Shaun Wilson

shaun.wilson1971@gmail.com

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Ayresome Park was the venue for 3 full England international matches during the 20th century.

The prestigious honour of staging the grounds first international game, versus Ireland, was conveyed on Middlesbrough just 18 months after the opening of Ayresome Park and was without doubt an accolade for the completion of the fine, modern stadium facilities.

A reporter at the time was fulsome in his praise. He said: “The ground proved to be in perfect condition for the game. The arrangements at Ayresome Park were excellent in every way and the 23,500 spectators found every accommodation”.

Boro goalkeeper Tim Williamson made his England debut but was unfortunately responsible for gifting Ireland their goal, allowing a corner to drop from his grasp and cross the line.

England equalised almost immediately when Steve Bloomer, later to sign for Boro from Derby, scored. The game finished 1-1, the picture below shows a programme from the game, which could possibly be the first at Ayresome as Boro didn’t start producing until the 1906/07 season.

The two sides met again on Teesside 9 years later, in February 1914. The memorable match proved to be a depressing one for Boro striker George Elliott, as Ireland swamped a poor England side and proved worthy 3-0 winners.

The game was played at a time when there had been an upsurge of political tension between the two countries. The crowd of 27,439, mainly Ayresome Park enthusiasts, paid record receipts of £1,247, but were shocked by the dire England performance and vented their feelings on the pitch.

Ireland's scorers on the day were Lacey with a brace and one from Gillespie. Elliott was dropped for England next two games, the last internationals for over 5 years due to the onset of World War I.

The third and final time Ayresome hosted a full England game came in November 1937, and was just reward for the enterprise of the Middlesbrough directors, who had recently completed a major modernisation of the ground.

Wales were the opposition and England’s winning margin of 2-1 did not really reflect the side's superiority. This was partly down to the comparative weak performance of Chelsea’s George Mills, who was compared rather unfavourably by the crowd to a certain George Camsell.

Wales had in their side Bryn Jones, who was soon to be the most costly footballer in the country when Arsenal paid Wolves £14,000 for his services. Ironically it was a player who was plying his trade in Division 3 North with Doncaster Rovers, Eddie Perry, who scored the opening goal for the away side.

The Wizard of Dribble himself, Stanley Matthews, equalised and proved to be a constant thorn in the Welsh backline. The winning goal was scored by Spurs forward Willie Hall, who on the hour hit a magnificent left-foot shot past the Welsh goalkeeper.

Boro's First England International

Dr Tosh Warwick

Manchester Metropolitan University | Heritage Unlocked

07591093136 | t.warwick@mmu.ac.uk

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North Ormesby-born Tim Williamson, known as ‘Tiny’ due to standing at only 5 foot 9 inches tall, not only holds the accolade as Middlesbrough’s record appearance holder but also the distinction as Boro’s first full England international. 

Tim Williamson would play for England a total of seven times while at Ayresome Park, keeping clean sheets against Wales at Millwall and Wrexham and enduring only one defeat between the sticks for the national team.

Williamson not only played in the Linthorpe Road Ground’s last match but also the first at Ayresome Park, and was a stalwart of the Boro side up until the interwar period. 

Tim Williamson

Image credit: Harry Greenmon collection

During a record-breaking 602 appearances for Boro, the goalkeeper even managed to score a couple of goals from the penalty spot for the Ayresome Park outfit in 1910. 

In January of the same year, one newspaper described Williamson’s performance against Everton as ‘one of the finest exhibitions of guardianship ever witnessed at Goodison Park, while the Athletic News declared ‘Williamson, thy name stands for consistency and cleverness’. 

Williamson is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to play for the Boro which was recognised upon his retirement by the club. Decades later in 1960, Williamson’s brilliance was recognised in an Evening Gazettesupporter-selected greatest Boro XI, with the legendary figure receiving the second highest number of votes for inclusion in the dream team behind George Hardwick and was ‘by far the most popular choice in goal’. 

Three decades later, The Evening Gazette’s Boro history supplements collection of 1991 described Williamson as ‘one of the best goalkeepers in the country’.

He would hold the record of Boro’s oldest player until Bryan Robson broke the record in the late 1990s.