Generation Red Royal Seal of Approval

The Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr Barry Dodd CBE, made a special visit to Boro’s award-winning Generation Red Family Zone earlier this month.

He met the team behind the ground-breaking scheme that has transformed the matchday experience for dozens of families within the East Stand at the Riverside Stadium and also talk with key partners, sponsors and some families.

Already sold out for Boro’s return to the Premier League in August, the GRFZ was launched in 2013 and was an immediate success, helping Middlesbrough FC win the Football League’s Family Club of the Year award the following year.

The East Stand concourse is a family-friendly area featuring activity areas, interactive computer games, giveaways and exciting pre-match entertainment. Partners include Everyone Active, Cornerstone Business Solutions, WH Smith, Frankie & Benny’s, Hollywood Bowl, Cineworld, Game and McDonald’s.

GRFZ 1A delegation of families and the three organisers from Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams charity spoke about how they work hand in hand with the Boro and Generation Red Family Zone. Dave Brown, Manager of WH Smith, Teesside Park branch told the Lord Lieutenant about how he helps delver structured learning, boosting the literacy of young Boro fans.

Player visits are a regular feature and the GRFZ has become a smash hit with children and mums, dads and grandparents.

The Lord Lieutenant was greeted by Chief Operating Officer Mark Ellis and Head of Supporter Services Yvonne Ferguson before viewing features such as the Creative Corner, the Cornerstone Interactive Zone, the MFC Official Little Red Store, the Boro Yellow Brick Road and the Candy Cart.

He also met Helena Bowman, Head of Foundation, and MFCP charity partners.

He said as royal representative he would be taking a very positive message back to the Queen. He would be writing a note telling of all the great work being done at the GRFZ. The Lord Lieutenant went on to say that it would be such a big and very timely boost to be back in the Premier League.

After the visit I spoke with Dave Brown from WH Smith about his involvement in Generation Red Family Zone and to tell us more about the fun, entertainment and education that goes on in this colourful and creative corner of the Riverside every match day.

GRFZ 2Q: You have just met the Lord Lieutenant, what did you tell him about what you are doing?

DB: It is part of the WH SMITH initiative to have a corporate responsibility in all our local stores with any educational ties we can get. At Teesside Park we decided to go to the football ground. Young lads that don’t usually read, they won’t go to libraries, or go to bookshops as much as young girls. The reading age in Middlesbrough is really quite low, we are deprived area. I think the statistics for Middlesbrough is that 1 in 4 kids don’t own their own book under the age of 8, which is ridiculous so we have got to go to where the kids are.

If you come to Middlesbrough Football Club we sponsor an educational half time, up in the Sub’s Bench. There are book loanings, so you can use your season card to loan books out, to get the young lads back into reading. The books are specially designed and chosen by a local school teacher and the activities we do all fall in line with the national curriculum. So it is not just finger painting and messing about, there is a real reason behind what we do.

GRFZ ActivityQ: Are the activities structured?

DB: Yes each activity is structured. Not only to the age of the child but also seasonal or what is going on. So, if it was Valentines, we might be making cards but there would be a reason behind it. We also do things around away teams when they come. So, people can look on the map and see how many miles they have travelled, what is the area like, what are the people like. A bit of history about the town that is coming. So they get to know about the team that is visiting as well.

Q: If it is 3pm kick off talk us through your day in the Generation Red Family Zone.

DB: Well, the idea from the club is trying to extend the life of your ticket. So if you pay for your ticket on a match day you basically think well that is from kick off until the final whistle blows. But actually you can get more out of your ticket. If you come in at 12.30 the family zone is open. So you extend the value of your ticket, you get more from it.

So, we sit at the tables and do some activities with the kids. It might be competitions. We have a lot of other partners such as Game, Frankie and Bennies. It really is educational based but it is an activity to keep them happy.

Q: Fun as well.

