One of Boro's finest ever players, Maddren appeared in seven positions for the club, although he will always be remembered as a wonderfully cultured centre-half.

As a youngster, Maddren played for his local side Port Clarence Juniors and came to the attention of Leeds United. He may have gone to Elland Road but for a broken ankle just before his trial.

Arriving at Boro, Maddren played initially as a centre-forward, replacing John Hickton for Stan Anderson's team against Bury in the final home game of the 1968/69 season. It couldn't have started better as he scored a first-half opener, although he did suffer a broken nose!

Gradually reverting to a centre-back position, Maddren went on to form an impressive defensive partnership with Stuart Boam throughout the 1970s.

The duo, part of a miserly defence that would earn many a clean sheet under the stewardship of Jack Charlton, could reduce opposing fans to desperate chants of 'Boring Boro'. With a more effective strike force, the side would surely have challenged for major honours.

In fact, many consider Maddren one of England's finest-ever uncapped defenders. The 1973 Boro Player of the Year was called up to a training squad by Don Revie, but never made an appearance for the Three Lions.

Maddren's troublesome knee, which had been a problem for many years, meant that he could not train in the latter days of his short career - although it is to his credit that his performances remained of such a high standard, and that he notched up more than 350 of them before hanging up his boots aged ust 26.

A spell as coach at Hartlepool followed, before returning to Boro as coach and physiotherapist on the recommendation of stand-in manager Jack Charlton, who he joined as assistant in March 1984.

He was given the manager's job in the summer after survival was secured in the second tier and brought old pal David Mills back to Teesside. 

Willie Maddren in the managers office

But with the club deep in debt and crowds at an all-time low, he always faced an uphill task. The 1984/85 season came down the final day when Boro travelled to Shrewsbury Town needing a win to avoid relegation.

Willie Maddren interview ahead of the Shrewsbury trip

Relegation was avoided with goals from Brian Laws and Peter Beagrie securing a 2-0 win, but the victory and survival proved merely a stay of execution.

With the team again teetering on the brink of relegation to Division Three and (unknown to most at the time) the club bordering on extinction, Maddren was sacked in February 1986, but he will be remembered as a manager who fought gamely in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Willie Maddren in the Ayresome Park dug-out

Maddren was the manager who plucked Bernie Slaven from Albion Rovers, saw the potential in Billingham's Gary Pallister, and introduced other players who would go on to play key roles in the re-birth of the football and two subsequent promotions under his successor Bruce Rioch.

It is a mark of Maddren's enduring appeal that over 20,000 people attended his benefit match against Inter Milan at the Riverside in 1996 after he had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease the previous year.

He died on August 27 2000 after a brave battle against the condition, which also saw him raise thousands of pounds for research and wrote the moving autobiography Extra Time.

His name lives on in the Willie Maddren Centre at the Riverside Stadium, home to the club's official charity arm MFC Foundation.