In2views: John Hickton

The latest in a series of profiles and interviews, Orginal Fat Bob gives his personal view on the life and career of a footballing guest, before sitting down for a chat and asking a few questions. Our Diasboro special guest this week is John Hickton.

1. The Overview – the man and his career

John Hickton was a prolific striker and at one time considered to be a defender, who had a 15-year career in the football league between 1963-78. He is the club’s fourth all-time top scorer, with 192 goals, and is third in the all-time appearances list, pulling on the Boro shirt an incredible 499 times. This ranking is just behind George Camsell, George Elliott and Brian Clough in the scoring tally and Tim Williamson and Gordon Jones in appearances. This is quite a small and illustrious company of Boro stars.

Born on 24 September 1944 in Brimington near Chesterfield, he was actually a Manchester United fan as a boy. As a talented young footballer, he had the choice to sign for Arsenal and United, but opted for nearby Sheffield Wednesday, who at the time were second in the First Division and had several England Internationals in the side.

Hickton Crop 1John Hickton is 4th in Boro’s all-time scorers with 192 goals and comes 3rd in number of appearances for the club at 499

John caught the eye of the Boro scouts at Sheffield Wednesday, after he had played 53 games and scored a brilliant 21 goals. On the day that Boro went to Sheffield to sign him, Norwich were also there with the intention of persuading John to join them instead, but luckily for us the Boro Secretary and the Owls Secretary were good friends and he was spirited away out of the reach of Norwich. So it was at the Wednesday Secretary’s house where he subsequently signed on the dotted line for Stan Anderson on his 22nd birthday, where he earned himself a contract worth £28 per week and moved into a club house in Acklam. Alan Brown who was his manager at Wednesday told him he had made a good career choice by joining Boro.

John proved to be one of our best signings ever and he made his debut for us in a 3-2 win against Workington Town in 1966-67. Town were winning 2-0 at one time and riding high in the then third division. Boro had just been recently relegated from the second division and were struggling at the lower end of the division. This result dramatically changed both sides fortunes, because Boro were promoted that season, Town were relegated and have struggled ever since. He appeared 45 times during the 1966-67 promotion season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions. John O’Rourke was the club’s top scorer with 30 goals, followed by Arthur Horsfield with 23 goals.

Of course, many at Diasboro including myself, may well recall that final game of the season on Tuesday 16th May 1967 when we were at home to Oxford United. With all the other team’s fixtures in the Division completed, we needed a win to finish in 2nd place and join already crowned Champions, Queens Park Rangers, in getting promoted to the Second Division. With over 40,000 supporters crammed into Ayresome Park, I remember that hundreds sat on the perimeter of the pitch, and many more were locked outside, or climbing the walls to get in. I also recall that a small boundary wall collapsed in the North East corner and some fans were injured. The atmosphere was overpowering, a cacophony of sound roaring the team to promotion. John scored a header ten minutes into the second half, and our goal machine John O’Rourke scored a hat-trick. We all spilled onto the pitch after every goal and Ayresome Park was at fever pitch. We ran out 4-1 winners and were promoted back to the Second Division. Stan Anderson’s team had gained promotion at the first attempt. That game goes down as one of the greatest nights in the club’s history and is still remembered and talked about today.

Boro’s first season back in the Second Division in 1967 saw John play in a centre forward role, finishing top scorer with 29 goals. With his robust performances and a keen eye for goal, he soon became a crowd favourite amongst Boro fans. He linked up well with our other heroes of that time which included: O’Rourke, Horsfield, McMordie, and Downing, We finished 6th in the 1967-68 season.

The following season saw Boro go even better as they finished 4th and just missed out on promotion by seven points. One of Big John’s standout games came in March, in a thrilling 5-3 win against Hull City at Ayresome Park, where he scored four with McMordie getting the other. He finished the 1968-69 season as top scorer with 18 goals, which also saw the first appearances of another future Boro great, Willie Maddren.

The 1969-70 season saw John with a new strike partner, as Hugh McIlmoyle was signed from Carlisle United. That October saw Hickton go on a remarkable run of 11 goals in 11 games, as Boro won five in a row and challenged for promotion. We also reached the Quarter-Final of the FA Cup that February, with John scoring at Ayresome Park in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United. He was on target again four days later, but unfortunately Boro got beat 2-1 in the replay at Old Trafford. The season ended with Boro once again finishing in 4th as they missed out on promotion.

Boro were hoping that 1970-71 would be their year for promotion, with Hickton starting off by scoring on the opening day, in a 2-1 win against Carlisle. However, only one win followed in their next six games, but September saw the visit of Queens Park Rangers in a game that would go down as an Ayresome Park classic. Boro won the game 6-2, and John would take the match ball, scoring a hat-trick, but the game is also remembered for Hughie McIlmoyle, who set up three, scored two, and won a penalty. Both McIlmoyle and Hickton were said to be unplayable that day. Despite Boro’s inconsistency, Hickton couldn’t stop scoring, bagging 19 goals by the new year. Boro could only finish the season in 7th spot but John was once more top scorer with 27.

