Woodgate Aiming To Get Back to the Top with Boro

Jonathan Woodgate’s signing for Boro was like a bolt from the blue sending shockwaves across Teesside but also pushing us back into SKY News for the first time in aeons. Last week all four of Mowbray’s new signings were officially unveiled at Hurworth and the media were there in droves, not just local but nationals were represented. The return of the local lad that made good for England has ushered in a new wave of interest and underlined our ambition and determination to leap out of the Championship.

I joined Tfm’s Sarah Colley last week as she chatted with the former Nunthorpe school pupil about his return to the fold at Middlesbrough. What were his aims and intentions in coming back? And what did it mean to him playing once more for the team he supports?

JW: The aim is to get back in the Premiership. We all know that it is really tough, with 46 games but the aim is to try and get back in the Premiership.

Q: How do you feel playing for Boro cos you are from here? Is it different from when you are playing for different teams, like Stoke?

JW: You give it all. You give it your all, no matter who you are playing for. Possibly when you are playing for your hometown team you have got everyone at you. When you’ve finished playing you have got your friends ringing you, you have got your family. But you give your all for every single team. Being a Boro fan it is a bit different.

Q: How has it been being back in pre-season training?

JW: Hard. Do you want to try it?

Q: No you are alright (laughs)..

JW: No, it is hard. It is double sessions every day. There is a lot of running involved. There is a lot of football but times have changed. Where you were just constantly running before the ball is out on the first day, the manager says and he puts across how he wants to play and we do a lot of passing. So it is not as hard as it used to be.

Q: Is there a particular part that you don’t really like? Something at the gym etc?

JW: No I don’t really mind. I think you have got to try and do it all. In every session the coaching staff put on you have got to apply yourself right.

Q: It is all about diet etc these days as well, isn’t it?

JW: You’ve got to look after yourself. The chef upstairs who looks after us is a really good cook. We go home and we get fed as well.

Q: What are your thoughts about the rest of your teammates?

JW: They all share the same ambition as myself to try and get the club into the Premiership. There are a lot of young players here obviously they need to grow and try and hopefully get in the first team. They could be the difference this season.

Q: Do you think this year is the year that we can really go back into the Premier League?

JW: Are you a Boro fan? I like the way you said “can we.”

Q: Of course..

JW: That is the aim from everyone. Everyone wants to be in the Premiership, the fans do and we are no different and I think we can do it this season.

Q: You play the same position as Tony Mowbray used to and he was talking earlier about how he was his fittest when he was in his 30s. Did you ever used to watch him play when you were younger?

JW: Yes I used to go to Ayresome Park when I was 6 and watch him and Gary Pallister play at the back, a great partnership together. I used to try and model myself on Gary Pallister, the way he played. He said that his best years were when he was 32 and onwards and hopefully I can bring that to Middlesbrough as well.

Q: What other teams do you think are going to be a big threat for Middlesbrough this season?

JW: Blackburn, Wolves, Brighton. There are a few though aren’t there?

Q: Why do you pick them out in particular?

JW: They are strong and they are spending a lot of money on players. They’ve recruited Danny Murphy, they’ve got a forward from Portugal in Gomez, they’ve got Leon Best from Newcastle and they are spending a lot of money not just on transfer fees but on wages as well.

Q: What has it been like just getting to know the other lads in the team again? Has it changed a lot here?

JW: Yes all good. It has changed a lot. The manager said there are ten spaces free in the changing room now. When I was there it was rammed full. Hopefully he can bring a few more players in.


Aimee Willmott in the Swim for Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough’s Olympic swimmer Aimee Willmott is proud to be representing her town and country at the London Olympics. Last month she stepped out of the pool to launch the SABIC Tees Pride10k which she will be running herself on September 2nd.

This interview was conducted with Sarah Colley of Tfm FM and took place on 21st June at a rainy Acklam Hall close to the start and finish line of Teesside’s premier 10k event. Aiming to attract numbers of entrants this year the organisers enlisted Aimee and fellow Olympic competitor, table tennis champion Paul Drinkhall to officially launch the race and inspire people to sign up.

Aimee introduces herself, talks about SABIC Tees Pride 10k and then her hopes for the Olympics and how proud she feels to be taking part in the greatest show on earth.

I am Aimee Willmott and I will be competing at the Olympic games in 400 metres individual medley.