DB: Oh yes. Some of the other things we do. We do a big day around World Book Day, which all kids in primary schools get a voucher for a free book. What the club does is sponsor its own World Book Day through WHSMITH where any child that comes to WHSMITH in the area gets a free book on that day. No one else in the country does that. No other football club, Premier League or not have invested like Middlesbrough has in World Book Day which means that every child gets a book, which is a phenomenal thing when you think about it. So, that is why we say seasonal, there will be lots of Christmas activities of course etc.

GRFZ BeeSo, once we have done that, we usually do a really fun activity like wishing the players well, it will be educational based or book based. After that, you are not allowed up to the Subs Bench until half time. There is a meeting point downstairs and a member of staff from the Family Zone takes the parent and the kids upstairs.

It was originally set up 3 years back when the football was pretty poor and to get a child to sit through 90 minutes of dross. You were lucky if you got them through the first half, especially in winter if it was raining. There was plenty to do in the concourse but if you have got a small child it meant that the families could bring the kids with them, not just the dads. We had a lovely couple that met at the match but when they had kids stopped coming. It was a reason for them to actually start coming again which is a great story.

We take them upstairs and we do book loaning, a bit of crafting. It gives them 15 minutes away from the cold, with free tea and coffee if it is cold. And there are changing facilities for babies. Soft play for the kids. It is genuinely being copied all around the country. We have people from Birmingham, Preston, Sheffield coming to look at what we do and treat it as a blueprint.

It has gone down really well with my company, WHSMITH and they have sponsored it from the top level. Our managing director or retail, Kevin Hall, has been every year to come and check on it and he sponsors us, so you couldn’t get any higher accolade than that and it has become an integral part of our corporate responsibility when we submit it to the City at the end of September. You find WHSMITHS Teesside Park and Middlesbrough Football Club on that submit and the City love it and think it is a good use for our resources in the end adds to my share price which keeps me in a job (laughs).

GRFZ 4Q: You are wearing the Boro hat and you are saying it is cool to read.

DB: Other footballers have been in to this for a while, Frank Lampard has something like 13 books. All good reads. I know he does actually write himself. Mark Schwarzer, wrote in Australia and there is Theo Walcott, he has a list of them too. It is nothing new but it is new to the kids because they haven’t seen this before and might not realise that football fits in well educationally. Everyone Active do this because of the health benefits as well. We do things around diet, we do fruit upstairs. There are loads of activities. If you think of how you can benefit then we will have touched upon it at some point. Middlesbrough is open to any suggestions.

The brand of the area now is Middlesbrough Football Club there is nothing else to stick my brand to.

GRFZ Dave BrownQ: Now it is Premier.

DB: Now it is Premier League. Three years ago we thought we were mad to get involved. And they have been loyal to us; other clubs might drop us because we have got into the Premier League. We know we are here next season because they like what we do and it is not about making money. Which is the best thing.

Q: This is the future fan base for Boro and the future using WHSMITH and buying books here.

DB: Oh yes the feedback for us is fantastic. If we are in the shop, people come in and say hello and ask us what we are doing at the match next week and can you recommend a book. That book you leant us last week was fantastic. You can’t get any better than that, especially for young lads. The girls are great but the young lads would never have picked a book up. They would have picked a Match Attax sticker book up.

Q: Which is what you are doing now as we speak, showing the fun element.

DB: Yes. Some of the work the Foundation does we can work hand in hand with. They work with Football Manager working out percentages around winning promotions etc. You have to be savvy to use that game properly. We can use the things they have learned and then use it in the Concourse for younger kids. It is about finding horses for courses. It is a win/win for us as a company to be associated with this. Originally they thought we were mad but now we are associated with success which is fabulous.

Thank You To Dave Brown, manager WH Smith, Teesside Park


We Are Premier League

The football fixtures were announced last week and on the weekend of the 13th August when we kick off v Stoke City at the Riverside it will be official, We Are Premier League. As we lick our lips in anticipation of clashes with Man United, Man City and Champions Leicester we can thank our lucky stars again that we came through that incredible finale v Brighton. A new, fan photo book captures the flood of emotions on that final winner takes all head to head with Brighton. We Are Premier League, is dedicated to all that supported the team on that amazing date with destiny, Saturday 7th May 2016.

boro fan ticketWe were so up for it marching through the cold Middlesbrough morning round the dock to the Riverside. A Riverside sold out weeks before. Match seats were the hottest tickets in town, for a high noon showdown. The loser would be swept up into the play off lottery.