The summer of 1971 saw Boro boss Stan Anderson strengthen his team by bringing in World Cup winner and ex-Manchester United midfielder Nobby Stiles, along with Stuart Boam, John Craggs, and goalkeeper Jim Platt. However, Boro’s inconsistent form from the previous season continued when after a good start, a bad run saw only one win in nine from November until January. The new year saw them pick up, winning six out of seven league games and reaching the 5th round of the FA Cup. For the third season in a row Boro were drawn against Manchester United in the cup, and following a goalless draw at Old Trafford, Boro were thumped 0-3 in the replay at Ayresome Park. From mid-March until the end of the season, Boro won only two in the last eleven, picking up just 8 points to slip to a 9th placed finish. John was a virtual ever present and top scorer again with 16 goals.

John missed the opening three games of the 1972-73 season through injury, and again Boro’s inconsistent form continued, as they struggled to find the net. Then October saw the arrival of ex-Newcastle frontman Alan Foggon from Cardiff, with midfielder Graeme Souness joining Boro from Tottenham Hotspur in December. When in January Boro lost at Third Division Plymouth 1-0 in the FA Cup 3rd round, it was followed by a 0-0 draw with QPR at Ayresome Park. Boro Manager Stan Anderson had seen enough and handed in his resignation.

I remember when Harold Shepherdson took over as caretaker manager until the end of the season as I was refereeing all his trial matches at that time. He revealed to me it was he who had signed Souness when working with England and it was Martin Peters who had recommended him to Shep. Boro finished 4th in the table under Harold and John the top scorer for the sixth season running, with 15 goals.

England World Cup winner and ex-Leeds United Centre half Jack Charlton was installed as Boro manager, in the summer of 1973. Big Jack got to work by signing European Cup winner and Celtic legend Bobby Murdoch, on a free transfer, the only addition to Anderson’s team. He also introduced the now famous, white chest band on the front of the Boro shirt. John and his teammates were about to produce a record breaking season on their way to promotion to Division One during 1973-74. Although, after starting with a victory away to Portsmouth, a 2-0 defeat followed at home to Fulham, which prompted Charlton to famously say: “we do it my way or not at all.” Charlton’s team then went on a 24-game unbeaten run stretching until February, topping the table in October and staying there for the rest of the season.

Hickton Armstrong MaddrenJohn Hickton helps team-mates David Armstrong and Willie Maddren replace lost fluids after putting in another shift for Boro

Promotion was secured on 23rd March, with eight games still left to play, with Boro winning the Second Division Championship in a 1-0 away win at Luton Town, on March 30th. The second Division Championship trophy was presented to Jack Charlton and the Boro team at the home game against Sheffield Wednesday on April 20th. Boro celebrated by thrashing Wednesday 8-0 with John again on the score sheet, along with Graeme Souness who bagged a hat-trick. (my favourite Boro game – OFB). The promotion team of 1974, dubbed Charlton’s Champions, was to go down in history as one of the greatest Middlesbrough teams of all-time and probably the one that I am most fond of. The club was back in the top-flight, following a 20-year absence. John wore the number nine shirt during the 73-74 season, scoring 11 goals in 44 appearances but it was Alan Foggon who finished top scorer with 20 goals.

John Hickton kicked off Boro’s First Division season in style, getting on the scoresheet in a 3-0 opening day victory at Birmingham City, with Alan Foggon getting the other two. Unlike today, manager Jack Charlton opted to go into the new season keeping faith in the players who had earned promotion, making no additions to the Boro squad. John’s goals and Boro’s excellent form saw the club finish 7th in the First Division, the highest league placing since the 1950-51 season.

John got on the goal trail early in the 1975-76 campaign, scoring three in the first six games, followed by only two more goals before Christmas, as Boro struggled for consistency, which continued throughout the season. Despite Boro’s inconsistent league form, they reached the Semi-Final of the League Cup, playing Manchester City, in the first leg at Ayresome Park, where Hickton scored the goal in a 1-0 win. The impressive City ran out 4-0 winners, in the second leg at Maine Road, cruelly ending another Wembley dream for Hickton and Middlesbrough. The 1975-76 season also saw Middlesbrough enter the Anglo-Scottish Cup, which they won after beating Fulham over two legs. Captain Stuart Boam lifted the trophy at Craven Cottage in December. John Hickton scored five goals in the competition, including a brace in a 5-2 victory away to Aberdeen. However, Boro’s indifferent form left them only 13th in the First Division table, though John was the top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions.

After ten years at the club, the 1976-77 season was John Hickton’s Testimonial season, though with Jack Charlton opting to bring in striker Alf Wood and also giving Alan Willey and Peter Brine a chance in the Boro attack, it meant John’s playing time was limited. He made ten appearances for Middlesbrough, five coming off the bench, before a short loan spell at Hull City, where he played six games, scoring one goal for the Tigers. Middlesbrough celebrated Hickton’s illustrious spell at the club, with a midweek testimonial game against Sunderland in April 1977, he scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 win, in front of 10,500 supporters at Ayresome Park.

It was also around this time that manager Jack Charlton departed Middlesbrough after four years in charge, he was replaced by former Wrexham manager John Neal. The 1977-78 season would be the last season on Teesside for Boro Legend John Hickton, the thirty-three year old striker was to make only three starts all season. His last appearance was coming off the bench in a 1-2 defeat against West Ham United, at Ayresome Park in April 1978, as Middlesbrough finished the season in 14th position.

