• Matt Appleby

Forest on TV: Middlesbrough, February 1979

First published in "Forest Review" on Monday, 22nd April, 2019 versus Middlesbrough

Today’s visitors were part of the Tyne Tees ITV region which, like most local stations, adopted a simplistic and low budget approach to football presentation via its “Shoot” highlights programme.

Between 1974 and 1979, Shoot’s commentator was Kenneth Wolstenholme.

Now at the tail end of his career, he had uttered the immortal words for the BBC “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…it is now” at the 1966 World Cup Final.

Tyne Tees only had Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough to choose from for their local match, with an occasional visit to Hartlepool or Darlington too.

Our matches at the now sadly departed Ayresome Park were particularly popular and were featured four seasons in succession in the late 70s.

Despite our mutual bond in Brian Howard Clough, this was slightly surprising in that two of the games, just five months apart in April and September 1980, both finished goalless.

The final game of the four, a 1-1 draw in October 1981, was a notable fixture in our TV history as it featured the only televised goal in our colours by a certain Justin Fashanu (his first goal of only four for us).

However, the first match on 3rd February 1979 was certainly an entertaining affair, in front of a crowd of 21,330.

We lost only three league matches in winning the league championship in 1977/78 and it’s often overlooked we repeated that feat in 1978/79, whilst also going undefeated in winning the European Cup and the League Cup.

This match is a fantastic document of just how good that team was, even in the bread and butter of the league, and also includes some humorous 1970s eccentricities.

Middlesbrough shared Adidas as kit suppliers in that era so they looked a little like we might in all red, whilst we donned our striking all yellow number on a typical mud bath of a pitch.

Our hosts had beaten Chelsea 7-2 in another televised game in December 1978 but hadn’t won since.

Garry Birtles had scored his first league goal – and what he considers one of his best - in the home fixture against Boro which, unfortunately, was not televised.

Here he illustrated his class again by accelerating onto a Tony Woodcock through ball in the 17th minute and firing an unstoppable shot across Jim Stewart into the infeasibly narrow stanchioned goals at the Holgate End.

Balls bouncing back into play after a goal was a pleasing idiosyncrasy of Ayresome Park in the days when seemingly every ground had some distinctive feature that fascinated teenagers the length and breadth of the country.

“A beauty” according to Wolstenholme with a slightly muffled commentary that sounded like he was commentating on a European away fixture for Midweek Sports Special.

Future Red Mark Proctor equalised for Boro five minutes later after Peter Shilton uncharacteristically failed to collect and Boro almost took the lead straight after.

But John Robertson restored our lead after 48 minutes, just about finding the slightly wider netting inside the post at the East Stand with a penalty that Stewart very nearly repelled.

The penalty was won by Woodcock after a swashbuckling run from the edge of our box by Viv Anderson.

Wolstenholme queries the booing of Viv, either out ignorance of the times or to expose the inexplicable response of some fans to the pioneering black players of that era – rather as Gerald Sinstadt had when West Bromwich Albion and their “Three Degrees” sensationally beat Manchester United 5-3 at Old Trafford just six weeks before.

The tackle on Woodcock was – possibly - just outside the box, rather like Phil Thompson on John O’Hare the season before in the League Cup Final Replay.

This caused a comical diversion as a Boro fan – “a goon” according to Kenneth - enters the pitch to remonstrate with the referee, Ray Chadwick.

Not 1970s causal clothing for Mr I Rate of Stockton but, instead, a three-piece suit accompanied by on-trend wide moustache and (slightly wild) permed hair.

The match was continuing from the restart irrespective of the flared trouser intruder who nearly bumps into Martin O’Neill on his way to discuss the finer elements of the rules with Mr Chadwick.

Only after the referee slightly theatrically sends him off does he casually depart of his own accord, passing a bemused Robbo on his way.

Soon after, a “terrible effort” at defending by Tony McAndrew allowed Birtles to double his tally from a Middlesbrough throw-in and Cloughie’s returned from his trip home with two points safely secured.


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