Nick Waites Super Boro Fan

You may have seen Boro fan Nick Waites in the news recently, the car he was travelling in was involved in a big accident on the way back from the Derby away game. Thankfully all passengers and driver stepped from the wreck virtually unscathed. Nick had to pass the scene of the crash just one week later en route to Burton.

It was the first major accident the Chartered Accountant had been involved in watching Boro and DerbyCounty was his 953rd competitive Boro game in a row. For just like the Ayresome Angel song, super fan Nick never misses a match. The last Boro league match he missed was back in 1992. He hasn’t missed any competitive Boro game since 1997. His record puts mine firmly in the shade.

We are now celebrating 20 years at the Riverside and Nick has been there all the way through and far more besides. A great time then to ask him to share a few of his memories as a Boro fan.

NSW passport2

Fly: What memories have you got of your first games?

NW: I actually cannot remember my first game which was some time during the 1966/67 promotion campaign aged 5, but the first game I can remember was the famous promotion wining final game of that season against Oxford with the fans sat around the outside of the pitch. I was sat in the South Stand at Ayresome with my dad who I went with until my university days when I migrated into the Holgate.

Fly: Who were the Boro heroes/favourite players for you when you were growing up?

NW: My favourite player from the 60s/70s was Graeme Souness followed by Big John Hickton.  I still see John on his visits to the Riverside, a really nice guy.

Fly: Do you have many fond memories looking back at the AyresomePark days?

NW: I think everyone who grew up at AyresomePark will have fond memories of the place, although I am sure that our memories have chosen not to remember certain aspects.  Who that experienced them will ever forget the smell of the Holgate toilets?!  On the other hand, the Riverside will never have that welcoming smell of Bovril that was unique to AyresomePark.

As I said, I started off for the first 15 or so years in the South Stand and then spent the next 6 years or so in the Holgate before moving to the North Stand. Who that was there will ever forget that last game and the sea of red and all the players of years gone by walking round the pitch.

Fly: Your incredible run of not missing matches started way back in the 1990s. Was it deliberate and premeditated at the start ie did you decide not to miss any games for a season or did you just find yourself going every week?

NW: It is quite funny really as prior to 1992 I was far from an ever present and went to probably not many more than the majority of away games.  I still however vividly remember standing in the Fairfield Pub in Stockton with a good friend of mine in the summer of 1992 when I said that I was going to try to do as many of the games as I could the following season.  23 years later …  It became a drug a lot of years ago.

Fly: It was the 20th anniversary of the 1st game at Riverside recently. Were you saddened by leaving Ayresome or elated to be going into a brand new state of the art stadium? Or both?

NW: I must admit that I was initially against the move.  Looking back however, I am not sure whether I was influenced by Colin Henderson, the chairman at the time, who I used to do some work for who obviously was against the move and ultimately lost the power struggle with Steve. Thankfully.

I wasn’t one for visiting the building of the stadium regularly, but I can remember being struck by the size of it when the stands started to go in. Was this really for us?

Fly: Can you recall the first day/game at the Riverside v Chelsea?

NW: I cannot remember much of the game other than the goals, but I can remember the iconic scene that was captured in that photograph which is often used of the teams coming out, like it was yesterday. I also remember arriving at the game, never having been inside the ground previously to be shown to the restaurant that I was in and being told that due to the sprinklers in the kitchens being activated during the night, no food would be served. The good news to compensate us was that it was a free bar all afternoon.

Fly: They were incredible days those first two seasons at the Riverside. Could you quite believe what was happening on that amazing emotional roller coaster? 

NW: They certainly were.  You still wonder how we managed to sign the Brazilian player of the year and the scorer of the previous season’s winner in the then European Cup Final.  Incredible really, but sadly with the money in football, something I suspect future generations of Boro fans will never experience.

NW At RockliffeThose two years were however tinged with a lot of sadness as a result of my dad’s deteriorating health.  I managed to get him to the Coca Cola Cup Final at Wembley, although it was a great struggle and it wasn’t until 6 days before the FA Cup Final that he finally decided that he wasn’t going to be able to make it.

Sadly, he passed away two days after that Cup Final.  My mum was watching the game with him in the Butterwick Hospice and she told me that he lost consciousness within minutes of Di Matteo’s early goal and never regained consciousness.  As if after 50 plus years of watching the Boro he had given up. Again, quite ironic that on his death my then 7 year old son had been to more cup finals than my dad.

Fly: A few years on and we finally won a cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Was it extra special after all the miles you had travelled watching Boro?

NW: Every Boro fan there will never forget that day.  I don’t know why, but I had no thoughts of getting beat.  It was going to be our day and so it proved.  I don’t think it was any more special for me than every other Boro fan. We were just privileged that it happened in our lifetime and we have a lot to thank the Chairman for.

