Stuart Boam

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Born Kirkby in Ashfield, January 28, 1948.

Stuart Boam - Middlesboro FC

Stuart Boam was born in the heart of the Nottinghamshire mining community in Kirkby in Ashfield and was as tough and uncompromising as the background in which he was raised.

He was quickly spotted by his local professional club, Mansfield Town, while playing for the Kirkby Colliery side.

Although there was little doubt that the strapping teenager had the potential to make it with the third division club the situation was not quite so clear cut as it might seem now.

Football was not the lucrative business it is today and most players in the lower divisions, even if they should enjoy a long career in the game, would generally have little to fall back on but their memories when they came to hang up their boots. The Boam family were certainly under no illusions about the precarious nature of the football industry.

In order to ensure Boam would not be overly reliant on his success with Mansfield he began life at Field Mill as only a part time player while he also completed a three and a half year engineering apprenticeship. When he finally signed as a full time professional in 1968 he was 20 years of age and already an established first team player.

Stuart Boam was also to gain a sound footballing apprenticeship with Mansfield. The Stags were a compact side capable of stirring performances and as well as enjoying four competitive seasons at either end of Division Three, Boam was with the club as they embarked on several thrilling cup encounters.

These early years were to provide Boam with the experience of the different kinds of pressure involved playing in both a strong, winning side and also one battling for their lives. He learned how to handle himself against tough, experienced target men but also found himself called on to deal with players of a far higher calibre during the clubs' various cup runs.

It was a sound grounding and Boam qualified through this particular apprenticeship with flying colours.

Boam made his debut in Mansfield's final game of the 1966-67 season, a 4-2 defeat at Leyton Orient. He would then miss only two games during the next three seasons.

His first full season saw Mansfield involved in a titanic relegation battle. The Stags survived, but only just. After losing their last four games the club actually slipped into the last relegation position but were saved by the fact that Peterborough United were placed at the bottom of the table and relegated because of illegal bonus payments made to their players.

This meant Mansfield were reprieved having finished above Grimsby Town due to a goal average superiority of 0.01.

The performances of Stuart Boam were the definite highlight of this season of toil. There were rough edges to the stopper but he evidently had the makings of a formidable defender.

He was big, strong and fearless. His heading ability was excellent and his tackling was robust. While no-one would accuse Boam of being fast he had a change of pace and had done enough in a struggling side to suggest a bright future.

Over the next three seasons Boam's game came on leaps and bounds. He quickly became the lynchpin of the Mansfield side. Boam was also appointed as captain at Field Mill and the extra responsibility, along with the experience he was gaining, marked him out as destined for a higher level.

Mansfield's league performances improved significantly and in Stuart Boam's final two seasons at Field Mill the club found themselves on the fringes of the promotion race in Division Three without quite managing to force their way into the mix.

The clubs' and the players', profiles were raised substantially through a series of exciting cup ties they were involved in during this period. Mansfield gave a good account of themselves against higher division opposition on several occasions and no-one impressed more than Boam.

In the 1968-69 FA Cup the Stags had already despatched Sheffield United in the 3rd round before facing West Ham United in round five. On a famous night in Nottinghamshire Mansfield overwhelmed The Hammers 3-0.

Stuart Boam earned rave reviews from the national media for his immaculate handling of Geoff Hurst, England's leading forward at the time. The daunting centre half was also outstanding as Mansfield lost a hard fought quarter final 1-0 to Leicester City and their rising star Allan Clarke.

The following season Boam again put on a dominant display as Mansfield went to Blackpool, Division Two front runners, and won 2-0. This set up a 5th round tie at Leeds United and the up and coming defender was again impressive.

Allan Clarke was again in the opposition ranks having moved to Elland Road in the summer but Boam was chiefly concerned with keeping tabs on Mick Jones. Strong, good in the air and rangy Jones was a handful for any defender but Boam kept him as quiet as most in a real no quarter asked or given type of tussle.

