After Ayresome

Following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 the Taylor Report was published, which recommended that all major football stadiums should be converted to all-seater stadiums. The Football League introduced regulations that clubs in the top 2 divisions must comply with the recommendation.

Ayresome Park had for many years been hemmed in amongst the terraced streets of Linthorpe and the only feasible option, to expand the stadium, was to build upwards. Chairman, Colin Henderson (1986-1993) was always in favour of redevelopment, but he had opposition in directors Steve Gibson, George Cooke and also chief executive Keith Lamb, who all favoured a move to a new ground.

When Steve Gibson took over as chairman in 1994, following numerous boardroom power struggles, it signalled the green light for Boro to move from Ayresome Park. Teesside Development Corporation offered the Middlehaven site to the club and following designs tendered from five companies, the Miller Partnership were selected. Construction company Taylor Woodrow and structural engineers Ove Arup were then chosen to bring the Miller Partnership's design to life.

At a cost of just £16m it was the first new stadium to fully comply with the Taylor Report and was the largest football stadium built since WWII. The gates were opened for the start of the 1995-96 season and it had taken just 32 weeks to build. The first game saw Boro beat Chelsea 2-0 with goals from Craig Hignett and Jan-Aage Fjortoft, in front of 28,826 fans.

The Riverside Stadium, a name chosen by the fans, was sponsored by Cellnet and known initially as the Cellnet Riverside Stadium. The other potential names in the selection process were Teesside Stadium, Middlehaven Stadium and Erimus Stadium. Following several years of sponsorship (Cellnet and BT Cellnet) the stadium lost its sponsor and since 2002 it has been known simply as the Riverside Stadium.

The initial capacity of the stadium was set at around 30,000 but after three exciting and eventful seasons it was increased to just over 35,000 with two extensions, in the North West and South West corners. Planning permission has been granted to raise the capacity further, to around 42,000, should the need arise!

The ‘curse’ that had haunted the club during their tenure of Ayresome Park was finally lifted in 2004 when Boro won their first major trophy, the Carling Cup, in a memorable day at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Boro would also play their first European football at the new stadium, progressing to last 16 of the UEFA Cup in the 2004/05 season, and the following season, by reaching the final of the same competition.

On route to the final in Eindhoven in the 2005/06 season Boro were involved in two unbelievable comebacks. After losing 2-0 to Basel away in the first leg of the quarter-finals, and being 1-0 down at home in the second leg, they miraculously fought back and won 4-1 on the night (4-3 on aggregate). Then in the semi-finals there was a feeling of déjà vu as Boro lost the first leg away to Steaua Bucharest 1-0, and were 2-0 down at home in the second leg, before lightning struck again, and Boro roared back to win 4-2 on the night (4-3 on aggregate).

Sadly, Boro lost the final 4-0 to Seville, but the score line does not reflect the match in anyway. At 0-1 Boro were in the game until the final twelve minutes when Seville punished Boro for their efforts looking for an equaliser.

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