Fly: The Europe years – there must have been a few difficult trips to get to destinations in Greece etc?

NW: Xanthi was obviously the one that stands out after both Flight Options and the club trip got cancelled. I drove to Sedgefield, got picked up in a taxi to NewcastleAirport followed by a holiday charter flight to Thessalonica.  My friend’s PA had worked out train and bus times from there, but we ended up getting a taxi straight to Xanthi. The whole of the European adventure was surreal and the away games came so thick and fast.  We played 64 games in that one season.

Fly: I haven’t missed a match myself since 1999 so I know there can sometimes be big sacrifices made in making all the fixtures. Like me, I believe you missed a game for a family event but can it ever be difficult making fixtures?

NW: My record does not stand up to yours in any way other than for consecutive games, but we share the fact that the last league game missed was for our brother’s wedding.  I guess yours wasn’t however as spectacular as the game I missed at Molineux in May 1992 when we got promoted to the inaugural Premiership. (Your record is far, far longer than mine Nick – Editor)

In terms of competitive games, again family reasons as my daughter was in hospital when we played away at Hereford in 1996. It can obviously be fairly difficult and I have been to a few weddings where I have missed the reception and gone back on the evening.

Holidays are of course arranged in the close season and international breaks and then there is illness. The worst was a couple of seasons ago when somehow I managed to get to Leicester on the train 5 days after a hernia operation.  I was in agony all day, but the hospital did initially offer me an appointment for the operation on a Saturday morning so I guess I have to be grateful.

Fly: Last season we lost at Wembley again but did you take any enjoyment at all from the event or would you prefer we never see that stadium again?

NW: That game was 100% about the result and nothing else was relevant.  It was obviously very disappointing that we didn’t turn up, but our away form since Xmas had not been that good, especially in scoring goals. I cannot however wait to get back to Wembley provided it is not a play off game as it will mean we are either in the FA Cup Semi Final or the League Cup Final.

Fly: They were two big results I thought at Burton and Sheff Wed. Do you think they could be important in seeing us on our way this season?

NW: Just as I didn’t think the BristolCity game would change the season, I don’t think these two games will have a significant impact other than obviously the 3 points and the place in the next round of the cup.

The Championship is a real slog both for players and fans alike with games coming thick and fast. Thankfully however fans don’t ever get rested, unlike the players.  There will be good performances, average performances and bad performances.  It is all about minimising the latter.

Fly: Are you hopeful about us going all the way this campaign?

NW: Technically the Championship is a long way behind the Premiership, but I think we have the players who should be good enough. We learnt last year that scoring goals is important and hopefully we have learned that lesson. Another addition or two to the squad will be useful and who knows what will happen with Albert. (This was done a day before the transfer deadline.) Automatic promotion has got to be the aim and the Chairman has given the manager sufficient ammunition to get us there.

I am still not totally convinced about the resting of players, especially as soon after the start of the season and the rigidity of always playing the same formation.

Fly: What would you say is the best team made up of the players you have watched for Boro? And who would manage?

NW: A very difficult one comparing players of different eras when the game has changed so much, but possibly:


Craggs     Southgate    Boam     Ziege

Emerson    Souness      Armstrong


Ravanelli       Viduka

I guess the manager would have to be our most successful manager ever, Mr McClaren. I don’t think even ManchesterCity could afford that team.

Fly: Have you a favourite ground or game visited and a favourite away trip?

NW: I don’t really have a favourite ground, but maybe the ground where I have never seen us get beat at, the Millennium Stadium Cardiff, is as good as any.

Fly: How many miles do you think you might have travelled even recently watching Boro? It must have cost a couple of quid too, being an accountant you probably know this all too well.

NW: Somebody recently estimated that from 1992 it would be in the region of 200,000 for the league games alone (which is quite scary when you think it is more than 8 times round the world).  However, if you then throw in cup games, including Europe, who knows.  One day I might try and work it out.

A quick plug here for the FSF “Twenty is Plenty” campaign.  The sooner the clubs see the benefit of this the better.

I have been fortunate over the years to have known a lot of players who have given me away tickets for the majority of the 23 years, but I wouldn’t like to start to think what it has all cost.

Fly: You are a trustee of the Finlay Cooper Fund – what fund raising events are up and coming? Can you tell us something about the kind of children’s charities that have been benefiting.

NW: Yes, a very proud trustee of the Finlay Cooper Fund. We have the Great North Run coming up and a Sportsman’s Dinner featuring Mark Crossley on 9 October for which we only have a few places left if anybody fancies it.  We are also planning a massive Ball at Wynyard Hall next June.

