Few have excelled in front of goal in the red of Boro more than Alan Peacock...
The Brambles Farm-born star formed part of Middlesbrough’s legendary 1950s and 1960s ‘£50 Forward Line’ alongside Brian Clough, Billy Day, Derek McLean and Eddie Holliday that recorded some of Boro’s highest-scoring victories.
Dr Tosh Warwick
Manchester Metropolitan University | Heritage Unlocked
07591093136 | email@example.com
In total, Peacock notched 141 goals for the Boro and played for England at the 1962 World Cup in Mexico before starring in the top flight with Leeds United and reaching the 1965 FA Cup Final.
In the latest Ayresome Park Memories feature, historian Dr Tosh Warwick caught up with Boro legend Alan Peacock. ‘Peachy’ shared his memories of combining his early days at Ayresome Park with Saturday mornings at Cargo Fleet works, serving in the Forces, and playing alongside greats such as Brian Clough…
Young Alan Peacock and the ‘failed’ exams
A local lad with a passion for football, the schoolboy Alan Peacock’s early experiences of Ayresome Park no doubt echo the experiences of many youngsters of his generation who found innovative ways to watch the Boro for free:
“When there was a home match on a Saturday we used to get a ball and go up to Albert Park at 3 o’clock as Middlesbrough kicked off at home and we would kick the ball about until the Boro game was nearly over.
They would open the gates a quarter of an hour or so before the final whistle and we would run through and go into the Bob End, watch the game there and it didn’t cost us anything!”
The son of Charles Peacock, a well-respected footballer in the North Ormesby area, Peacock’s early career at Middlesbrough was shaped by Boro legends George Hardwick and Micky Fenton who coached Boro youth and reserve sides. Yet, he might never have become a professional footballer if he had passed his Hugh Bell High School entry exams:
“I didn’t want to go to Hugh Bell High School because they weren’t as good a football team as Lawson School. I remember sitting my exams and putting all the wrong answers down so I didn’t have to go to the High School which played rugby. I always wanted to be a footballer ever since I watched my dad play.”
Pre-match preparation at Cargo Fleet
After school, Peacock worked in the offices at the Cargo Fleet Works before serving his time as a fitter and turner whilst playing for Boro:
“For a home game I used to go to work at Cargo Fleet for 8 o’clock and I used to work until 12. I used to get the trackless from South Bank into North Ormesby, run up the street, take my overalls off and get changed. I’d get the special football bus from North Ormesby Market to Ayresome Park. The people in the queue used to let me go to the front!”
For away games, Peacock would room with fellow youngster Derek McLean but it did not take long before ‘Peachy’ was on the wrong end of a prank by Rolando Ugolini who cut Peacock’s pyjama legs off and put rubbing oils in his case. To make it worse the pyjamas had been loaned from a neighbour!
One of Peacock’s early Boro teammates was Brian Clough and he remembers getting on well with Cloughie, despite often only meeting up on matchdays due to both undertaking National Service, during which time Peacock played for the Army alongside the likes of Ronnie Yeates and John Barnwell.
A Boro goalscoring legend
When looking back at newspaper cuttings of his Boro exploits, including two matches when he scored four goals in each (at Derby 7-1 away in 1959 and against Rotherham at Ayresome Park 1961), the 82-year-old was modest.
Peacock instead references other great goalscorers including Camsell and Clough rather than reflect on his own goalscoring prowess. Discussing becoming Middlesbrough’s main goalgetter after Clough’s departure to Sunderland, Peacock’s passion for playing for his hometown club rather than the pressure of finding the net is clear:
“I just wanted to play football for Middlesbrough. I was a Boro lad, I was brought up with the likes of Wilf Mannion, Micky Fenton and George Hardwick.”
He also recalled with affection playing with Wilf Mannion at a testimonial match at South Bank and meeting the England legend for a drink at The Poverina in Normanby. Of Mannion, Peacock has little doubt about the Golden Boy’s place in the hierarchies of Boro’s greatest players:
“There was only one player for me and that was Wilf Mannion. Wilf was my all-time favourite. I remember one time going to camp when I was in the Army and Wilf Mannion walked past and I ran across to get his autograph”.
Promotion woes, England and a move to Elland Road
Of the failure to get promoted during his time at Ayresome Park, Peacock remembers the side’s ability to score goals but trouble keeping the ball out at the other end but has few regrets about his time at the club.
During his time at Middlesbrough, ‘Peachy’ made his England debut against Argentina at the 1962 World Cup in Rancagua, Chile. He would go on to play for the national team a total of six times, scoring a brace in a 4-0 win in 1962 over a Wales side including fellow Boro star Mel Nurse, and netting three years later against Northern Ireland having left Ayresome Park.
After coming close to joining Liverpool and Tottenham, Peacock eventually left Ayresome Park for in a £55,000 move to Don Revie’s Leeds United in 1964.
His time in West Yorkshire would see ‘Peachy’ win the affection of the Leeds supporters and play in the FA Cup final, although injury would ultimately end his career prematurely.
Despite offers to join the soccer revolution in the USA and an approach from Derby manager Brian Clough to be part of his Baseball Ground revolution, Peacock instead pursued a career as a successful newsagent in Middlesbrough.
Since an approach from Bryan Robson to become a matchday host at the Boro over two decades ago, Peacock has been a regular feature at the Riverside Stadium:
“I do the tours before the games on a Saturday and take visitors round and have a chat - I really enjoy it. It is funny when I get the older guys bringing their sons and daughters along but it’s really them who want to chat to me.”
In recent years, Peachy’s popularity has not waned and the naming of a road after him, Alan Peacock Way, at Middlesbrough Sports Village is testament to his place in Boro history.
Hopefully, the youngsters who head down Alan Peacock on their way to football practice can draw inspiration from the local lad who went on to grace the FIFA World Cup and become Boro’s goalscoring heroes of the future.