The Ayresome Park gates in silhouette
Boro's journey from humble beginnings in a corner of Albert Park to a ground that has hosted international football
1876 to 1878 - The Archery Ground, Albert Park
The Parks Committee gave permission for association football to be played on a busy corner of Albert Park, parallel to Park Road near the Nazareth House orphanage. But as the game became more popular and crowds grew, concerns grew over the damage being done to the park. With no dressing rooms, players also had to face the indignity of walking home with their baggy kits and muddy boots under their arms after games. An extraordinary meeting was called and the club were ordered to find another venue.
1878 to 1880 - Breckon Hill
Land behind the present day Middlesbrough College campus at Breckon Hill, Longlands, was provided after a deal was agreed with its owner, Mr Kemp. Admission was threepence for men, a penny for small boys and free for women. But as the team again became more popular, Mr Kemp decided to cash in by increasing the ground rent. Instead of paying up, the club decided to start looking for another new home at Swatters Carr Field. At one point during their tenancy at Breckon Hill the club played at this site, near the cricket club at the intersection of Linthorpe Road and Southfield Road. It was during this time that a faction broke away and formed Middlesbrough Ironopolis after losing a bitter debate over whether to turn professional.
Paradise Ground (MIDDLESBROUGH IRONOPOLIS)
The professional Ironopolis club moved to the Paradise Ground, which would later be part of the Ayresome Park site, in the south-west corner where visiting supporters would stand in the ground's later years.
1882 to 1903 - The Linthorpe Road Ground
The Cleveland Association was formed in February 1881 and the Linthorpe Road Ground was used to play representative matches. It included a grandstand holding 30 fans which was extended told hold a further 600 fans at a cost of £160. Middlesbrough Cricket Club moved to the Breckon Hill Field during the 1893-94 season and the football club became the senior occupiers of the Linthorpe Road Ground. During this period the club won the Northern League Championship for the first time and the FA Amateur Cup twice. The ground also hosted the 1899 final, Stockton's victory over Harwich and Parkeston. Boro's first league game was played at the ground on September 9 1899 in front of 10,000 fans, a 3-1 defeat against Small Heath (later Birmingham City). Another 10,000 crowd turned out to see the ground's final game, a 1-1 draw against Stoke City on April 25 1903.
1903 to 1995 - Ayresome Park
In 1901 much of the Ayresome Grange Estate, which included the old Paradise Ground, was drained to make way for a new stadium in keeping with Middlesbrough's growing stature. The plans were to include a training pitch and a Reserves playing pitch. The architect was Archibald Leitch of Glasgow and the cost was to be an enormous £10,438.16. When the club failed to extend their tenancy at the Linthorpe Road Ground they were forced to move to Ayresome Park a year early. Fortunately the first game of the 1903-04 season was away at Sheffield Wednesday, giving the workmen a further week to finish the job. Willie White scored the first goal at Ayresome in a 1-0 friendly win over Celtic in front of 7,000 supporters on September 7. "It must have felt strange for the faithful Middlesbrough fans as they filed past the old and empty Linthorpe Road Ground on the way up Linthorpe Road to the new ground wondering what the future seasons would bring," wrote then club historian Harry Glasper in Middlesbrough, A Complete History. Five days later, on September 12 1903, almost 30,000 fans turned out to see the first league game, a 3-2 defeat at home to neighbours Sunderland.
Opposite the impressive new North Stand was the 50ft long stand which had been brought from the old ground and reassembled. They were to stand incongruously together for 32 years. In 1937 work was completed on the new South Stand by Dorman Long and Co. On December 29 1949, with football enjoying a post-war boom, a record 53,802 saw Boro beat Newcastle United 1-0. In 1966 the ground was chosen as one of the World Cup venues and the East End was covered and 4,000 seats installed. The capacity was reduced to 42,000 but the three World Cup games attracted a disappointing aggregate of just 56,000. The tournament will always be remembered for North Korea's famous 1-0 win over the great Italy team. The gates of Ayresome Park were locked when the club went through liquidation in 1986, but Boro emerged from those dark days like a phoenix from the ashes. The move towards all-seater stadia eventually brought the end of the famous old stadium and Boro decided to move to a new ground at Middlehaven. The last league game came as Boro sealed promotion to the Premier League under Bryan Robson with a 2-1 win over Luton Town on April 30 1995.
August 1995 – present Riverside
The gates of the Riverside opened for business on Saturday August 25 1995 when Boro took on Chelsea in the opening weekend in Premier League history. Craig Hignett scored the first goal at the new ground after 39 minutes, a 2-0 victory assured when Jan Aage Fjortoft added a second on 76. The first opposition player to score at the Riverside was Brazilian Marques Isaias as Boro won 2-1 against Coventry City. The first cup-tie brought a 2-1 win in the League Cup against Rotherham in September of that year. The first FA Cup game brought the first cup defeat as Notts County won 2-1 in January 1996. The first league defeat came in between as Tottenham Hotspur won 1-0 in November.
A full England international was played on the ground on June 11 2003 when England, with Boro skipper Gareth Southgate in the side, beat Slovakia 2-1. European football arrived the year after when club history was made. Boro’s first ever UEFA Cup game was played on September 16 when Banik Ostrava were beaten 3-0.