John left Boro in 1977 at the end of his career to join Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League, where George Best, Gordon Banks, and Ian Callaghan, were amongst his new teammates in Florida. Sadly, he broke his leg in his second game and never played competitive football again.

He is quite rightly considered one of the legendary players to have pulled on a Boro shirt and for that, we are eternally grateful that he did.

I took an instant liking to John when I first saw him play and he has been one of my favourite Boro players of all time. I remember being up at Newcastle at St James Park one afternoon, watching our team when we were awarded a penalty. I swear he set off from the half way line before getting to the penalty spot and the ball. He scored the penalty of course, you could always guarantee that he would.

He is now retired, playing golf and living in Chesterfield near his birthplace. He has fond memories of Middlesbrough where he lived in Linthorpe, Acklam and Nunthorpe with his wife Rosemary. His children were born here, and he used to love going to Redcar and walking on the beach. He also recalls visits with the team to the local nightclubs including the Fiesta. He said that “Big Jack” [Charlton] always insisted on coming with the team to keep an eye on the players, to make sure they didn’t get too friendly with the gorgeous Fiesta Fawns. (remember them? OFB). He also used to own a newsagent shop in Redcar, but it was hard work and very long hours. He certainly doesn’t regret having to give that part of his life up

Today, when I meet him for our chat, those long blonde locks are long gone. He doesn’t seem quite as tall as I remember him, and wonder how he used to leap high in the air on the pitch. He is ruddy faced, a twinkle in his eye, but he is quite concise and firm with his responses. He is pleased to talk about his time with Boro and grateful that supporters all over the world are still interested in him and his thoughts.

2. The Interview – a quick chat

OFB: You joined Boro as a professional footballer in 1966? Did you know much about Middlesbrough F.C. at that time?

JH: I knew Ayresome Park had been a world cup ground, home to North Korea and that famous 1-0 victory over Italy at Middlesbrough.

OFB: Where did you stay? Did you rent, or did you live in digs?

JH: I first used a club house, then had a house on Acklam Road. We then moved to a bungalow on Thornaby Road. I decided to buy a plot of land and had a house built, as I wanted it to be built personally. This was in Nunthorpe. I thought then and still do, that it’s a lovely place to live.

OFB: When you first came to Middlesbrough you were signed as a defender. Whose idea was it that you should play at centre-forward? Had you played in that position before? Which position did you prefer playing in?

JH: I only enjoyed one thing when I played football and that was scoring goals!

OFB: Who was your favourite Boro player during your playing days and others that you have played with?

JH: All the Boro players I played with were my favourite players, oh and Pele!

OFB: Who were the best and worst trainers in the team?

JH: I’m not going to answer that, I still see all the lads…

OFB: When did the team travel for away games, how did they get there, by bus or by train?

JH: We usually travelled the day before and used our own charter bus if it was not too far away. We got the train if a long distance.

OFB: How many players usually travelled and did the Directors travel with you?

JH: There were usually only about 13 players who travelled to games and the Middlesbrough Directors always went with us, either on the Club Coach or the Train.

OFB: Did you have nice hotels or was it just bed and breakfast?

JH: We always stayed in nice hotels, we never used bed and breakfast establishments.

OFB: Who did you room with for away matches?

JH: Frank Spraggon.

OFB: Who was the joker in the team?

JH: Stuart Boam was the joker, then again, all the lads used to have a laugh and a bit of a joke.

OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?

JH: No! (emphatically! OFB)

OFB: Whose boots did you clean as an apprentice and who cleaned yours?

JH: I never cleaned anyone’s boots and I don’t know who used to clean mine.

OFB: Did you try and emulate your style of play, on any individual player who played in your position?

JH: I always used to love watching Jimmy Greaves and I used to try and model myself on him.

OFB: You had a very individual way of taking penalties, which usually involved a long run up, how did that evolve?

JH: I don’t know really, it just seemed to happen and get better and better and longer and longer. I remember people started talking about how long I took on the run up and I could see the goalkeepers looking at me warily. So I just played to the fans and started getting farther and farther away from the goal to make some impact and it always worked!

OFB: What was your most memorable game, your own individual performance and best experience with the fans?

JH: Every game I played for Middlesbrough was the best. I loved playing for the Boro and the fans were and still are the greatest, which is the best experience I have ever had in football.

OFB: Out of all the goals you scored for Boro, which was your favourite goal that you scored?

JH: Every goal I scored was a favourite, I loved them all!

OFB: What was your worst game or experience and why?

JH: I never had a bad game or a bad experience. I didn’t like it towards the end of my time with Boro when I used to get subbed with twenty or so minutes to go. Big Jack used to say to me, “you’re getting older now, just run around a lot and I’ll give you a rest before the end of the game.” So that’s what happened, but I still didn’t like it.

OFB: Is there a game that you wished you had played in, either for Boro, or another team?

JH: I would have loved to have played for England, in the 1966 world cup at Wembley and scored the winning goal.

OFB: Who was in your opinion the best manager that Boro have ever had and why?

JH: Undoubtedly it has to be Jack Charlton. He had such a good knowledge of the game and how it should be played.

Jack Charlton Crop Jack Charlton, pictured here picking up his Bells manager of the month award, was rated by John Hickton as Boro’s greatest ever manager

OFB: Who was in your opinion the manager that had the greatest influence on your career and why?