It was a cup final but a cup final at home. The primary colour was red, the noise was in the key of Tees. What spine tingling, ear drum smattering noise it was too. Boro were going back to the top of the class, no Seagulls were going to stop us getting back to the Premier pinnacle of the game. But, only just.

This pocket sized book of magnificently reproduced photographs in both red and white colour and moody black and white captures the shifting moods. The determination, the frustrations, the euphoria and elation are all etched on the faces of the fans. Faces of stone, or fist pumping with sheer delight. See if your mug shot is in these pages.

Photographed, published, printed on Teesside by Teessiders. I was honoured to be asked to write the foreword. In fact they are the only words in the volume as the pictures truly do speak louder than typed print.

boro fan bnw1It was turned round in commendably double quick time but not at the price of quality.

We Are Premier League UTB. Available to buy WH Smiths Teesside Park, Middlesbrough and also online at 6epublishing

Photos in book by Christopher H. Evans and CG Hatton with thanks to David Brown, Susan Lodge and Peter Brunton for additional photos from the day.

boro fan flagboro fans gillieHere is a brief chat with Sixth Element Publishing’s Gillie Hatton about We Are Teesside.

Q: Can you tell us a little about We Are Premier League, photographs from the final game of the season, Boro v Brighton. The promotion cliff hanger.

G: What we wanted to do was capture the emotion of the crowd; it is all about the fans and the people of Middlesbrough on that day. It was lunch time kick off, a really cold, misty day and it was the crowds going to the game and then everyone coming out of the game afterwards. Whether we had a book or not hinged on the final whistle. It had to be promotion, it was no good dropping down to the play offs, it had to be guaranteed clinched promotion. The whole future of the town seemed to rest on those nine minutes of extra time and just whether Middlesbrough were going to do it. When they did it was amazing.

Everybody going in was so excited and up for it. The atmosphere inside the ground was incredible.

There were people outside crying just willing those minutes to go and the referee to blow his whistle. The whole town was waiting for the moment to see whether it was going to be OK or not. And it was and it was brilliant. Afterwards it was just as if people were almost stunned, so emotional.

Boro fan flag 2Q: So there are photos of people before and after and you see the emotions are written across peoples faces, of tension and delight.
G: Yes, everybody going in was up for it, come on lets do it. Coming out it was just such an emotional.. I think people were stunned. People sent us pictures from inside, the reactions after the game where people were so amazed and it was such good feeling that it actually happened. To think that the Premier League is coming to Middlesbrough next season is awesome.

Q: It is a Premier quality publication because the photos are so good and have been so well reproduced.

G: Thank you.

boro fan bnwQ: It has been printed in Middlesbrough as well, hasn’t it?

G: Yes it is printed in Middlesbrough with a really fast turn around. We are very grateful for the printers for working with us on it. The pictures are a mixture of digital and film. So those taken on film we didn’t know for a week afterwards whether we had any pictures or not. You take digital pictures you can see straight away. Film it was just amazing and magical for it to come back.

Q: You have got the contrast in techniques as well.

G: Yes. And the black and white and the red. A lot of people have said that the black and white images are just incredible.

Q: There will be a lot of people unaware that they have been photographed in this book.

G: Yes we have people now saying look there is so and so etc.

Q: It is on sale at WH SMITHS, Teesside Park and where else.

