The club was formed in February 1876 after players from the Middlesbrough Cricket Club decided to take up the new game of football that was sweeping Britain at that time. They were launched at a meeting in a gymnasium behind the Albert Park Hotel on Linthorpe Road and not, as legend has it, at a tripe supper in the Talbot Hotel. Middlesbrough kicked off at an open field called the Archery Ground in Albert Park. They found alternative accommodation at Breckon Hill Road in 1879 after being expelled from the Park by the local committee, being concerned about the damage done to the turf from such large attendances of around 200! Breckton Hill proved to be only a stop-gap as the club vacated after just one season in favour of the more prestigious Linthorpe Road Ground. This venue was an old cricket ground, just to the north of Albert Park and conveniently placed next to the Empire Hotel, which belonged to the club chairman.
1889 was notable as the first year of the Football League and it also gave rise to a dispute within the club over whether or not to turn profession. The serious rift resulted in a breakaway group leaving Middlesbrough to form a professional team called Middlesbrough Ironopolis. Their games were played at the Paradise Ground, in spite of its name it was not reminiscent of regions celestial.
Despite the club’s long stay at Linthorpe Road relatively little was provided in the way of facilities and the humble surroundings didn’t keep up with Middlesbrough’s aspirations. In 1903 the club moved to Ayresome Park. This brand new enclosure partly overlaid that of hapless Ironopolis from a decade earlier.
The change of ground was accompanied by a change of strip. At the turn of the century Middlesbrough used to play in a blue shorts and white shirts but the move to Ayresome Park saw the club opt for the red kit that Middlesbrough is now associated with. The playing strip, although often changing, has usually retained reference to the white shoulder/yoke format from yesteryear, though the mid-Seventies and the late Nineties saw a flirtation with a striking white chest-panel. Boro’s colours in their formative years were red and black stripes.
Speaking of Boro. There’s only one ‘o’ in Middlesbrough. When applying for the status of a Municipal Borough in 1853, the town clerk misspelled the town’s name, dropping one ‘o’ from Middlesborough. The club’s previous nickname was ‘The Scabs’, undoubtedly tagged on by their local rivals Ironopolis, who in turn were called ‘The Nops’ by the Boro faithful.
Regardless of the town’s clerk omission, a new civic coat of arms was designed in 1853, granted in 1911 and embraced by Middlesbrough as their first emblem. The blue lion in the shield is that of Robert de Brus of Skelton who, in the twelfth century, founded a priory where Middlesbrough now stands. The three ships on the upper part of the shield signify local industry, but the lion was there to stay an with ‘1986’, the year that marked the formation of Middlesbrough Football and Athletics Company in a successful attempt to save the club after having gone into liquidation, suffering from massive debts.
Middlesbrough no longer reside at awesome Ayresome Park, a ground that was chosen over Newcastle to host World Cup Finals matches in 1966. The ships in their badge have gone, local industry comes from the far East, and the stadium on the banks of the Tees bears the description of the location: Riverside.