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Ayresome Park (Middlesbrough FC, 1903-1995)

Ayresome Park

Capacity: 26,667
Address: Ayresome Park Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 4PA, United Kingdom
Club Nickname: Boro
Year Ground Opened: 1903
Home Kit: Red and White


                    
                    

Ground opened: 1903

Ground closed: 1995

Number of years at ground: 92

First competitive game played: 12th September 1903 – Middlesborough vs Sunderland

Last competitive game played: 30th April 1995 – Middlesborough vs Luton Town

Record attendance: 53,802 – 27 December 1949 (Middlesborough vs Newcastle United)

Club moved to: Riverside Stadium

Distance from Ayresome Park to the Riverside Stadium: 1 mile

Middlesborough had previously played at Linthorpe Road West cricket ground, but their promotion to the Football League required an improved stadium. Hence, the club set about finding somewhere new to play their football.

Ayresome Park was constructed at Paradise Field, next to the stadium of another Middlesborough club, Middlesborough Ironopolis, who had played one Football League season at the end of the 19th century before going bust.

Ayresome Park was known for its distinctive design, with a large main stand and a clock tower that became an iconic feature of the Middlesbrough skyline.

Jack Charlton
Jack Charlton was manager of Middlesborough between 1973 and 1977. Photo by Icon Sport

However, towards the end of its life, the stadium ended up in a bit of a sorry state. The stadium suffered from poor drainage and was often waterlogged during the winter months. This led to many matches being postponed or cancelled, much to the frustration of fans and players alike.

The stadium was also known for having a distinctive smell due to the nearby factories and chemical works, leading to the nickname The Stink.

In 1980, Irene and Norman Roxby were leaving the ground after a 1-1 draw with Manchester United when they were hit by debris following the collapse of a brick pillar. Both were killed, with report later revealing that Middlesborough’s safety certificates for Ayresome Park had not been kept -up-to-date. Middlesborough players would go on to carry Mr and Mrs Roxby’s coffins at their funeral.

Middlesborough were not even allowed to play at Ayresome Park in their first game of the 1986-87 season, as they were locked out of their own due to the club’s huge debts. The team played at Hartlepool United instead.

When the ground was built in 1903, it would have been a bit of an overstatement to call the East Stand a stand. Known initially as the Linthorpe Road End, it was an embankment constructed by horse-drawn wagons which moved tons of earth to construct a spot for thousands of supporters to sit or stand.

The stand was covered up during the 1966 World Cup, in which the stadium hosted three games.

Known at first as the Workhouse End, the West Stand at Ayresome Park was much the same as the East at first – an embankment built from tons of earth.

As the years went on, it was renovated and came to look more like the traditional football stands we see today. The stand was later renamed the Holgate End, and became the most iconic stand at the stadium

The first to be built, the North Stand was designed by football architecture legend Archibald Leitch in 1903 and built in the same year. It cost £1,750 to build, seated 2,000 supporters, and ran for 274ft along one of the long sides of the pitch.

Amazingly, the South Stand at Ayresome Park was not built for the stadium, but rather moved from Middlesborough’s previous ground.

The club’s directors, eager to have a stadium suitable for their newfound credentials as a Football League club, actually dismantled one of the stands from the Linthorpe Road West cricket ground and rebuilt it on the south end of Ayresome Park.

The stand was later rebuilt in 1937 as the first major work on the stadium.

Following the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, the Taylor Report recommended that all major football stadiums become all-seater.

With Ayresome Park in desperate need of renovation anyway, and having little room to expand the stadium to accommodate any more than 20,000 seats, the decision was taken to relocate the stadium.

After being retained for one year after Middlesborough left, as a training ground while a new facility was being built, Ayresome Park was demolished in 1997.

North Korea take on Italy at Ayresome Park in one of the most famous upsets in World Cup history. Photo by Icon Sport

On the site now is a housing estate. In the front garden of one of the houses is a set of cast-iron football boot stud marks in the earth, placed in the exact position from which Pak Doo-ik scored one of the most famous goals in World Cup history in 1966.

The North Korean striker was the only goalscorer in North Korea’s 1-0 win over Italy, which knocked the Italians out in the group stage and is still considered one of the biggest shocks in international football history.

The estate also has street names like “The Turnstile” and “The Midfield”, commemorating the old stadium according to the areas of the ground they now stand on.

Meanwhile, Ayresome Park’s gates have been erected outside the Riverside Stadium to commemorate Middlesborough’s old home.

Over the years, Ayresome Park underwent many changes and renovations to keep up with the club’s and its fans’ changing needs. The stadium was expanded several times, and its capacity grew from around 7,000 in the early years to over 50,000 in the 1950s.

The ground was also equipped with floodlights in 1953, which allowed for evening matches to be played.

As final games go, it was a big one – Middlesborough’s 2-1 win over Luton Town on 30th April 1995, which secured the Division One title and with it promotion back to the Premier League.

Unusually, the nature of the game meant that fans were unsure on the morning of the match whether it would even be their side’s last outing at Ayresome Park – a loss could have meant Middlesborough dropped into the playoff spots and would have to play again at the stadium.

John Hendrie, on the club’s stars in the early to mid-1990s, scored both goals in the game, including the winner, which was the final competitive goal ever scored at Ayresome Park.

It capped off a wonderful season for Bryan Robson in his first campaign as Boro manager.

Updated 14th February 2024