JH: Derek Dooley at Sheffield Wednesday. He took a job with a firm owned by one of the club directors and also worked with the Wednesday junior team. This was after he had lost his leg when he broke it playing for Wednesday and it became infected. He was the greatest influence on my career because he was such a brilliant coach.

OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you fear playing against?

JH: None, I never feared anyone.

OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you like playing against?

JH: I loved playing against Liverpool and Manchester United.

OFB: Who is your favourite Boro player of all time and why?

JH: My favourite player of all time has to be Willie Maddren, he was just great.

OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player and why?

JH: I love all the current Boro players! (very diplomatic OFB)

OFB: How do you think the match day has changed from the time that you played professional football to the present day?

JH: Its changed a great deal and really, I can’t say in words how much, as it’s a different game now.

OFB: If you could be a fly on the wall, is there any dressing room you would wish to eavesdrop on?

JH: No, I’m quite content not listening in to anything thank you.

OFB: Do you have any regrets in your career, or missed opportunities?

JH: No, no regrets, none at all.

OFB: Do you still follow the Boro and their results

JH: Yes of course, I’m their best supporter!

OFB: Do you still live in Chesterfield these days and what do you do?

JH: Yes, I still live there, and I’m retired now.

OFB: Whom have you made a lifelong friend through football?

JH: All my old Boro team mates. (the 1973/74 team keep in regular touch with one another and are planning to get together for a dinner at the club OFB)

OFB: Finally, if you hadn’t had a professional career as a footballer, what do you think you would have done as a career?

JH: I’d have been an accountant. (still on the score sheet! OFB)

OFB: A huge thank you John for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers and our best wishes for the future.

JH: Thank you all for reading what I’ve got to say, after all these years.

68 thoughts on “In2views: John Hickton

  1. OFB

    Absolutely brilliant and your best to date.

    JH is still one of my favourite Boro players of all time. I can still remember so many of the games in which JH starred and in particular the games you mention against Oxford at Ayresome Park, the game at Luton to clinch the second division championship and the game against QPR. If my memory serves me right I think we were 0-2 down before the great comeback started and we ran out 6-2 winners.

    JH scored some great goals and penalties for us and whilst he did not play well every game, which is understandable, he never ever gave less than 100%.

    I am so pleased that he is still enjoying life in retirement and that he and the remaining players from Jack’s promotion winning team still get together at the Riverside.

    They are still the best Boro side in my opinion. This being borne out of watching Stan Anderton’s teams go so close on many occasions to gaining promotion but eventually failing.

    When Jack came along we absolutely took the division by storm and played the majority of teams off the park both home and away.

    Great times and thanks to JH and you for the memories.😎😁

    1. Yes, we were getting beat 0:2 by QPR, who had Rod Marsh playing that day. I was in the boys enclosure with my Da that day.

      I remember some of the matches mentioned ~ the 0:2 against Fulham, my brother joined me travelling up from Manchester… he was a Sun’lun supporter and enjoyed it greatly!

      The 8:0 against Sheff Wed: my Da decided to go shopping with my Mum, saying they’d get beat that day. What a day on the Holgate!

      I also remember the 0:0 at Man U ~ Big John had a header clawed back by Stepney, it was over the line. It was during the strikes, and our bus broke down on the way home ~ my Da was really pissed off cos some of the passengers got off the bus and went to see the strippers in the club and he had to stay with me! I skipped school to see the replay in the afternoon, weren’t allowed floodlights. If my fading memory is correct, I saw Best, Law and Charlton all score (might have made that up, though!).

      I was so chuffed when Big John scored our 1st goal back in the 1st Div ~ I seem to remember he’d taken a deeper lying role by then, playing behind Foggon. John was a good footballer and fast for a big man ~ my abiding memory is of him bombing down the left wing!

      I was also at his testimonial, still got the programme.

      1. Apart from the Interviews I’ve spoken to him three at the Riverside last season just gone

        He hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the Boro and loves them still


  2. I must have seen Hickton on TV while he was finishing his career at Boro. But cannot remember – perhaps we did not get a penalty in those games I saw.

    But I remember hearing and reading about him when I started to follow Boro. And I have even met the big guy in person in a former players meeting a few years ago. Most of the Charlton Champions were there.

    A club legend I think. Thanks for another great interview, OFB. I guess you enjoy meeting all these great players or Boro charicters, too. Well done, mate.

    Up the Boro!

    1. The first Boro match I remember seeing was the 4-1 win over Arsenal on 5th February 1977. I double checked and Hickton did not play and the nr 9 was worn by Peter Brine that day. But I was a Boro fan during this match broadcast live from sunny Ayresome.

      I must have seen another Boro match earlier on TV but cannot recall anymore. We did not see Boro every year on the Finnish TV2 in the 1970’s.

      So perhaps I did not see JH playing but at least I have met him once about four years ago. Up the Boro!

  3. If my memory serves me correctly, the most pleasing thing about the win against Oxford was that it was the only time in the whole season that the team was in a promotion position .
    Ken will know if I am correct!

  4. I think all of us who witnessed the 67 and 74 promotions regard John as a legend.
    My brother met him once and confirmed what a really nice bloke he was.

  5. This is a song that was sung by the Ayresome Angels, ( I kid you not).

    Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules.