Q: We will get onto the Olympics in a minute but first of all why are you here in Middlesbrough today?

AW: I am here to help promote the Middlesbrough 10k. I did it last year and it was fantastic. So I think more people should get involved and take part this year.

Q: Why do you think more people might take part this year?

AW: Well, it is Olympic year so obviously there is a big emphasis on sport. So if people can do something that they enjoy and take part and do anything really that helps show that we are an active country.

Q: So I take it that you are as confident out of the water with your running ability?

AW: I’m not a fantastic runner. Last year I was really happy when I finished and got under the hour. But this year hopefully if I can go a little bit faster then I will be happy with that. But if not it is just a great start to the season to get fit really.

Q: The Olympics are coming up, how is your training coming on.

AW: Training has stepped up over the lat couple of weeks, so it is really hard at the moment. That’s all because in a few weeks time I will be easing off the training so hopefully it will feel a lot easier and I will obviously race faster. So at the moment it is really hard so I can’t wait fro the easy bit.

Q: And what are your hopes for the Olympics. Where do you think you might end up?

AW: I would like to race and finish in a personal best time. If I can do that then I will be really happy with myself. But my ultimate aim would be to come top eight and make that Olympic final. Then I would be just over the moon.

Q: And do you have anyone that you think is real competition, threat to you when you are out there?

AW: Everyone that is in the event are around similar times so it is going to be a really close race. So, obviously it is just about who is ready on the day to get in and race and if I can race my best then I have got as good a chance as anyone else.

Q: How do you feel about representing the north east and your country?

AW: I am really excited and obviously really proud because everyone in Middlesbrough and all over the country are really excited for the Olympics. So it is fantastic to be representing them as well as myself. To just try and do everyone proud that is going to be watching because it is in London an is not going to happen again for a long time. So it is just going to be fantastic to get involved.

Q: How long have you been swimming? Was it from a really young age? Tell us a bit about your journey?

AW: Yeah I started swimming in school lessons. My dad taught me to swim when I was little. And when I was 9 I had my first little competition and then from that at 11 and 12 I swam at national championships. Then when I was 13 I got selected for Youth Olympic games and then everything progressed from there. That was when I realised that I could be a fairly good swimmer if I just put in the effort and all that hard work.

Q: What is it about swimming that you obviously live so much?

AW: The training is really hard. Anything that takes a lot of effort isn’t going to be easy. But I guess it is the reward that when you are finishing you know that you’ve swam well and it is all because you have done all that training and all that hard work. When you are training and the rest of the team and the people you are training with, you are all bouncing off each other. It is just fantastic to be part of that feel good attitude and feel good environment.

Q: Can you tell us something about the training you do everyday, please?

AW: Yes I train ten times a week in the pool and I train twice a week in the gym. So I do about 60 000 metres in the water, so its quite a gruelling schedule and swimming is quite hard. So I train four mornings a week, every evening, Saturday morning and I have Sunday off. So it is quite a busy week, every week. So it is fantastic when you just get to lay in on that Sunday.

Q: So, you have got to be really dedicated then?

AW: Yes, you have to be really dedicated in anything you really want to achieve in. And I guess that I was really lucky that I was fairly good at swimming and I enjoyed it. So both things together it just pays off And all that hard work and training it ahs been showing the rewards.

Q: Where are you training?

AW: My training is at Middlesbrough swimming club at the Neptune swimming baths. I train with quite a few other swimmers, a bit younger than me but they are obviously as enthusiastic as I am so we bounce off each other in training.

Q: It is great then that you can be based locally and train locally.

AW: Yes it is great that I still live at home and all my friends from school are around here, so it is fantastic that I am swimming and everything is not just about swimming. When I want to get away from it I can go and see my friends because they’re not swimmers. So it is fantastic to have both sides, swimming and my social side.

Q: And you said as you come towards the Olympics your training will scale down.

AW: Yes training normally picks up a couple of weeks before and then about the two weeks before everything gets a bit easier. So I will stop going in the gym training and I’ll do less metres and it will be less intense and more race specific. It gets easier so it makes you feel a lot fresher and you’ve got a lot more energy and its just basically makes you feel a lot fresher before you race.

Q: You must be really looking forward to being part of the Olympic village and the buzz and everything.

