Why everything's looking rosy for Middlesborough right now
After missing out on promotion last season, Middlesbrough Football Club seems determined to get things right this time out. Over the summer they added ten new players including Stewart Downing and David Nugent who have brought a wealth of Premier League experience to the Riverside stadium, which has been starved of top division action since 2009.
With a third of the season gone Boro are in the mix for promotion, and have just enjoyed a morale boosting League Cup victory over Manchester United, on penalties, at Old Trafford.
Memories such as that will last a lifetime for the thousands of Boro supporters who made the trip to Manchester, and the victory came at a timely moment for a club rooted at the heart of England’s steel industry. After decades of struggling to recover from the decline of its industrial output, the town has been getting back on its feet in recent times, and seems determined to keep this momentum going.
Presently there is a great deal of focus within Middlesbrough and the broader North East to attract not just investment but also tourism. One source of exploration at present is football tourism, and this is something that offers real potential to the town and the team, as they strive to get ahead of local rivals on and off the field.
Though not renowned as a holiday destination, there has been a great deal of redevelopment in Middlesbrough since the turn of the century, and the town is modernising at a rapid pace.
The Central Square in recent years has seen the addition of a modern art gallery, a collection of intriguing sculptures, and a brand spanking new Holiday Inn Express that offers away supporters the chance to make a weekend out of the trip north. Tied into this are innovative plans to include tours of the town, with a focus on its football heritage, which of course is also tied into the industrial heritage that characterises the area.
Middlesbrough then has double ambitions for the season ahead and the coming year that also sees the town celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup, in which the team famously played host to the tournament’s dark horses, North Korea.
A number of events have already been planned in 2016 to coincide with this anniversary, and there is even talk of an exciting project involving academia. There are already plans afoot to run a conference with a football theme, which will involve the university, the club, and the community working together. Strangely this sort of event is far more rare than you might expect with the popularity of the game nowadays, so it’s another example of Middlesbrough
getting ahead of the field, and attracting a new audience, and new, more positive forms of attention to the town.
With these anniversary events and the possible conference likely to happen in May, the Boro fans will certainly be hoping that they have double cause to celebrate whether automatically or through the play-offs where they lost to Norwich at the end of last season.
With promotion to the Premiership comes further opportunities for developing these ideas for football tourism, and that gives the North East something to smile about after all the sufferings of the steel industry in recent months of closures and redundancies.
Indeed this offers a shining light, just like those that caught the nation’s attention on show at Old Trafford last week, when humble Boro beat the mighty Manchester United in their own back yard. Things are looking good for the town on and off the field right now.
By Paul Breen – author of The Charlton Men novel – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Charlton-Men-Paul-Breen/dp/178308166X
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