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 Mark Proctor…
1. The Overview – the man and his career
Mark Gerard Proctor, or ‘Proc’ as he was more commonly known, is another one of the Boro Juniors that I worked with whilst acting as a referee for Harold Shepherdson – who managed the Juniors at that time. Mark was a natural leader, even at an early age and was always polite and respectful, his mass of thick curly locks bobbing around the field, making him stand out.
I saw him a few years later, during his second spell with the Boro, as he and his family came to live close-by at Marton, near Fairy Dell. He’s moved away now, but still lives on Teesside and always has a close bond with the Boro. His record includes being a former player, coach and as assistant manager under Tony Mowbray.
I still see him now at the Riverside Stadium, where he acts as a match day host and representative. His best pal today is David Hodgson (Hodgie) as it was in those days. He laughs when he remembers that when his manager John Neal negotiated pay rises, that both he and Hodgie were called into the office together, as in John’s words “you’ll tell each other what we’ve offered you anyway!”
He made his debut for Boro in 1978 and played 109 games for us until 1981 scoring 12 goals.
He later joined Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1981 for £440,000 before moving on to Sunderland in 1983 where he was their player of the year in 1986. He remained with them for four years before moving to Sheffield Wednesday in 1987 for £275,000. After two years in Sheffield he returned home to us 1989 for £300,000. He went on to play another 120 games scoring 6 goals.
Talking to him, I asked what games stood out during his playing career with Boro. Without hesitation he said “three games I remember particularly that I will never forget;
“The first is when I made my first team debut as a raw seventeen-year-old in August 1978, when we beat Birmingham 3-1 away from home. I’d travelled down with the team on the coach as a way of getting some experience and being with the senior players. I had no idea that I was going to play that day and when I did I made sure that I would remember every minute of it. I had played a couple of friendly games with the first-team in Scotland so was familiar with the lads, and we all travelled down on Monday, one day before the match. John (Neal) never told me anything about the team selection, so we went to the hotel to prepare, had a sleep in the afternoon, and it wasn’t until about an hour before the game that I found out I was in the team. I didn’t have time to be nervous. I was just so excited to be playing. I remember John came up to me before the match and had a reassuring word. He said he knew my ability and told me to just go out there and do what I normally do. It was great to make my debut – but to do so in a winning team was extra special.
The second game that I remember well is when we beat Chelsea 7- 2 in December, was four months after I made my debut. I recall it because it was in this game that I scored my first league goal for the Boro and also it was such an impressive score-line. John Neal’s team were a well-established First Division force with a good blend of experienced pros like Stuart Boam, John Craggs and David Armstrong augmenting the development of a host of young players like myself, Craig Johnston and Terry Cochrane. Micky Burns scored four on that day and every ball he hit seemed to go into the net.
Then of course the last one that was so important to me, is when I was the Captain of Middlesbrough and led the team out at Wembley for the Zenith Data Services Cup Final at Wembley. Tony Mowbray, who was injured, took the place of our manager Colin Todd at the head of the team. Toddy felt Tony should be there and it was a marvelous gesture. I just loved the atmosphere and the roar of the crowd.
Proc later had moves towards the end of his career leaving us in 1993 to go to, Tranmere Rovers, South Shields and Hartlepool United before retiring in 1998.
His managerial career began when he proved to be an outstanding founding member of our hugely-successful Academy. This produced Premier League stars like; Stewart Downing, David Wheater and James Morrison under the careful Directorship of David Parnaby. He coached our youngsters to the FA Youth Cup in 2004, before winning it in 2005, then becoming our reserve team manager. He then left and became assistant manager at Darlington and wondering how to make the next step in his career, he phoned Mowbray who was the Hibernian Manager for some advice. Tony said there could be a role for him at Hibs and he subsequently became a coach there.
He was manager of Hibernian on a temporary basis for two matches between the departure of Tony and the appointment of John Collins. After leaving Hibs in the spring of 2007, he was appointed manager of Livingston during the 2007–08 season, he helped engineer Graham Dorrans’ switch from West Lothian to West Brom during his time as Livingston boss, but was sacked on 3 June 2008. He came back to the Boro in September 2008, as our under-18 coach. The former Lions manager kept a keen eye on the football fledglings at his old club however and he said;
“Andy Halliday was a player I identified and flagged up to our recruitment people,” he admitted. “I actually gave Andy his debut when he was just a schoolboy, I’ve kept an eye on him and heard good reports about him this season.”
Mark was eventually promoted to first team coach by the then incumbent manager and his friend and former captain Tony Mowbray. After Mogga was relieved of his duties by Boro in November 2013, Mark also left the club.
Today, he still has a broad smile on his face, like he has had throughout his life with the Boro and he readily agreed to talk with me and give his answers to the Diasboro questions.
2. The Interview – a quick chat
OFB: What year did you join Boro as a professional footballer?
MP: I signed for the Boro in 1978 as an apprentice professional. I was about 14 when I signed for Boro, but I had been going to training long before that. In school holidays I would train with the club all the time as I had a relative who lived on Warwick Street, near Ayresome Park. I remember in the summer holidays I stayed there for six weeks, training with the club every day and I loved it.
OFB: Where did you usually stay? Did you rent, or did you live in digs?
MP: I lived with my folks initially at Priestfields then we moved up to Ormesby Bank and shared a bedroom with my brother. Later, Hodgy (David Hodgson – OFB), my best friend at the Boro came to live with us when his mother died. So, it ended up with the three of us sharing one bedroom, but we had a great time.
