Fly Me To The Moon column: What a difference a year makes - but Neil Warnock is building something at Middlesbrough

Fly Me To The Moon column: Robert Nichols looks back on a year of football without the fans.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 6:00 am

I am breaking off from putting together the fanzine for Boro v Stoke City to write this article.

It is a sobering thought that exactly a year ago I was drawing together different fan articles to compile a fanzine for Boro v Swansea City to be played at the Riverside on Saturday March 14, 2020. That fixture did not go ahead as planned, not in front of fans and not in spring time.

The fanzine was printed but was never to go on sale on the streets. As I drove to the printers to pick it up the radio relayed the news that the world of football had ground to a halt, soon to be followed by the world outside.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock.

It is certainly not an anniversary to celebrate. But last week, the journalist George Caulkin took me back down to the Riverside, where, clutching that fanzine in my hand I stood in my old selling spot. We reminisced about the past year and how little did we realise quite what that cessation of football hostilities was leading on to.

Since then we have all made so many sacrifices and the NHS and other frontline staff have toiled ceaselessly for us and we will be forever grateful to them. I think it will be a long while before any of us takes for granted the privilege of witnessing a live game of football.

Already there is talk about there being a major take up of tickets for next season. Let's hope we are all able to return together. In Neil Warnock we do have a manager worth waiting for. He has certainly kept us buoyed up at press conferences.

We cannot watch the football but we have really taken the gaffer to heart as he has done so much to reach out to us through lockdown. It is rare in football to find such a universal backing for a manager and everyone seems genuinely thrilled at the prospect of being able to share the Riverside stage with Neil Warnock next season.

What we don't want to do, however is let this season slide away. The performance at Swansea was anything but a slackening off. The only slacker being the appalling referee. Hopefully, we can take this sense of injustice and channel it to provide an edge to our play.

We need to finish these final two months as strongly as possible to build a platform for things to come. It might seem a real long shot now but we should not give up on anything until the final whistle in May.

As a starting point we need to make it difficult again for the opposition at the Riverside. We have enough time left to rebuild the walls of the fortress and send out the message that the banks of the Tees are a place where visitors’ hopes will flounder and be wrecked.

It has been a long year but not a lost year. Neil Warnock staying on for another season means we have been building towards something. The good will between fans and club means we will be stronger as a community also. Now, let's beat Stoke.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Middlesbrough coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor