Middlesbrough’s success is a reminder that promotion can come after a sluggish start.

Middlesbrough’s success is a reminder that promotion can come after a sluggish start.


Middlesbrough’s record-breaking feat a reminder that promotion can follow slow start

Much has been made of Middlesbrough’s indifferent start to the season, with the side suffering two defeats interspersed by a League Cup win and most recently drawing 1-1 with lowly Huddersfield Town. Some Boro fans have already reached for the panic button and doom merchants have predicted a season of struggle.

This season, The Gazette and Teesside Live will be sharing extracts and research from University of Sheffield researcher Dr Tosh Warwick’s forthcoming biography of George Camsell. Here he reveals a similarly mixed start to the 1926/27 campaign that would ultimately bring new hope and a transformation in fortunes…

Middlesbrough picked up their first point against Huddersfield. Inset: George Camsell

With the nation enduring crisis after crisis and Boro enduring a hangover having failed to secure promotion after showing some promise, alarm was setting in among the Middlesbrough journalists and supporters at the prospects for the team. Between the tail-end of the 1925/26 campaign and the coming of the 1926/27, the General Strike in May brought unprecedented industrial action across the country as millions showed their support for locked-out coal miners, a familiar scenario for Camsell who only a few years along with his peers took part in strikes in the Durham mining industry.

How Middlesbrough prepared for the new season in the days of record goalscorer George Camsell

In Middlesbrough, over 10,000 workers were out of work during the strike and clashes between the police and locals broke out during what the local press dubbed “black industrial times”.


Just as those heading to the Riverside Stadium for the Huddersfield game last Saturday hoped for a first league win, Boro fans trudging along Linthorpe Road to Ayresome Park on 4th September 1926 after a morning at the iron and steel works along the Tees hoped the first league home match of the season would bring some reprieve following a challenging summer and a miserable start to the season which had brought two losses and put the Teessiders bottom of the table.

Their hopes were soon dashed as Boro were beaten 2-0 by Preston North End. A goalless draw at South Shields followed, bringing criticism of the side’s “impotent forwards”, a toothless attach seemingly further weakened through the loss of their star striker of the previous campaign as McClelland picked up a knock resulting in the Scot missing ten minutes of the match that would prove to be an injury that would rule him for the next match.

Losing the star man

Of course, in recent weeks the current Boro squad have lost the previous season leading marksman with Chuba Akpom’s move to European giants Ajax Amsterdam and Emmanuel Latte Lath coming in to fill the void. Yet, the man that would fill the void left behind would help transform the side’s fortunes. That man was reserve team forward George Camsell.


The former Durham City man have left the club for Barnsley had the Yorkshiremen raised sufficient funds for the deal but instead Camsell – already into double figures for the reserves – was about to embark on a career-transforming spell that would see records broken and international interest peaked.

Camsell did everything save score

As Hull City headed to Ayresome Park in mid-September Boro’s luck finally seemed to change , albeit at the misfortune of the Tigers. With the visitor’s captain Bell leaving the field injured and leaving Hull temporarily down to ten men Billy Pease, Middlesbrough’s new signing from Northampton, put Boro ahead.

A second Boro goal by Owen Williams made sure of the points and set about a change in fortune for the North East side. Leading the line, Camsell “did everything save score” as he put in a performance that “justified all the confidence reposed in him [with] his shooting deserving more tangible reward”.


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