We help all sorts of causes for children who unfortunately do not have the health and lives that most of us take for granted. In the last couple of months we have contributed 50% of the cost of a minibus for a school for children with autism, we have assisted with medical costs for a child who cannot get the required medical treatment in the UK and we have brought recreational equipment for two very poorly kids.

We like to think we make a little difference and must be almost unique in that we have no overheads.  None of us has claimed anything in expenses since we started ad have now raised in excess of £350,000.

Fly: Have you got any plans to climb any more mountains for the charity or after the recent car accident will you be keeping your feet firmly on the ground from now on?

NW: Something I forgot to mention is that I am hoping to arrange a fundraising event to walk the River Tees in 2016.  100 miles in 4 days and I am told that it is all downhill!

It will never match Kilimanjaro which still seems like only yesterday, but was over 2 years ago, which was a life experience, but this one is a bit closer to home.

The Finlay Cooper Fund

NW Kili


Daffodil House The Happy Home at Larchfield

Baroness Grey Thompson DBE officially opened a new house at Larchfield this month designed for and with residents with a range of disabilities. The former Paralympic multi gold medallist and champion of disabilities praised Daffodil House as a “great example of what people with disabilities deserve.”

daffodilhouseLarchfield is the incredible community, on a large farm in the extreme south of Middlesbrough borough. Part of the Camphill Village Trust, it is an amazing example of integration and achievement. There are now 29 people with a learning disability living at Larchfield and the new house provides a spacious, modern and extremely homely environment.

Chief Exec Huw John talked about how the future residents were involved in the team that designed their new homes. They helped create a building that could offer as much independence as possible but also communal space where everyone can come together and meet up and socialise.

It is spacious, light and a welcoming environment. Baroness Thompson described Daffodil House as a “happy place.” It certainly seemed that way at the launch. The resident of nearby Eaglescliffe said it was a privilege to have been invited and to see such an environment. “There is so much space,” she added. “It is what the people that live here deserve.”

There are 7 flats for 9 people in Daffodil House with a married couple Jeanne and Peter sharing the upstairs flat.

Daffodil House resident, Jeremy, addressed the invited audience at the launch telling of how happy he was to live in his new home. He especially liked its location. “It is so close to the chickens and to the shop.”

Jeanne was a little overcome by the occasion but delighted by her new home. Baroness Thompson was moved to tears also as Jeanne shed tears of joy over Daffodil House.


Jeanne and Tanni pictured in the communal kitchen area.

General Manager Mike English told me that the majority of the money for the new building was fundraised. “There was around £1.1 million in donations, I would like to offer a big thank you to them.”

As well as residents Larchfield offers day placements to over 50 people from all over Teesside. The residents and day users work full shifts on the 160 acre farm. Others work in the kitchen and bakery and were responsible for the gorgeous buffet that we all feasted on.

You really should get to the café and shop to sample the food and organic produce grown on the farm. There are Larchfield residents and day users working in the craft workshops, produce again sold in the shop.

In my visits I have found Larchfield to be a community full of welcome surprises. It is a happy place and somewhere that people with disabilities can go to better realise their potential and find real purpose and pleasure.

You will go a long way before finding a better soup and bread than in the café and look no further than Larchfield shop when it comes to clothing your Christmas tree and decking your walls this December.

Look for the multicoloured sign on what we always called the back road to Stokesley, to the south of Hemlington. You will be made very welcome.



Into Tomorrow Festival

August Bank Holiday is a celebration of the last knockings of summer, with music festivities sprouting all over the place. Not to be outdone, there was a special musical all dayer deep in the heart of Middlesbrough this year, at the TS One pub. And it was totally free! The almost all local bill drawn together by promoter Gary “Diz” Walters rocked this corner of Southfield Road Into Tomorrow.

Avalanche Party

There was a truly stunning start to the show from a heavy riffing trio, Crease. Dressed for a music fest, in loon pants, waistcoats garlands and shades and the like they made a real impact and certainly put on a show. Psychedelia, riproaring guitar rock and Chic freak funk, Crease pour all the ingredients into a gluten grouping melting pot and just go for it. After half an hour they were roared off stage and we realised that it was still only 2pm and there would be another 8+ hours left to enjoy.

There was no let up in the sonic energy stakes from second band Idle Violets. Another explosive and heavy, heavy bass-basting three piece. No shrinking violets, tackling big subjects, war and malaria head on.

It was as if the gauntlet had been laid down for Tom Barber the wandering front man of Fleckt Pets. No stage was going to constrain him, stomping through the crowd. He ended the set by hoisting himself up onto the fruit machine before scaling the south face of the DJ balcony.