G: Middlesbrough Cleveland Centre WH SMITHS have got it now as well. And you can get it direct from the website too. 6epublishing





Everyone is currently glued to their tvs viewing the European Championships in France. It is 50 years this summer since Harold Shepherdson was trainer to the England World Cup winning team of 1966. Football Medical Association’s Gavin Blackwell pays tribute to the man known to many as Shep.

shep pitch 1966Harold was one of the best known trainers and best liked in English football. For seventeen years under Walter Winterbottom and Sir Alf Ramsey he was the England trainer and also worked for Middlesbrough for many years. He was awarded the MBE in 1969 for services to football.

shep bench 2This July marks fifty years of England’s World Cup triumph in 1966. The coaching and medical staff consisted of just four people staff, Les Cocker, Dr Alan Bass, Alf Ramsey and his right hand man Harold Shepherdson. He served in four World Cups – Sweden(1958), Chile (1962) Mexico(1970) and of course England (1966) where he became one of the immortals who helped England win the Jules Rimet Cup  for the first and only time.

shep trainingHe not only trained the team but also looked after the health and wellbeing of the squad which included the treatment of injuries, organising the leisure and down time not to mention the taking care of the passports.

shep magic spongeShep, as he was affectionately known with England, learnt his trade in the army as a remedial gymnast and later worked at a convalescent department. He was appointed by Walter Winterbottom in 1958 and soon became a very respected trainer not only in the England camp but throughout football. He encouraged many to train and follow in his footsteps.
First of all he was very competent in his job. He was one of the few trainers who undertook courses in the training for football coaching and the treatment of injury.

Secondly, Harold was a born organiser. From his first match with the England team, he accepted responsibility for planning the kits and equipment for training and matches. He had the perfect temperament for the job. He would be distressed whenever England didn’t play well or lost but he would be the first to snap out of it and cheerfully begin preparation for the next game.

shep2Even the tiniest bit of detail which might have any bearing on the players’ physical and mental attitude to the task was given the strictest attention. He would give demonstrations to the squad on how to cut toe nails and explaining the problem of how the smallest of sharp points doing this incorrectly could cause in growing toe nails and infection. Nothing was left to chance in the training camp pre World Cup at Lilleshall.

After England’s third group game against France Jimmy Greaves showed him a jagged cut to his right shin which kept him out of the side right until shortly before the final when Alf decided to retain Hunt and Hurst.

Just before the game Shep sat next to Jimmy Greaves on the coach after a training session and Jim was on edge about whether he would be bought back to the side. Shep didn’t say Aye or Nay but the words he used must have convinced him that he wouldn’t get back.

shep bookGordon Banks said  Harold had millions of pounds worth of soccer talent pass through his hands – and I mean that literally. For as well as putting players through their paces on the training ground, he handled countless number of injuries.

Gordon said “As an ex England player who took part in the 1966 World Cup tournament and who went to Mexico 1970, I can vouch for Harold’s skill and knowledge, for his ability to make training sessions lively and enjoyable and to get footballers back in action in the swiftest, safest possible time.
He never seemed to raise his voice. As a former PT Sergeant in the army he might have barked out orders but he never did. He was a nice friendly man, the ideal person to work under the more rigid Alf and always had an encouraging word for the players and the journalists.

He never leaked information without it being approved by showing a great trust not only for the manager but also the players. Like Alf and the players he wasn’t really appreciated, Middlesbrough didn’t really honour him but the players did. Shep and Les Cocker were not given a winners medal. Originally, only the eleven players who played in the 4-2 win over West Germany received medals.

shep gold discFollowing a Football Association led campaign to persuade FIFA to award medals to every non-playing squad and staff member, his wife Margaret and daughter Linda received a medal on behalf of her late husband from Gordon Brown at a ceremony at 10 Downing Street on the 10th of June 2009. And the town council named a road after him. His medal and other memorabilia will soon be on display at the National Football Training Centre at St.George’s Park.

By Gavin Blackwell

shep benchshep sombreroshep player


Boro Real Fans Believe Premier Dreaming

A couple of weeks ago the Lord Lieutenant visited the Generation Red Family Zone at the Riverside. He was giving a royal seal of approval to all the great work going on between the football club and the community. Amongst those invited to meet the Lord Lieutenant were the three big hearted organisers, Tony Wedlake, Jennifer Fowles and Jimmy Wilson as well as some of the families assisted by the incredible Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams.

This small but amazingly active group make dreams come true for Boro fans in need. Middlesbrough FC and the Generation Red family Zone have been right behind them in every way supporting the group as they buy ground tours, home and away tickets, season tickets and host Christmas parties for those disadvantaged, in ill health or in a desperate need of a Boro dream.

