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Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson: An example of how to run a club

It’s not often a blog has a foreword. I just want to say that on the surface this might seem like it’s aimed at Boro Fans. It’s not. It’s for football fans, in particular those who don’t like the way in which owners are judged via bank balance first and foremost. This is a sad state of affairs and because I know about Middlesbrough, I’ve used Gibson has an example. I hope there are other owners out there that are greeted with the same adulation by their fans and people should treat this as a tribute to those owners as well.

The dust is settling on another frantic transfer window. Millions have been spent, bargains and flops no doubt will establish themselves over the coming months and people will rejoice or despair in the ways in which their clubs money has been spent. This frantic trip to the January sales forces a certain transparency upon the infrastructure of clubs. Who has money to spend, who has to draw in the purse strings? Which owners will show faith in their managers and which will display trepidation? I’ve always found this laying bare of clubs fascinating and one of the main reasons for this is that I believe that my club’s owner is quite possibly the best in the country. This is not because he is the richest, but more down to the fact that the transparency and honesty that is forced upon the owners of football clubs in January is evident 365 days a year.  I am speaking about Steve Gibson, chairman, saviour and legend of Middlesbrough Football Club.  When the question is asked about commitment of owners such as Ashley, the Glazers or the Venkys, when people wonder what will be given to the cause, I think every Boro fan the answer is an emphatic everything when they speak about Gibson.

Of course I am biased, Everton fans would probably say exactly the same thing about Bill Kenwright for instance, but I think that there is no other man that embodies a football club as much as Mr Gibson. For those who reside outside of Middlesbrough a brief history lesson; In 1986 Boro seemed dead and buried. We were in financial strife, players hadn’t been paid and the gates to Ayresome Park were locked until a consortium led by local Boro fan Steve Gibson stumped up the cash to keep us afloat. Fast Forward eight ears and we had just won the 1994 Division 1 championship. Premier League beckoned and with it came a brand new stadium and in November 1995 a signing that showed the ambition and commitment of our owner. From training in a park to signing the Brazillian player of the year, Juninho, in what is really a blink of an eye when you think about the steps that were taken.  What followed was a respectably placed finish in the top flight, providing an ideal opportunity to sit and let the notes roll in. There was a waiting list for season tickets and people would not have blamed Gibson for resting on his laurels and congratulating himself on a job well done. Instead we signed Ravanelli, the man who had scored the winner for Juventus in the Champions League the season before. This is not throw away money like we see at City, this is a self made man’s hard earned fortune resting in the hands of his manager and his players. This faith has continued to the present day and has seen us develop a prolific academy, win our first major trophy, a UEFA Cup final and experience nights against the likes of Lazio and Roma that nobody would have dreamed of when they saw that padlock on the gates of Ayersome Park.

These years have obviously not gone without lows, for instance we were relegated the season we signed Ravanelli. We have spent the last few seasons in The Championship and the days of superstar signings are long gone, so what makes him so special? He has stuck with this club when others would have fled. In the last 19 years, Middlesbrough have had only 5 managers. This is incredible when you think of the money that has arguably been misspent on the likes of Alves, Rickets or Boyd. In the same situation at other clubs the axe would have fallen much sooner than it has been in the past. He has not interfered with the business of managers and leaves them to run the football side of the club in whichever way they see fit. He has never, from what I understand from what managers have said in the past, imposed any sort of pressure to sign particular players or play in a particular style. He has kept the club relatively debt free by offsetting debt to his other company, rather than putting the club in any major danger, the padlocks will be away from the Riverside for the near future. Above all this though, he is an honest man who connects with fans and makes no bones about any situation the club may find themselves in. The ambiguity and uncertainty that is sadly evident at a number of top clubs is miles away.

I hope, like I mentioned at the very top of this blog, that Gibson isn’t unique. I hope people can relate to this and if you can, pay tribute to those owners. They don’t get the recognition they deserve.

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