    Of Hector and Lysander and such great names as these,

    But of all the worlds great footballers, there’s none that quite compare….

    With H-I-C-K-T-O-N that’s Hickton of Middlesbro….

  6. Absolutely. Boro were actually second from bottom in September going into the Workington match and still only as high as 19th after the defeat at Torquay in early December, then followed the 16 match unbeaten run. When Boro lost 4 of the next 5 matches I thought ‘goodnight Vienna’ but 4 wins and a draw in the next 5 matches had us in 4th position going into the final match, but as OFB mentioned all other matches had been completed three days previously so we actually only needed a draw to pip Watford on goal difference for the second spot.

  7. Thank you OFB another great interview.
    When I moved from the Scottish borders to Redcar in 1965 ( now I live in Skelton ) my first visit to Ayresome Park was the Boro game against Oxford in 1967.
    It was a brilliant night and I then became a dedicated follower of borobecame a full

  8. OFB,

    Many thanks and he is a real Boro legend. Our daughter had a lion seat or huge cushion in her bedroom and she called it Hickton. Why we said? Because John Hickton has a lion on his shirt above his heart.

    A child sums him up.



  9. He’s part of my greatest memories of Boro. I started supporting in the late fifties so the 73/74 team was the first time that I ever saw Boro as champions of anything. It was magic. I remember the win at Luton and a great victory at Fulham when Souness dominated the game.

    Funny that this came to mind and also OFBs reminder of the two-leg Anglo-Scottish cup win against Fulham because I’ve been wondering whether we would be better off playing Fulham over two legs than a one-off final down in London. If Cardiff win, Fulham will be faced with a trip up north having had automatic promotion snatched away. Will they have a backlash and give us a chance to get ahead.

    Just a thought as everyone seems to be talking about Villa. As mentioned earlier, I could see us resting a few players and drawing at Ipswich and I don’t think that playing Fulham would be a disaster.

    Any thoughts?


  10. But if we draw at Ipswich we’ll play Vllla in the semifinal. We’d have to lose at Ipswich and Derby to win probably by two goals to finish 6th and I can’t see TP wanting that.

  11. Quite right. My mistake. I thought that we were two points up on Derby. So, itt looks like Villa and all the extra baggage from Adomah/Traore etc. Definitely time for revenge after the game down there.

    I’d still think about having Traore, Besic and Ayala on the bench against Ipswich.


  12. Bid John was legend. His goal against Man U – viewed from the boys end i might add was the most ecstatic moment of my Boro first season. I was on my own without adults, and there was a brand new fence penning us in I think Manu Supporters were just over the wall. Were any of our bloggers also in the boys end that afternoon? As you say – those of a certain age.

    1. I was in the chicken run that day aka the south terrace. I only moved to the Holgate when they put seats in the chicken run 🐥


  13. I remember when the original boys end was reconstructed with concrete walls in the early 1950s and most of us would clamber over the wall into the old ‘bob end’ to make our way down to pitch level. It seems a bit daft now as we often couldn’t distinguish who the scorers were at the opposition end although we did get a bird’s eye view of goals in our end. Also if we were attacking the far end there was always a good repartee with Ugo, our goalie.

    As for the Sky Championship awards for April I certainly think Ayala would be a worthy winner, but although TP is a worthy candidate for Manager of the Month, I hope I’m not being disloyal in hoping Nigel Clough wins it. Burton Albion have looked certainties for relegation most of the season and especially more so after the 0-5 home defeat to Hull City, so it is quite amazing that they have won their last 3 matches and I hope they avoid the drop. It is one thing to win Manager of the Month when in charge of a club with substantial financial resources, but exceptional to win that award with a club with limited income who were playing non-league football only a few years ago.

  14. Ken

    I agree with your comments and believe that some of the best managers have been those that have achieved or perhaps over achieved with limited resources.

  15. As I’m too young to have seen Big John in the flesh or witness his departure.
    Being the age he was, from this distance it seems Charlton made a reasonable call to usher him out of the team.
    Was this accepted at the time, or was it a controversial move which sparked heated debate on the terraces?

    Ken – I agree about Clough Jnr. I suspect I do so because of an inclination to favour the underdog, and his Teesside links.

    1. Chris

      Big Jack was quite mindful of not hurting Johns feelings when he was nearing the end of his career.

      It was widely accepted by the fans that the time was coming to an end


  16. Another who is too young to have any overlap with John’s Boro playing days, but I loved the post and as others above have more elegantly attested, they are getting better and better.

    This is becoming a seriously informative series, the introduction to John and some of the highlights of his career has filled in a lot of information that I was not aware of. For example (perhaps to my shame) I had no idea that Nobby had played for Boro! That alone is a remarkable fact that I will take away. As I said, the In2Views pieces are starting to piece together an archive of the club from different perspectives and different times in our history, and the questions OFB asks are filling in details on the more day-to-day aspects of being a footballer and giving an excellent insight into how things were organised at the club at various times in their history.

    Excellent work – thanks!

    1. SIE

      Many thanks it’s much appreciated and I must confess I’ve learned a lot about these people after talking with them

      Thanks must also go to Werder who is a fantastic editor and keeps me right


  17. Thanks, Bob. A very sensitive interview. I had the privilege of speaking to the great man at a dinner quite recently. He was a lion, and still is in my eyes, and I wish him all the very best in health and happiness into the future.

