd with her storytelling.

The Australian singer was very diplomatic to steer the conversation away from any references to The Ashes cricket but won more friends for mentioning the Sydney Harbour Bridge, built from Teesside steel shouted the crowd. An audience that was respectfully silent throughout a set of new and old songs that sparkled like Sarah’s jewelled gloves. It was a wonderfully warm, uplifting way to end a very special evening.

The Kids certainly know how to give us a golden Christmas.

All photos by the talented Tracy Hyman


A Haven in Linthorpe

I don’t know how many times I have walked past the gates to Linthorpe Cemetery without ever delving inside. A graveyard might not be the most obvious place fro a relaxing stroll but if you want a snapshot on the development of our Infant Hercules then the gravestones in this Victorian cemetery will tell you a thousand or more stories.

The great and the good from founding father William Fallows to shop keeper Amos Hinton were buried here. But for 60 years this was the last resting place of the workers, the wives and the children of Middlesbrough. Moses Carpenter the native Indian who died so far from home and the townspeople took to their hearts has a plaque by his grave recording his life and statesman like funeral.

Look closely at the ground and you will see traces of medieval ridge and furrow agriculture. The undulating terrain is one of the reason for some for some of older the gravestones toppling. There are hedges and trees that predate the town that spread to surround the burial plots. Vestiges of the tiny settlement and fields of Linthorpe.

Part of the cemetery is designated a nature reserve and the long grasses and wild flowers are a treat in Springtime and attract all manner of wildlife. It is very much an green oasis in this part of the town. In fact the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery, who do so much to look after the place run popular Bat Nights for those who fancy a closer look at these nocturnal visitors.

The Friends have renovated two buildings on the site, the Hebrew Prayer House on Ayresome Green Lane where many of us enter to vote at elections. Also the old morgue that once backed onto West Lane Fever hospital is an information centre. Exhibits inside include a fantastic model of the 19th century double chapel that once stood in the centre of the cemetery until demolition in the 1980s.

After having a mooch around I popped in to Linthorpe Tea Room, a charming little homespun establishment that has opened up in the old art college at 1 Burlam Road. One of many locally run café establishments that have recently been set up around the town, this tea room is helping to breath new life into the recently renovated red brick Victorian building.

My mother remembers when she was young being frightened of a sign on the former Approved School building, saying Beware of the Children. Different times. Today it is a far more welcoming corner.

Next Tuesday 17th December 6.30pm Linthorpe Tea Room are getting festive holding a carol service outside the tearoom with a free drink of mulled wine There will be  mince pies, tea and Christmas available inside.

The Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery have an excellent website.


Middlesbrough Food, Craft & Gift Market

Middlesbrough’s popular Food, Craft & Gift Market returned on Friday and Saturday last week, bringing yuletide sparkle to Corporation Road.  Demand for stalls was higher than ever with most being snapped up within less than two weeks.

Catering to the foodies of Middlesbrough were a variety of foods both sweet and savoury, with most traders fully sold out by the end of the day.  Selling delicious gourmet fudge, including Christmas pudding and eggnog flavours, was Fudge Fancies, with the Gingerbread Mam providing seasonal hampers as well as gingerbread, and Dragonfly Bakery bringing festive cupcakes.

The Gingerbread Mam

The Gingerbread Mam

Meanwhile, catering for every meal from breakfast (artisan breads from Henry’s Cafe) to tea (sausages from Burton’s Bangers), via a Scotch egg from the Clucking Pig for dinner, and maybe an evening treat from the North Yorkshire Brewing Company, were a host of traders whose produce all came from the local area.

Henry’s Cafe and The Clucking Pig

Rounding off the list of familiar stallholders were a variety of craft and gift stalls.  Linthorpe Road favourite Lots of Loveliness returned, taking two stalls to display her beautiful array of homewares and Christmas items, and Christmas items were a theme among several stalls, with Concept and My Wings n Things both bringing unique decorations.



For those looking for presents, both Soy Serene and To Gift were selling handmade candles, and Beehive Beauty Products brought all manner of 100% natural lotions and potions.  Finally, for something a little different, there were Cosy Crafts, selling hand painted clay ornaments, Natural Majick, selling crystals, gifts and jewellery, and Curious gifts, for the unusual, unique or just a little crazy.

To Gift

To Gift

The lineup of old favourites was complemented by new traders including Sugar Rush, selling traditional sweets, and Totes Adore, selling recycled glassware gifts.  Also making their market debut were Sew 2 Work, part of a charity supporting women to develop creative and enterprise skills, showcasing the cushions and other decorative items made by the participants on their courses.

Totes Adore & Sew 2 Work

Totes Adore and Sew 2 Work

Lastly, adding to the festive atmosphere were Sweet Susie Pea selling handmade wreaths and The Craftery selling handcrafted Christmas cards.

And in celebration of Small Business Saturday (December 7th), one stall was taken by Jessica Langford, a contemporary jewellery designer, who won a competition open to a Middlesbrough-based business trading for less than two years.

J. Langford

Jessica Langford

With food, drink, crafts and gifts, and Christmas carols around Spectra-txt adding to the festive atmosphere, an amazing time was had by all.