Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Great Scot!

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Great Scot!

Article excerpt

Fondly remembered by all but the youngest of Boro fans, Ayresome Park occupies a special place in the evolution of English football grounds.

It also features prominently in a new book by the country's premier "stadiologist" Simon Inglis.

Built in 1903 at a cost of pounds 12,000, Ayresome Park was the first complete ground to be designed and built from scratch in England by influential Scottish engineer Archibald Leitch.

Archie who? I hear you cry.

More than any other designer, Leitch laid down the template for British stadiums in the early decades of the 20th century and Engineering Archie lovingly documents that work.

Despite its dry title, the book is a nostalgic look back at a bygone era and is packed full of pictures and drawings - many stained and dog-eared - that have been retrieved from dusty filing cabinets in long-forgotten offices at clubs up and down the county.

As Inglis regretfully writes, many other similar records of long-bulldozed treasures have been lost, scrapped or burned.

But enough survive to bring back to life those old venues that evoke cloth caps, baggy shorts, Brylcreemed hair and the maximum wage.

Of course, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of us had grown tired of those shallow terraces open to the elements, view-obstructing pillars, cramped tea bars and al-fresco toilet blocks a la Holgate.

We would view with envy the chic Italian superstructures that were beamed into our living rooms during the 1990 World Cup.

It seemed that we were light years away from watching our heroes in such glitzy, humane conditions.

And yet within a decade, the football map of Britain had been completely re-drawn.

Crumbling, out-of-date grounds like Ayresome disappeared from the landscape to make way for a new generation of stadiums that would offer a never-dreamed of level of comfort and facilities.

Yet those shiny new replacements, which after all boasted cantilevered roofs, seats for all and spacious, clean concourses, lacked soul.

Once the novelty had worn off, strange feelings of nostalgia and regret emerged. …

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