  18. Well, OFB, you’re definitely improving with Age! For me that is your best yet!
    I also hold John as my favourite player of all time, and I also was a great fan of Jack Charlton.
    It was great to hear that Frank Spraggon and Jim Platt had visited Jack, in Northumberland recently, and he is still in good spirits. They still have that bond!
    You also made mention of our trips to Old Trafford. I recall that they were always very wet- with rain, I mean!
    Well done,
    Tractor an.

  19. Just catching up on everything and OFB’s interviews are just getting better and better to the point where as someone has already commented above they are fast becoming invaluable archives in the history of the Club. Well done that man!

    1. Many Thanks 🙏

      I appreciate your post but again reiterate that Werder is a great editor who helps me to keep on track 🚂


    1. Not a pleasant article, Braveheart, but before Mr Yates gets into the nastier stuff in the second half of his “article” I think his sentiment is probably quite correct: Middlesbrough, at best, are likely viewed as best of the also-rans for Newcastle supporters after Sunderland and “the big clubs”.

      Frankly, however, the feeling is entirely mutual. I’ve never viewed Newcastle or Sunderland as major rivals nor have have I had any particular like or dislike of them, only indifference in the same way as I’d view the vast majority of other clubs. Indeed, how often have we mentioned Newcastle this season?

      The fact that Mr Yates has written the article in the first place says something of course.

      1. The world is full of fools who have nothing to write about and, guess what, decide that they will trail a lure to attract some flack.
        It must be agony to be a once great club, now going through the usual twists and turns, endless fights against relegation, check.
        Endless clueless managers, each one dispatched back to the pit from which he emerged.Check
        The owner disinterested. Check
        Finally getting a manager who knows what he is doing. Check
        But he is not staying, no money. Check
        So it’s back to the endless struggle, the angry crowds, the turn in the Champ.
        Was that last year? Yes I believe it was. Check.
        If your club get a migraine at the mention of twenty million for a player, then prepare for the worst. You ain’t going nowhere.

    2. Have to say I found it hilarious. The fact that someone who allegedly doesn’t care about something so much he deems it absolutely necessary to write a 2,000 page thesis on the subject is amusing to say the least. The irony however is probably lost on someone who doesn’t comprehend that Huddersfield is actually in Yorkshire.

      Derbies in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham or Liverpool for example are straightforward. North East Towns and Cities aren’t big enough to host two major clubs be it Leeds, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland or Newcastle. With such a void the requirement is for these clubs to look to their nearest neighbours for irritational pleasures. Any rivalry under those circumstances are usually dependant upon a few variables such as geographic nearness, the success or otherwise of those around you (e.g. Leeds/Liverpool, Leeds/Manchester Utd) and very recent history.

      Leeds and Liverpool was always much anticipated clash during the Shankly/Revie era which continued until the demise of Leeds. Likewise the Man Utd and Leeds games were always hotly contested passionate affairs. Leeds and Hull is a Yorkshire Derby but hasn’t got great historical significance due in no small part to the clubs being in different leagues for many years. I doubt that despite there being only twenty miles between Sunderland and Hartlepool that any game involving those two would be classed as a “Derby” with the caveat that of course that may now change in the near future and may intensify if they become regular league fixtures over the next few decades.

      The writer of the article doth protest too much, Newcastle don’t have any derbies now that neighbours Makems are in the wilderness. The same however is equally true for Boro our nearest rivals are Pools and Darlo but due to being in different leagues their is more of a brotherly type interest in those clubs than any real bitterness or angst. I’m sure the Geordies have the same feelings towards Blyth and Gateshead. For Boro the biggest “local games” as oppose to “same city derbies” are those sides who are nearest to us and whose fans catchment areas live, work and play in overlapping geographic boundaries.

      We don’t have same city derbies in the North East, they don’t exist. Sunderland and Newcastle games are not same city derbies they are like it or not regional derbies. The poor author has thinly disguised delusions of grandeur but in fairness to most Newcastle fans I know are only too aware that if Rafa walks they could find themselves having more regional derbies than they would wish for and perhaps for a very long time with Mike the cash Ashley at the helm. Bottom line is the atmosphere at any game at any club is always far better when the Stadiums are packed and the songs, banter and noise is better than your average match, regional derby or not.

      1. RR,

        The article doesn’t really deserve the intelligent response you have given to it. It’s a form of pollution way below the kind of standards of thought and literacy that we are used to on this forum. If something of this standard had been submitted as a lead article here it wouldn’t have passed Werder’s scrutiny.

    3. Quite a nasty article really, and suddenly we’re back to the days of Tyne Wear Television.

      Arrogant? Yes. Stereotypical attitude to Mr Pulis? Yes. Another club whose fans feel entitled because they are a big club? Yes. Arrogant and condescending? Yes. Pain in the bum? Most certainly.

      We aren’t promoted yet but no predictions when we do play them, only quiet hope.

      Oh and don’t forget whose steel built your poxy bridge.

      Right I feel better.