OFB: What football were you playing at the time?
MP: I played for St Anthony’s which was my own school, the County and I also used to play for Nunthorpe on a Sunday morning.
OFB: Who was your favourite Boro player and others that you have played with?
MP: I can name quite a few, John Hickton, Graeme Souness and Bobby Murdoch. I was about eight years old when I first went to watch my hometown town team play and one of the players who stands out from that time was John O’Rourke. I also enjoyed playing with Craig Johnston. He was my old midfield partner, he taught me to be driven, the importance of having energy which resulted in performance and goals, that was Roo, a class player!
OFB: So, to be specific, and to narrow it down to one, who is your favourite Boro player of all time and why?
MP: John Hickton, because of his goal-scoring achievements whilst playing for Boro.
OFB: Who were the best and worst trainers in the team?
MP: Craig Johnson was the best trainer and the worst has to be Pally! (Gary Pallister -OFB). He’ll probably have a go at me now if he reads this, but he was the worst!
OFB: When did the team travel for away games, how did they get there, by bus or by train?
MP: We mostly travelled by bus, at least 99% of the time unless the weather was bad and then we would use the train.
OFB: How many players usually travelled and did the Directors travel with you?
MP: There were about thirteen or fourteen players and sometimes Directors would travel with us as well.
OFB: Did you have nice hotels or was it just bed and breakfast?
MP: We always stayed in very nice hotels. When I played for Forest we always went to a big, posh hotel and get a huge steak for a pre-match meal. All the players would wait for the steak whilst sat around the table. Cloughie and Peter Taylor would walk in and following behind them was a waitress carrying a huge platter of chips.
Cloughie would then point his finger at various players saying, “You can have chips, you can have chips, you can have chips …” but this was said to all the players who weren’t playing! That’s how he told us who was in the team. It was brilliant!
“I got a big plate of chips and ketchup – so I knew was dropped! You never got chips even in the 80s pre-match.”
OFB: Who did you room with at Boro for away matches?
MP: It was Hodgy until he left to go to Liverpool and then Bernie (Slaven – OFB).
OFB: Who was the joker in the team?
MP: Billy Ashcroft
OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?
OFB: Whose boots did you clean as an apprentice and who cleaned yours?
MP: I cleaned the boots for most of the senior players including Graeme Souness.
OFB: Did you try and emulate your style of play, on any individual player who played in your position?
MP: I loved Colin Bell at Manchester City and thought he was the most complete midfield player and tried to be like him.
OFB: What was your most memorable game, your own individual performance and best experience with the fans?
MP: Leading the Boro team out at Wembley as Captain.
OFB: What was your worst game or experience and why?
MP: Unfortunately, it was losing in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup to Wolves.
OFB: Is there a game that you wished you had played in, either for Boro or another team?
OFB: Who was in your opinion the best manager that Boro have ever had and why?
MP: It has to be Bruce Rioch
OFB: Who was in your opinion the manager that had the greatest influence on your career and why?
MP: Bobby Murdoch who took me under his wing from being a junior right through to the first team.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you fear playing against?
MP: Liverpool; they were just awesome with some fantastic players who included, Dalgleish, Souness and Ian Rush to name just three who were at the top of their game.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you like playing against?
MP: I always enjoyed playing against Tottenham Hotspur and liked Glenn Hoddle as a player.
OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player and why?
MP: I still work at the Boro and I’m not going to be accused of any favouritism!
OFB: How do you think the match day has changed from the time that you played professional football to the present day?
MP: I don’t think it’s really changed at all from when I played football. You still have a ball, two goals and eleven players for each team.
OFB: If you could be a fly on the wall, is there any dressing room you would wish to eavesdrop on?
MP: Pep, Jose also Antonio (Conte – OFB).
OFB: Do you have any regrets in your career, or missed opportunities?
MP: Yes, when I went to Forest I was too young and could have developed more whilst playing for them. I look back on those days with great fondness because it is nice to say I worked with one of the greats. It wasn’t a massively positive experience for me if I am truthful. I was only 20 years old and Cloughie was a bit too abrasive for me, when I probably just needed an arm around me. You had to stand on your own two feet. Had I gone a couple more years later in life, then I think I would have been ready. The experience however, stood me in good stead for the rest of my career really.
OFB: Do you still follow the Boro and their results
MP: Of course, I’m a Boro lad!
OFB: Whereabouts in the Country do you live these days and what do you do?
MP: I live at Eaglescliffe and work as Director of Football at the Premier Player Academy with Neil Maddison and Graham Kavanagh. I also act as a host and Boro representative on home match days. I remember when I was a lad, lan Peacock had a newsagent shop in Ormesby Village on Cargo Fleet Lane. Someone told me he used to play for Boro, Leeds and England, so I made a point of going to his shop to buy my Gazette to try and see him. Now I see him every matchday at the Boro where he works as a Boro ambassador.
OFB: Whom have you made a lifelong friend through football?
MP: David Hodgson.
OFB: Finally, if you hadn’t had a professional career as a footballer, what do you think you would have done as a career?
MP: I’m not really sure what I would have done except being a footballer. I was only 17 when I made my debut against Birmingham in August 1978 and haven’t really known anything else. Can you imagine what it was like playing alongside big names like; David Armstrong, David Mills and Stuart Boam? It was my dream come true.
OFB: A huge thank you Mark, for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers.