Knowing Me Knowing Boroman

Well Bill this interview has been more eagerly awaited than a goal from Serge so we better make this good…

Followers of the Blog will know a bit about you from some of your posts on there but can you tell us all a bit about you? 

Born and raised in Middlesbrough. Mum was a barmaid, Dad a Merchant Seaman. He was from Belfast and though he had the flag of Ulster in his front room he wasn’t political/ religious at all. His experience in the war and at sea had made him judge everyone on their own merits. Basically did they get the beer in or not.  I come from a large family, four brothers and three sisters all with their own paths, ranging from a Wing Commander in RAF, a prospective Communist Party MP, a builder, a teacher and writer of philosophical blogs on the internet.  We were always allowed to be whatever you wanted to be, as long as you got the beer in. We were also quite a sporting family too. Dad’s brother played as an amateur footballer for Ireland, Wing Commander played rugby for Yorkshire and the RAF, brothers played football for Middlesbrough Youth, brother coaches Welsh Under 15’s at cricket and my youngest brother scored a century on a ground graced by Geoffrey Boycott. I was average at everything, rugby, footie, cricket, tennis. The sum total of my sporting achievement being a winners medal for the Stockton and District Sunday League Second Division and a Middlesbrough Rugby Club Seven’s Tournament Trophy from 1978. I also helped run an American Football 7 a side league in Boro from about 1979 to 1989, The Grangetown Wrecks.  Now my playing days are over I live vicariously through the AG Cup, imagining I am Ben Torres, knocking in a hat-trick or Fandino volleying in a cracker or Santi turning a rocket shot over the bar or Serge, ending a flowing move by caressing the ball past the post (sorry mate).  

Balls to Serge, you’ve just mentioned volleying in cracker and given such a distinction to Fandiňo.  I’m half-minded to end this interview now.

Continuing against my will, you’ve been an ever-present travelling Stag but there were initial doubts over you making the first trip due to your fear of flying.  How did you overcome your fears?  What was the driving incentive to get on a plane?

Like any self respecting Stag I got pissed. My fear of flying had developed slowly after many flights but for that first trip I hadn’t been on a plane for about three years. It got so bad me and Cath went to Barcelona by train a couple of times, though I got pissed on the train too but that’s another story.  I even plotted a route overland to Pontevedra that would have tested Michael Palin but in the end it was, in the words of the Drive-By Truckers , “shut up and get on the plane”.   Actually my main incentive in going up those steps this time was that it was Joel Tagg’s round. I wasn’t going to miss that for anything. I was so drunk by the time we landed I thought I was in Newcastle cos I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying and that was my fellow Stags. Mind you I knew it wasn’t the “Toon” when the sun came out and I saw some trees and grass like.  I hear the Porcos are going to Newcastle on the next trip. God help them.  

What were your initial thoughts of Pontevedra?  What memories stand out from that weekend? 

What weekend? I was immediately struck by its peaceful atmosphere I have to say.  I had been to Spain before and Barcelona is one of my favourite places, Cath and I celebrated my 50th and her 40th birthday’s there. Mind you she wasn’t best pleased when the following year she discovered I’d booked the weekend of the Barcelona Blues Festival, what a coincidence love.  Ponte was very different and every door seemed to be a bar, which was handy. I fell in love with it’s little squares with the Lemon trees. If that was Boro they would have dug up the tree and nicked the whole lot within ten minutes of it being planted. As the new guys on our last visit commented, I was much taken with the friendliness of the Porcos lads and the locals in general, despite the language barrier and soon discovered we had much in common.  Someone finishing off your pint while you are on the toilet is universal it seems. It’s a place I want to return to more often than once ever year or two.    

You also made your one and only appearance in the Anglo-Galicia Cup on that first trip.  I’m pretty sure your few moments on the pitch have already been written into Anglo-Galician Cup folklore but in your own words tell the world about your appearance, in a match-winning team of course?

I remember it was raining so the Stags felt right at home. I went on for the last 15 minutes in my “Mark Viduka” Boro away shirt.  The pattern of the match seemed to be the Porcos had all of the possession only for us to break away and nick a goal. The Blonde Cat was having a blinder. I hadn’t kicked a ball in ten years and it showed. I still thought I was the goal machine of my youth. I was a predatory goal getter in the Martin Fisher mould (he’s my hero). I once scored seven in a school match, Middlesbrough High School v St Aiden’s School for Blind Girls. Result. So when a ball was played across the area, in my mind I was rifling it into the top corner past a stunned Van Damme,  when in reality it rolled past my swinging foot and I fell right on my arse. Sergio, ever the gentlemen, picked me up but even he couldn’t stifle a titter or two. Still, we won, and I remember walking back to the Hotel De Barca with a skip in my step whilst being pelted with rotten tomatoes by the locals.  Nowadays I have a strictly off field role, making sure the lads don’t drink too much and are in tip top condition for the match. Ha, ha, ha, ha.  Better than my last job as lookout on the Titanic. I do wish I could still play though, cos watching the games, especially in Ponte, are a right trial. I kick every ball and go into every tackle which is more than our lads managed last time…..
The IX must have been a real trial for you.  I think Göring endured a much easier trial.  So from the stands, amongst the Eng-er-lund fans, how bad did it look?  Could the Stags take anything from such a dismal performance?  

It was a beautiful day. The Ruby Ground looked a picture. The playing surface was like a billiard table. The lads looked great in green. We had injected a bit of youth (and Colin) into the squad. What could go wrong? I thought we started well enough but a soon as Fandino volleyed in the opener we seemed fall apart, our hopes of a 0-0 away draw shattered. From then on in it seemed like the longest game in history. Still our goals were the best of the bunch. It’s not about quantity but quality.

After our first goal (scored by me of course) the chants of “Easy, easy, easy” showed true British humour (though I hear a certain Laurence Bowles denationalised himself when the 13th goal went in and was seen leaving the ground dressed as a torero), were there any other funny anecdotes from the Kop?

Our two goal burst also elicited the cry “We’re Gonna Win 14-13” from the Brits in the crowd, basically me, Bry and Ronaldo who started writing a match report which soon turned into an obituary. We managed a rousing “boo” when Fran scored which got a laugh from the home supporters. At the end we should have burnt the goal posts and put them in an urn as “The Ashes of Stag Football”. Luckily for Bry, his attentions had been drawn to the beautiful ladies in attendance so saw little of the debacle. When you scored I think he thought we had won.  I asked Larry what he thought and he said “Sentímolo, eu non falo Ingles” which says it all I think.  

What did you think of the trip to Vigo this time? 

It was great to go back to a bar where we were recognised. I was surprised that it was reported that we were all Owls though given my Red and White Boro shirt and “Bernie Slaven for Pope” badge.  Me and Col spent most of the game in the Celta Kop. It was the politest crowd I’ve been in. Someone offered me a seat and I thought I would get a cup of tea and some cucumber sandwiches at half-time. It was odd to be able to go anywhere in the ground too though they drew the line when I hopped onto the pitch and put in a header at the far post.  And of course it was great to see Celta score and win, though it was never a penalty.

Did you meet the Mayor?

He seemed like a nice guy and I thought it was great that he took the time to come and greet us, though I think he nicked my pint and was the only man in Pontevedra wearing a suit. A typical politician then. I hear he wants to play sometime. If he does I’ll make a comeback, as long as Arturo gets on the pitch too.

The Blog is full of opinion and debate over the contrasting styles of play between the Stags and Porcos.  What do you think the difference is between the Stags and Porcos Bravos football?

5 to 4 I think. No, this is a matter of differing approaches to the beautiful game, which is reflected in our respective National Teams too. To the Porcos it is in the creation, the passing, the aesthetic, culminating in a masterpiece, except for Argie of course. For the Stags it’s route one, get it in the box stuff. Plus it’s win or nothing. When Jack Charlton was manger of Boro he said “if we stop the opposition scoring we’ve got a point at least”.  He was manager of the best Boro team in the last 60 years and had the attacking quality in the team to destroy anyone else in that league at the time but that was his philosophy, the negative get. We still won the league at a canter, I think we only lost once or twice that year but as soon as we got promoted all our best players got poached by other teams and Jack buggered off to manage Ireland I think, though he thought Eire was something divers came up for.  I do like the idea that we each seem to win on our own turf and that one team isn’t dominating. It’s somehow comforting. Travel broadens the mind but like a really good beer, footballers don’t travel well. I won’t get into the whole “drink too much” argument. The porcos lads were giving the ale a right hammering before the last game and you try telling Thomo that he has to hold back when the lads come over next year. Anyway, whilst the game is the pivotal moment of the trip it’s not the only thing. To me it’s the whole weekend experience, the evolving friendships as we get to know each other more and more, I suppose I may feel different if I actually played in the match, but sport has always been about taking part to me. That’s something I learned from playing rugby for many years.  I spent many a Saturday on a snow covered pitch getting a pounding from some hairy arsed coal miner but as soon as the game finished we applauded each other off the pitch then got drunk together. Mind, it was always nice to stuff any Geordies we came across.  And it is still 5-4 to the Stags……….

What musician would you like to be for a day?

That’s a tough one. Though I’ve always been into music it’s only relatively recently that I actually took up playing. I thought an injury to my left hand pinkie (American Football) early in my career put paid to any chances of becoming an axe hero.  Me and Col (Pujol Snr) , a musical mate since the seventies, got guitars at the same time about six or seven years ago and we’ve been thrashing away since then. I’ve got many many musical hero’s and for differing reasons;  Hendrix for changing the way the electric guitar was played and being able to express his feelings through his axe, BB King, a man who can make you cry with one note, Neil Young for his “I’m gonna play what I want” attitude. To sing like Steve Earle, Ray LaMontagne or John Martyn would be cool but I have to say to be that good for a day then lose it the following day would be too hard to bear. The Doctor Faustus Blues. I’ll stick with being a very limited but enthusiastic amateur who is learning all the time. It’s all in the journey, man! Still it’s a good job you didn’t ask Fenners that question. We’d have been here all day.

Are there any classic gigs you remember from your youth?

My first gig was Wishbone Ash at Newcastle Odeon in around 1974, since then I’ve gone to hundreds and could probably write a book on it but here are a few notables.

Led Zeppelin:  Earls Court,  1975. Me and a couple of mates queued for 15 hours in freezing rain to get tickets from Virgin Records shop in Newcastle. I welcomed Ticketmaster I can tell you.  Don’t remember much from the gig except I went out for a few beers during “Moby Dick” the interminable drum solo. 
Pink Floyd, Knebworth Park, 1975. An open air gig with a crowd of around 100,000 On the bill were Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (my mate slept through this), Steve Miller Band and Roy Harper. The Floyd did the whole of “Darkside of the Moon” with a massive light show and fireworks. In 1975 was that was pretty far out man. After the gig we went to my relations house in Wales which was haunted. That was pretty far out too……
BB King, Royal Festival Hall, London 1980’s. It was may first time with BB. He was backed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and when he played that first, bluesy note I cried like a baby.
Bob Dylan, Blackbushe Aerodrome 1978. Another big outdoor show with Eric Clapton and Graham Parker and the Rumour (one of my faves). We camped in a tent overnight to get a decent view but the crowd was so big we ended up miles away. Good gig though.
Stockton Blues Festival 1976, Dovecot Arts Centre. The Dovecot was a small place but this was important as the first time I had seen real down ‘n’ dirty blues played by real Chicago Blues guys. I saw Phil Guy (Buddy’s brother) and Jimmy “Fastfingers “ Dawkin’s and it was awesome. At the end Phil asked us “where’s the pot man?” (obviously wanting to strike up a doobie) and my mate, losing everything in translation said “the men’s is down the hall on the left”  Chicago must have felt a lifetime away.   

I asked Shabba the same question in my last interview and he mentioned a Gary Glitter gig he went to in 1986.  He said it was memorable for the back stage “attention” he received. I also heard he was “liked” on Glitter’s Facebook until the police took his computer away, whatever that means…….

Anyway, back to you.  Being in Sheffield,  the birthplace of historic football teams like United or Wednesday, having the world's oldest club, Sheffield FC, and the city with the oldest  stadium ... how does that sit with the city having also the most infamous football team in it’s history? I mean the Stags naturally.

I think you would have to ask one of our Sheffield lads to answer this one properly but here goes. Being a Boroman, my football loyalties are forever with the “smoggies” from the Riverside. Your team chooses you, you don’t choose your team.  Still, I think the Stags add to the City’s rich football history in much in the same way Charlie Peace, World War 2 and smallpox did.  The Stags play in the great Yorkshire tradition with steel in your heart and with one hand on your wallet.  The odd appearance of a Stag or two at magistrate’s court or in the drunk tank only adds to our allure. I think the mayor of Sheffield has seen the Stags play more than either of the piggy teams, and I’ve heard she shows slides of Thomo’s free kick to visiting dignitary’s in the Town Hall.  In short I’m proud to be a “Mean Green” and I think in our new crop, of Ben, Col, Bry and the three Amigo’s:  Lee, Rob and Andrew, our proud tradition of only drinking to excess is in safe hands. 

There appears to be conflicting opinion on where the AG Cup should rest on the occasions that the Porcos triumph.  Where do you think the Cup should sit; in the Griffon or Fat Cat? 

Both decent boozers but the Cup should and will be back in Sheffield where it belongs so this argument is moot. I love the Gato Gordo as a cool rock bar but I think that this was born out of the AG Cup. The Griffon was there at its inception so has a special place in AG Cup folklore.  

How has the palette of the lad from Stockton taken to culinary delights served up in Galicia?  Has anything stood out as being your favourite dish, your worst dish and your most unusual dish?  Overall how does it compare to the paella I served up for you and Cath in Casa Thomo?  Shit, we had a few drinks that night didn’t we?

Wow, I still get a bad head thinking about that night. Didn’t we go out to bring back a few more cans and stop in the pub for about three hours? Anyway on the culinary front I’m almost a vegetarian so didn’t try a lot of the stuff on offer. I almost exclusively ate empanada, olives and cheese. It was great and meant I only had to “go” once a day. They rang the Lutine Bell went that one went down the porcelain I can tell you. The lads around me seemed to love the feed. I remember Ben eating anything in a dish and Bry, a man who appreciates good belly ballast loved it all.  I also count Estrella Galicia as one of my “5 a day”. 

We’ve attempted to “nobble” the opposition by feasting them on traditional British curry when they are in Sheffield the night before a game but this has failed to cause them the discomfort we have desired.  What could we feed them to make sure they spend less time on the pitch and more time in the bog during the X? 

I’m thinking of whipping up a senna pod curry of my own but the only sure way to ensure “the trots” is a classic kebab with extra hot chilli sauce and 12 pints of Kelham Island Best Bitter. Mind you Smoking Batty seems to manage on that most nights without effect.  I do however think some of the Porcos are beyond nobbling. I think we have to use reverse psychology and keep them off the beer. They’ll be so desperate they won’t be able to concentrate on the footie. 

We’ve discussed a lot and I’ve got more notes than a Beethoven symphony (too many to publish in one article) so for now what are you final thoughts of everything to do with the Anglo-Galician Cup………  

I love the blog.
There have been some memorable entries this year. I wish “google translate” was better (I really do need to learn some Spanish/Galician) so I understood some of the references a little better but I recognise the intelligence and humour behind this stuff. I think the idea of “Tractorville” is one to be nourished and nurtured. We need to get much more input from the Stags too. This may be controversial but I think we need less anonymity. I would like to know who was commenting even if they didn’t agree with what I was saying. We should encourage debate as long as it’s in good humour and not spiteful. Vive La Difference! I also love the way the music side of things is developing. I think the fact that Arturo can put vocals and harmonica on a backing track we recorded in Sheffield is incredible. You’ll hear more from the Strolling Bones. Through the blog and Facebook I was able to meet up with a few more musical friends too this time out. I always look forward to the Sala Karma gig.  Seeing Col singing with Gog and the Telepathic Hyenas was fantastic to me (as for Vanessa – what a voice!?!). We are hoping to get a gig or two for Flip Chorale and the boys in Sheffield next time and no AG Cup weekend would be complete without Viktor’s rendition of the Galician anthem.  Bloody rugby lad’s, at least if they are singing they aren’t dropping their trousers though sometimes they do both.  As a final footnote to our last trip me and the lads wanted to thank Viktor for showing us round Santiago. His knowledge of the town seemed a bit sketchy at times but he knew every bar intimately. Funny that. Finally we want to thank Van Damme for his brilliant work driving us around. He was awesome. When he comes to Sheffield we’ll carry him around in a sedan chair the whole time (probably).   

One is of Boroman outside KFC under a picture of his brother