Next season the group will be able to make Premier dreams come true for Boro fans.

boro fans lord visitQ: Am I right in thinking that the charity was set up after Wembley last year?

Jen: Yes, Jimmy had a brain wave, his heart ruled his head, where we took one child and a dad to Wembley. We came back, Tony, Jimmy and I got together and decided if we could do it for one child we could do it for more. So we set off with 4 season tickets, 2 adults and 2 children for the family zone, we did that until Christmas.

Q: That is a big commitment, a lot of money to start out with.

J: Yes. Then we had £1500 to raise in 2 weeks and we raised £1800. So we got the season tickets through blind cards and lots of different activities and events.

Q: What are your plans for next season?

J: For next season we have organised another 12 season tickets, 6 adults and 6 children. So there will be 6 new family members coming into the family zone and to see the mighty Boro.

Were hopefully going to organise a flag parade for our kids to come and bring the players out onto the pitch. There will be more mascot places, hopefully, pending how fixtures are sorted out. Our names are on the list for them.

More schools coming in for stadium tours and we are hoping to get some tours up at the training ground as well for the kids as we haven’t done that yet.

Last season we took kids to an away game, we took them to Bolton. This year we hope to get two trips in to Premier grounds.

We have a golf day set up on the 16th June at Middlesbrough Golf Club, Brass Castle Lane and we have another charity night planned for August.

We also do thing for individual kids; one child had been knocked over in a hit and run so we replaced his bike. There was another child that had a brain operation and she was with us today celebrating.

The idea it is to make kids smile and give them a normal day to think back on.

boro real fans lord 1Q: Did you get a chance to speak to the Lord Lieutenant?

J: Yes we did, it was lovely. He was amazed on what we do and how we do it, considering it was just three fans got together and organised it all. The three of us carry on still but we need more people to get involved if we are going to make it bigger. And also we are going to need more people to get involved and stand by us and help with different things. It can be hectic in the Family Zone when it is choc-a-block and we looking after all the families.

Q: You have come an awfully long way in less than a year.

J: Yes in eight months.

Q: When you started with the trip to Wembley it was only intended to be a one off wasn’t it?

J: Yes and then we started again in June. At that moment we were in decline, the community were in a decline but now we are going forward, now we are in the Premier and now we can bring back more things to Teesside and make sure that the kids from Teesside get a great time.

charity golf day





A replacement First World War Memorial commemorating the lives of local men from Gjers Mills’ Ayresome Ironworks is to be formally unveiled by Fr Glyn Holland and Mayor David Budd on Monday, June 20 (1.30pm – 3pm) at All Saints’ Church in Middlesbrough.

war memorial tallPart of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported ‘They answered their Country’s Call’ project, which takes its name from text from the original war memorial previously on display at the town centre church before it was damaged in 2007, the event marks a highpoint of activities by the project.

‘They answered their Country’s Call’ has already included school visits to a local foundry, poetry slams, community events, music performances, the development of new education resources, a pop-up exhibition and digitisation of unique historical documents.

Project Manager Dr Tosh Warwick said: “We are delighted to welcome the community to join those already involved in the project to celebrate this significant contribution to Middlesbrough’s First World War heritage.

war memorial all saints“With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and local partners including the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough Libraries, Teesside Archives and William Lane Foundry, the project has allowed valuable heritage activities to take place and new resources to be generated to ensure the community can explore this important part of our town’s history.”

More information on the Project can be found at or by contacting

war memorial church old“The HLF supported project has provided a fantastic opportunity to explore the connections between industry, religion and the First World War,” said Project Manager Tosh Warwick. “Replacement of the Gjers Mills War Memorial is a very significant landmark legacy of the project,” he continued.

war memorial munitions workers“By replacing the damaged memorial and engaging with young people ‘They answered their country’s call’ has ensured that those who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered for decades to come.”

Members of the public are welcome to attend the event. Those interested in attending are asked to arrive at the Church by 1.15pm for a 1.30pm start.

war memorial munitions 2war memorial munitions 3