AW: I can’t wait. Even just to get there and just be in that atmosphere of all the Team

GB athletes and even athletes from other countries. It is just going to be fantastic to experience such a huge event. Obviously I’m 19 and its just going to be completely overwhelming and I just can’t wait to get in and race on the day. And then I’ve got the rest of the Olympics to experience the whole thing.

Q: So it is fantastic that you should be 19 now when the Olympics is in London, in this country.

AW: Yes I am lucky. I could have been 12 or I could have been 40. I am lucky that it has come at the right time in my swimming career. There is nothing that can determine that it has just happened and obviously I have got the luck of the draw and it is just fantastic.

Q; But it is the result of a lot of hard work.

AW: Yes, a lot of hard work and dedication but it is just something I have always wanted to do so I have trained for it. So I am just really lucky that it has paid off.

Q: Well I hope that it all goes really well for you.

AW: Thanks.


Two of Teesside’s London 2012 Olympians are calling on club runners, fitness fanatics, fundraisers and couch potatoes to get into the Olympic spirit by entering the forthcoming SABIC Tees Pride 10k or 3k Fun Run. Aimee Willmott and Paul Drinhall launched this year’s SABIC Tees Pride 10k.

Now in its eighth year, Teesside’s biggest annual running event takes place on Sunday, September 2, with its Middlesbrough Council organisers targeting 4,000 entrants for the first time.

The route of the SABIC Tees Pride 10k takes in Acklam Road, Ladgate Lane, Marton Road, Marton Burn Road, Emerson Avenue, Green Lane, Acklam Road again and finally Hall Drive.

There will be water stations and entertainment from local bands around the route, while all 10k and 3k runners will receive a commemorative medal and T-shirt.

To sign up for either run, visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com, call  01642 515672  for an application form or pick one up at Middlesbrough leisure centres or the central library. The 10k is also open to wheelchair athletes.

Entry for the SABIC Tees Pride 10k is £15 or £13 for affiliated runners. Entry for the 3k Fun Run is £7, with family entries just £24 for two adults and up to three children aged under-16.

Those interested in running for a charity can find out more at www.runmiddlesbrough.com. The site also includes details of various local running routes, a training plan for beginners, plus videos and pictures from previous runs.


Joy Projector and Sound of Silence

This week I have beaten a path well off the normal gig track. I am looking back over two live shows that were real events. Part of the reason they were special was because they were filled with passionate fans and indeed passionate, committed performers taking their message well outside the urban core of Teesside. The music and atmosphere means they will stand out as memories long after this damp squib of a summer has been washed away to sea.

Joy Projector #2 was a concept of 3 Foot Ninja who oversaw the total transformation of Danby Village Hall into a fairytale wonderland gig venue. It was Christmas in summer, with Christmas trees, crackers, painted windows and decorations. Other worldly but it worked.

What an atmosphere to greet local lass Elaine Palmer, 3 Foot Ninja and NME darlings, The Chapman Family into the scenic heart of the North Yorks Moors.  Elaine playing with New York violinist Christina showcased songs from her Fire and Flames album which is to be released worldwide in autumn. 3 Foot Ninja were a fireball of energy. The three piece bounded across the hall stage and for a finale ended up bounding into the audience. The Chapman Family, brought their Cruel Britannia UK tour to the village hall and crackled with hyper activity and bristled with brooding intensity. A shuddering sound, a towering stage presence and an unforgettable gig.

Barry Hyde said he had been worrying about his first solo gig without his Futureheads buddies for months. Upstairs at the Victoria in Saltburn he pushed back barriers even beyond the recent Acapella release of the band with his Sound of Silence. This was not only unplugged, Barry had no instruments or backing instruments, no safety net in fact. Yet with the sell-out crowd on his side from the start the lad from a slightly larger fishing village up the coast delivered a quite stunning set.

By Toutatis Ben Hopkinson had provided some real flair songwriting to set the ball rolling. Dressed Like Wolves were a two-piece for the night with Matt away in the States and for once were minus any hats. You could not fail to fall in love with their utterly charming songs.

Barry Hyde switched back and forth between stripped down Futureheads classics and folk favourites. I say favourites because many in the audience could sing along equally to songs from Acapella or material of more obscure origin. We were given no choice for Beginning of the Twist and Hounds of Love as the whole crowd were co-opted by Barry as his backing band. Promoter Ben and his daughter Fran led the way, summoned to the stage as honorary Futureheads backing vocalists for the night. No one left the building with their vocal chords untested. This Sound of Silence was indeed golden.  Joy Projector #3 will be coming to Danby Village hall in September. Eliza Carthy will be playing at the Victoria in Saltburn on 31st August. A gig not to be missed.


