Boro manager Tony Mowbray will take time out from his preparations for the derby clash with Sunderland to take a trip down memory lane when he officially launches a unique football exhibition at Middlesbrough’s Dorman Museum.
The ‘Back from the Brink’ exhibition, which is open now, features Middlesbrough FC memorabilia from both before and after the club’s flirtation with financial disaster in 1986.
Partly funded through a £42,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the three-month exhibition is part of the Middlesbrough 86 project that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Boro’s rebirth.
Back from the Brink is open every day apart from Mondays through to April. Entry is free.
Perhaps the most valuable item on display is an England international cap awarded to Alf Common, who became the world’s first £1,000 footballer when he joined Boro from Sunderland in February 1905.
The cap, which was awarded to the forward after he played for his country in a 1-0 victory over Wales in March 1906, was loaned to the exhibition by an anonymous local man who bought it a London auction for £1,200 in November last year.
Boro legend Bernie Slaven, who was a team-mate of Mowbray’s in the club’s Class of ’86, has loaned several Player of the Year trophies and all seven of the match balls he received after scoring hat-tricks for the club.
And long-serving defender Steve Vickers, who played more than 300 times for the club, is represented via his runners-up medals from Boro’s three cup finals of 1997 and 1998 together with his Football League championship medal when Bryan Robson’s team won promotion in 1995.
Middlesbrough FC itself has loaned a number of previously unseen items including the club’s minute books from directors meetings during the 1890s when Boro were still members of the Northern League.
The books are displayed alongside the Dorman Museum’s own memorabilia from Boro’s early days, including MFC member’s cards from the mid-1880s and a season ticket to watch the club’s Middlesbrough rivals, Ironopolis, for the 1890-91 campaign.
Other items loaned by the club include Boro legend Juninho’s match-worn boots, a Papal blessing for the great Wilf Mannion and a medal presented by then Chairman RW Williams to mark the opening of Ayresome Park in 1903.
A number of supporters also contributed to the exhibition including memorabilia collector John Culley, owner of the Longlands Hotel, whose Ayresome Park turnstile now welcomes visitors to the display.
And there is also a unique collection of press passes collected over the past 25 years by Eric Paylor, who retired as the Evening Gazette’s chief Boro reporter only last year.
The exhibition is part of Middlesbrough 86, an exciting heritage, theatre and education project that is supported by a £42,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Born and bred in South Bank, Middlesbrough, project director Alan Spence said: “Middlesbrough 86 is all about remembering the past and celebrating the future, so the exhibition features memorabilia that relates to pre and post-1986 as well, of course, from that dramatic era when we so nearly lost our beloved football club forever.
“A key element of the project is about recording the memories of Boro fans so we will have a team of volunteers on hand at the museum to give them a chance to recall significant, humorous and emotional memories about supporting the club over the years.”
Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, added: “This free exhibition showcases the long and proud history of Middlesbrough Football Club, showing some important pieces of memorabilia for the first time.
“Visitors can get a real sense of the club’s fascinating story and what it means to local people and fans. We at the Heritage Lottery Fund are proud to have played our role as a funder.”
Supporters are also encouraged to leave their Boro memories on the M86 Project website.
A series of activities have previously been held as part of the Middlesbrough 86 project, including Theatre is Real Life performing “The Boro’s 37 Minutes”. Other events taking place include the Middlesbrough 86 Roadshow paying visits to schools, youth clubs and community centres, plus author events, family activity days and a celebration football match.
Key supporters for the project include Middlesbrough FC, Middlesbrough Council, Teesside University, Fly Me to the Moon, the Co-operative Membership and Brian Debnam Associates.