    4. A sad man that knows full well the targets of his outburst will read it even if it is on a Mag rag. Nice to see there are more than a few sensible Geordies replying to his article with a much more sensible attitude to Boro and its people (even if spelling our town without the extra ‘o’ is a grammatical challenge a bit too far for a lot of them 😉). Only thing to do in response to unpleasant nonsense like that is to ignore it. The record books show that we are the most successful team in the North East of England this century and if a minority of our near neighbours choose to pretend otherwise, good luck to them that.

  20. Great article OFB on a legend. Big John was in his prime when I first started my Boro journey back in the late 60s. That team of 73 74 was one of the best and the 8 some reelers game was also one of my favourite games.

    Legendary penalty taking style and one that I tried to emulate- usually with the ball going sky high!

  21. Thanks for a trip down memory lane OFB and to John Hickton, both for sharing his time and memories with you and us, but for leaving so many of us with some great memories. For me the two standout occasions were his goal against City in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Ayresome Park (not least because as the Holgate errupted, my glasses were knocked clean off and I had to scrabble on the terrace to save them before joining the celebration) and those two penalties in the mud of an FA Cup 4th round victory over Sunderland.
    John Hickton did and always will epitomise the very best of the Boro for me.

  22. Another great article Bob.

    Big John was my first Ayresome Park hero and I’ll take him scoring those 2 penalties against Sunderland as a happy memory til the day I die.

    Another reason I respect him as a man is that on the sad day Ali Brownlee passed away BBC Tees did an interview with him. I was driving to a mates house in York from Linton on Ouse then the train into Leeds to watch Boro play the dirties. Towards the end of the interview John became quite upset and the genuine feeling he had at the loss of Ali was something if you heard is something that will live long in the memory.

    As for the article by that patronising Geordie, one word sums them up. Deluded.

    I’d be surprised if there are many still alive who saw them win a league title and the country still had rationing from World War 2 when they last won a cup. Great historically, I wish we had as much, but not relevant. I’m not counting that invitation only Fairs Cup either. That ranks up there with the Anglo Scottish Cup as far as I’m concerned.

  23. I see FIFA are at it again proposing two new International tournaments. Their aloof detachment from real Football Fans who are the heartbeat of the game knows no bounds seemingly. The no longer represent Football they are just a Corporate greed driven organisation lining their own pockets. Its about time a few Nations broke away and told them where to stick it. Frexit!

  24. Today I was mulling over the prospect of Boro winning the playoffs this season (I know, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself) and wondered how many seasons Boro had participated in the top league. Well not surprisingly Boro have spent the majority of the time in the top tier, 61 in fact, with 45 in the second tier and two in the third, that’s over 56%. However, since the start of the Jack Charlton era in 1974 Boro have spent 24 of the 44 seasons also in the top tier which is just over 54% so not much difference.

    The trouble is though that Boro have only had two sustained periods in the top league since the Second World War – eight successive seasons from 1974, and eleven successive seasons from the start of the Riverside Revolution. The Premier League is much stronger nowadays as we found out last season, so is it possible for a club like Boro to establish itself there for a period in excess of say ten years, or are we more likely to become a yo-yo club?

    I think it’s nigh on impossible for Boro ever to challenge for the league title as they have only twice managed it, in 1937/38 when finishing 5th (6 points behind Arsenal) and 1974/75 when finshing 7th (5 points behind Derby County). Their highest finishing position was 3rd in 1913/14, but that was 8 points behind Blackburn Rovers although only one point behind second placed Aston Villa. In fact Boro have only headed the league at any point in six seasons, these being the furthest dates into the season as follows:-

    28 Oct 1911 P 9- W 6-D 1- L 2-F 19- A 12- Pts 13
    17 Sep 1919 P 6-W 4- D 1-L 1- F 10-A. 5- Pts 9
    9 Sep 1935 P 4-W 3-D 0-L 1-F 16- A 6-Pts 6
    12 Sep 1936 P 5- W 4- D 0-L 1-F 7-A 2- Pts 8
    25 Dec 1950 P 24-W 14-D 7-L 3-F 58-A 31-Pts 35
    23 Oct 1976 P 11-W 6-D 3-L 2- F 8-A 6-Pts 15

    The 1950/51 season was the season when Boro were still in 2nd position after 32 matches and 4th going into the last match but subsequently finished 6th and 13 points behind Tottenham Hotspur.

    I was a little surprised though that after Boro’s terrific start in the 1995/96 season that they were only 4th after the first ten matches on 21 October considering there record was :-
    P 10-W 6-D 3- L 1-F 11-A 4-Pts 21 (3 points for a win). I had erroneously assumed Boro had led the table at some point.

    But I think that many of us will agree that Jack Charlton’s second season in charge was Boro’s best chance of winning the old First Division because in match 38 we led eventual Champions Derby County at halftime but only drew 1-1 and then lost the next two matches. Had Boro won those three matches they would have finished a point ahead of Derby. What’s more Boro could have won the FA Cup also that year. Wow!

  25. Nice one OFB, Big John was always not only one of my all time favourites, but I would imagine most Boro fans. Always gave 100% and don’t think that I ever saw him lose his rag or whinge either. His penalty’s were a thing of legend, he’d walk up to Willie Wigham, shake his hand, then turn around and begin his run up, unbelievable Jeff!

    Talking of legend and Willie Wigham, is my memory playing me up or do I remember him having a drag on a fag now and then during a game?