Hartlepool’s Lost State of Dance 80s fused back track soundtrack speeds us along through this Bank Holiday afternoon. I was amazed at the size of the crowd throughout the day/night, always matching the enthusiasm of the promoter.

Described by “Diz” Walters as “like Black Keys in a head-on collision with Motorhead” Black Atom Movement played a storming show. A furious, curious ruesome twosome, they were the last minute out of town guests from further oop north and blasted a hole through the roof. Black Atom Movement lit the blue touch paper for Teesside’s favourite wirey fiery duo Mouses to bombard TS One with their short, sharp, snap, crackle and punk pop.

Out of the windows we could see the sky darkening but all was holiday-happy inside as Weird Shapes fired out their prog rock sonic sculptures to lighten up our interior world of musical wonderings and wanderings. Ever inventive, artfully awesome, never a dull chord with Weird Shapes.

Avalanche Party

It was time for Avalanche Party to bring the curtain down with a power surging, adrenaline rush finale. A double guitar riot and rolled as a rip tiding rhythm section hammered home the maximum points. Debut EP title track, Let’s Get Together, had the crowd clapping and stamping along. Jordan guitar/vocalist sparred with the crowd with his trusty guitar before climbing over tables and chairs and out of the window to play on the street outside. He finally crowned “Diz” Walters with his guitar around the neck to finish the whole show as our musical maestro.

What a way to set the seal on the summer.

Photos kindly provided by Phil Harrison

Below is a gallery of photos taken from the all day festival by Rachel Deakin.

First pic – the crowd gets Into Tomorrow

into tomorrow crowd

Below Black Atom Movementblack atom movement

Below – Fleckt Petsfleckt pets crowd

Mouses below


Weird Shapes (below) – bottom two images Avalanche partyweird shapes


avalanche colour
avalanche street


Barrie Emmerson RIP

It is with great sadness that I write this dedication to an incredible guy and someone that was a real friend to so many of us, Barrie Emmerson RIP. A runner, a Boro supporter, former inspirational Acklam Whin school teacher, a supporter of Middlesbrough Rugby club and a pillar of the local community. A top bloke.

I came to know Barrie from our Saturday morning parkruns at Albert Park. Although over 80 Barrie was still a keen runner, in fact he would put us all to shame by going out running in all weathers, several times a week. We would always exchange snippets about The Boro. Barrie was always optimistic and he could back up his reasoning with anecdotes from a long association with his team. It was an association that went back before the Second World War. In fact he would often recount the tale of how his mother told him there were loud cheers when he was born as Boro had just scored against Chelsea at Ayresome Park, Barrie was born in nearby Surrey Street.

I always struggle to remember my first game, not so Barrie. One of Boro’s all time great strikers, Micky Fenton, bagged a brace, Barrie would describe in detail an audacious chip over the keeper.

A couple of years ago the late great goalkeeper Rolando Ugolini was down from his home in Scotland in Middlesbrough and Barrie bumped into him in a restaurant. Polite as always, Barrie walked over and said hello and then made Rolando’s evening by chatting with him about their memories of Rolando’s incredible career in the 1950s at Boro.

Barrie had a way with words as well as memories. Although not winding down his running, in the last year or so Barrie was winding down his distances. When I asked him if he would be running the Middlesbrough 10k he replied, “No, I am a 5k specialist these days.”

That conversation was at a relay event at Stewart Park where Barrie was in a team dubbed the Antiques Roadshow, along with Tom Harper, 75, the late Fred Beauchamp, 73 and Alan Iceton, 74, Barry was then 82. Inspirational guys all of them. They attracted the gaze of The Gazette and Look North cameras. Barrie talked of his pride of being part of the oldest running group in town and ever an exponent of the good one liner, Barrie revealed, “We don’t use watches for our times though, we use calendars!”

In more recent years I have gravitated to Stewart Parkrun, though from time to time on a Saturday I sneak back to Albert largely because of Barrie. With the new season starting I am going to miss chatting to him about our chances, whether we are better equipped than last year. I know he would have said yes. And he would have loved to have seen Stewart Downing return to the fold.

I will miss being able to ask Barrie to compare Fenton and Camsell or Peacock and Clough. But although like me would wear rose coloured spectacles he was ever up beat about the present and very much a part of things. In fact a couple of years ago Barrie and his wife were invited to Glasgow to make a film with a Korean film crew about a Korean player at Celtic and talk about the 1966 North Korean link with Middlesbrough. Barrie had attended all the World Cup games at Ayresome Park. Typical of Barrie he even tipped off Boro chief scout Gary Gill, a former Acklam Whin School pupil of a North Korean Bundesliga player interested in coming to Middlesbrough.

A wonderful man, he lit up so many Saturday mornings for me. I will always be thankful to Barrie Emmerson RIP