Teesside Carries a Torch for Olympics

The Olympics came to Middlesbrough and was welcomed with open arms as an estimated 30 000 poured out onto the streets to welcome the Torch relay. That truly is a community ‘getting in the Olympic spirit’ when a quarter of the population come out on the streets.

The Olympic Torch travelled through our region from Durham to Middlesbrough, via Hartlepool, Billingham, Sedgefield, Shildon, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Stockton and many places in between. Everywhere it was greeted with packed streets festooned in bunting, people waving flags and getting well and truly into the spirit.

Today the torch has continued on its way after 17 year old Acklam student James Coupland held the flame proudly aloft on top of the gondola of the Transporter Bridge. This will surely become one of the iconic visions from the entire 8 000 mile journey. Earlier 300 runners had risen at dawn from their beds to race 5km around the Transporter.

There were an estimated 15 000 people lining the streets between Newport Bridge and Central Square. Linthorpe Road was awash red white and blue as the torch relay passed along it. The destination was a grand party in Central Square where another 15 000 people were waiting patiently being entertained by amongst others north eastern band, Little Comets who hung out their percussion on their washing line before playing it. Introduced by Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere the band helped warm the crowd up before the real star of the show ran into the arena.

To loud chants of “Chloe, Chloe” teenager Chloe Meehan (pictured) carried the torch to the big stage before lighting the cauldron. Her face was a real picture as she ran past MIMA. It was part shock and awe no doubt at the size of the crowd that she was sharing this incredible moment in her life with.

Chloe later described the feeling as “the best thing ever.” Hard to disagree that is was an amazing event. All the waiting and anticipation and then seeing that flame shoot past and light the large bowl of flames.

Later as we wandered back through the disappearing crowds we reflected on the day at the official BBQ at Al Forno. What an event it had been for Teesside. We truly feel a part of something now. A place firmly on the map in this epic journey of 8000 people sharing torch carrying duties right across the length and breadth of Britain.

There is no doubt about it, that torch relay touched the hearts and minds of everyone and for the first time I think it feels as if some of the Olympic spirit has wafted away from London and grabbed a hold up here on Teesside. On the day when tickets for the Riverside GB warm up games went on sale the Olympics truly arrived on Teesside.

Photo by Tracy Hyman

torch chloe



By Toutatis – Dead Men’s Shoes

A wonderful video captures the old Knights Club, Southfield Road just before it closed its doors for the last time. That most contemporary and utterly Middlesbrough-steeped indie folk band By Toutatis have captured the end of an era with an atmospheric song and video. Not to be missed.

There is a gathering in the old bar room. Not far away stands a snooker table, where Dead Men’s Cues hang silently beside it pointing towards the ceiling and also towards a long and proud history in the former Knights of St Columba Club that has now sadly closed its doors for a final time.

Mark your cards and count your spots as dominoes is captured between frames. The band box is in full swing but can our man hack it, he is filling up fast? There are crushed hopes and ambitions at Nathan’s meat draw as the final knockings of the Knights are chalked up next to the dart board.

Sit back to listen and watch this most wonderfully Boro-romantic song and video. A mini classic of its time I reckon. But make sure you have a box of paper tissues handy because there won’t be a dry eye left in your house after watching this new/old “weepy.”

The cast of the video includes characters from the local band scene, I spy a Pellethead in there. What a cad character he plays by the way. I’m certain that draw was fixed and a s for the dominoes…. Don’t get me started. But there are also a couple of diehards from the Knights who as the song sadly plays out will have to find a new venue for their rainy weekends down town.

Dead Men’s Cues was released recently on a split EP with those men in hats, Dressed Like Wolves (I always have to think carefully not to call them Dressed By Wolves – which is a fine idea I think). It is a lovely reflective piece, that oozes nostalgia, like those 5ft long staffs of ash that stand apparently forlorn and master-less by the old table.

And one more thing, Ged Askins please stand up and take a bow, your BAFTA surely awaits you sir.

Click here for Dead Men’s Cues – By Toutatis