    Just one thing to comment OFB and I apologise for being a pedant, but I think that JH is pouring out sherbets David Armstrong and David Mills I think, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. OFB, let’s leave that open until you interview David Mills. Surely he must be on your list. One of our own as born in Whitby but brought up in Thornaby-on-Tees.

        Millsy has worked as a scout at Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Leicester City and Hull City.

        Up the Boro!

        1. I know David very well as his son went to school with my lads and we often used to stop and chat. I also dealt with him in business and he’s a great bloke.

          I still see him at the Boro because he’s the chief scout for Leicester and you know who he’s been watching don’t you ?

          I’ve tried three times to get him to sit down and talk but he’s been working!

          I will get him eventually!


  26. Ken, a great post again.

    “The Premier League is much stronger nowadays as we found out last season, so is it possible for a club like Boro to establish itself there for a period in excess of say ten years, or are we more likely to become a yo-yo club?”

    I think we should not worry about the PL until we are there. And when there we should only look at the clubs like Swansea, Burnley or Bournemouth. We are not a big club but definately can match a club of the size like Bournemouth. I think their capasity is about 12 000.

    Let’s just enjoy this season. At least the team is functioning for 90 min finally. Up the Boro!

  27. I am spitting feathers having just ready the appalling article written by Phil Yates.

    I shall refrain from commenting further as that would only give the article and the writer credibility which neither deserve. Enough said!

  28. Well managed to get my Play Off tickets this morning on the new digital Boro Website after being sent around in circles interminably asking me to sign in after I already had then asking me to click on tickets which then brought me to a click on tickets page which then brought me to a sign in page which then brought me to a tickets page which then brought me to another tickets page and so on and so on for around the best part of thirty minutes. Heaven help anyone trying to sneak on at work to reserve their seats.

    Surely somewhere out there is a Teesside twelve year old with an 11 plus in computers that can produce a website that works intuitively and without being overly complex, overly complicated and just works first time every time?

    1. RR

      There is plenty of web pages like that. Not intended for a normal customer. Hence I try to avoid buying online if there is alternative. I have needed to ask help from this site several time to find the correct page of iFollow at various clubs. At least the payment usually work well.

      And then there are more and more pages that work ok with Crome or Explorer but not with both. That is very annoying as I am not allowed to use any other brownser.

      Luckily this site works well. Up the Boro!

    2. Sorted my tickets out today as well after speaking directly to commercial manager after the runaround with the website it’s appalling!

  29. Great piece OFB. I have many happy memories of watching JH show what proper old-fashioned centre forward play was about.

    Turning to cricket for a minute, Yorkshire will be relegated for sure this season if they don’t sort out the batting. All out for 50 at Essex this morning which is their lowest total since 1973 and the third time this season they have been bowled out for peanuts. Very poor.

    1. Boroexile
      Blame me for suggesting, when they were briefly top of the table, that they might stay up there. On current form, they’ll struggle to get enough points to finish bottom!(equivalent of they were lucky to get nil in Football).

      1. St Helens RLFC scored 60 points against Salford Red Devils last weekend – that’s more runs than Yorkshire scored this morning. Mind Essex all out for 142 and York City Knights RLFC won 144-0 last weekend. The two sports have gone mad!
        Anyway I’m enjoying Le Tour de Yorkshire on ITV4 especially the scenery from the helicopter camera. Aren’t we lucky to live in God’s County? Never been to Conisbrough, but wonder if it’s the only other town like Middlesbrough to omit the second ‘o’ in borough?

  30. Awful piece by Phil Yates. Not worth bothering about.

    Bob’s is the complete opposite – I have little hesitation in naming it my favourite In2View to date.

    If I’d have asked him any question, it would have been in relation to a key moment during Big Jack’s tenure. What was his reaction to the Bobby Murdoch mistake which led to the late Kevin Hector equaliser which is widely believed to have cost Boro a European place in 1975? It’s documented that Jack didn’t spare Bobby in the dressing room. Though scapegoating players, referees and even managers is far too easy. Success or failure is collective.

    It’s also documented that Jack refused to spend money even when he had it (he regrets not doing so) and failed to replace Hickton when the consensus was that the fan favourite’s time at Boro was coming to an end.

    Is it wrong for me to say that we seemed so much more accepting of transition – a perfectly natural element of football – in those days? Social media has blown everyone and everything out of proportion.

  31. Yes. Big Jack’s unwillingness to fork out for a decent striker was his undoing.
    Re your last paragraph Si, I totally agree.
    As I’ve said before, I’m so glad to have lived through times when Football was a sport where fans accepted the ups and downs more readily.

  32. Well my laptop appears to have not quite lasted the season as it seems to have forgotten how to connect to the internet and several hours of trying to persuade it have failed – luckily I’ve borrowed Mrs Werder’s for some important business to attend to 🙂

    Firstly, many thanks to OFB for his very interesting article and interview with John Hickton, which he managed to finalise at short notice after Simon’s planned Talking Point collided with work commitments – so many thanks to OFB for making the final push. Unfortunately John’s time at Boro preceeded me by a couple of years as my first game was in 1979 – but at least I did get to see him on the TV. He was by any stretch of the term a legend at Boro and by all accounts a top bloke too.

    OK, while I’ve still got the laptop I’d better post up my match preview for the final league game of the season in which Boro hopefully make their point…

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