It was desperately unlucky for both the club and player that Boam missed out on the two ties with Liverpool FC in 1970-71. He had just set a club record for consecutive appearances but was injured as Mansfield drew 0-0 at Field Mill before going down 3-2 after extra time at Anfield. If Boam had been playing who knows?

His consistent performances during the grind of the league programme allied to his obvious ability to step up to meet the demands of higher class opposition could not fail but capture the attention of the media and those within the game. During the summer of 1971 Stan Anderson paid Mansfield £50,000 to take Boam to second division Middlesbrough. It was a move that augered well.

Middlesborough Football Club, perhaps the whole town, appeared fairly intimidating to the outsider. Tough, slightly bleak with no airs or graces. The same could have been said about Boam.

Tall, brawny and with a ridiculous pudding bowl hair cut that looked like it had been chopped off with an axe, the compatability of player and club looked assured.

So it proved. Stuart Boam settled in immediately and produced a series of impressive displays at the heart of the Boro defence. There was another newcomer in the ranks, a certain Nobby Stiles, but it was Boam's partnership with the other wing half, Willie Maddren, that really gave hope for the future.

Maddren was also big and strong but had genuine ability on the ball, so much so that it was difficult to be certain whether he was better suited to playing in midfield or defence. Eventually he would come to settle alongside Boam in central defence and the pair would provide the platform from which a fine side would emerge.

Boro had a relatively poor season in the league after signing Boam but the newcomer enjoyed further adventure in the FA Cup. Boro knocked out Manchester City and Millwall after replays before also travelling to Old Trafford to earn a goalless draw with Manchester United in the 5th round. All eyes were on Stiles returning to his former stamping ground but Boam was the real star as the home attack was kept at bay.

The replay was a different story, however, as United cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Boro were closer to promotion the following season but the club decided that Stan Anderson had now had enough chances to take them back to the first division. The man they chose to replace him with was Jack Charlton.

This appointment had big consequences for Boam. The stopper had firmly established himself in the Boro first team and his performances had drawn nothing but praise. He had been the clubs' player of the year in 1972 and everyone at Ayresome Park rated him as the outstanding stopper in Division Two.

Jack Charlton, however, had barely stepped through the door before he began informing Boam of the ways in which he was deficient. It was a full and comprehensive list!

The centre half was hardly thrilled at such an introduction and was not slow in giving his opinion in return. On the training pitch, however, Boam responded in a positive way to the situation, looking to improve the areas of his game questioned by the new manager and working with renewed vigour.

It was exactly the response Big Jack was looking for and when the season began he actually named Stuart Boam as his captain for the campaign.

The abrasive manager was the perfect man to get the best out of a strong squad and Middlesbrough stormed to the second division championship, finishing 15 points (only 2 for a win remember) ahead of Luton Town.

It was hard not to feel sorry for Stan Anderson, however. He had added Graeme Souness to his squad shortly before getting the sack and it is almost inconceivable that he would not have also taken the side up.

Boam's defensive duties were not altogether taxing that season and he helped himself to four league goals, his best ever return.

Stepping into the first division was a different matter, however, and Boam was a crucial player as Boro managed to establish themselves in the top flight.

Boam and Maddren provided a solid base from which Boro could build and there were few better defensive pairings to be found in England at that time. Maddren, especially, was harshly treated in never being selected to play for his country.

Stuart Boam's strength was his strength. Especially good in the air and a dogged marker Boam was the archetypal stopper. His consistency and resilience ensured that he would miss only 8 league games during the five seasons he spent in the first division with Middlesbrough.

During that time the club would not finish lower than 14th in the table with a best of 7th in 1975. There would be real opportunities for cup glory for this side but these would all be spurned.

In 1974-75 Boro thrashed Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart lane and also went on to win at Liverpool in the League Cup before losing a replay at Manchester United, then actually a second division club.

They would also reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup that season only to suffer a narrow defeat at Birmingham City.

The following season they progressed to the League Cup semi finals but after squeezing a narrow 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the first leg at Ayresome Park they would suffer a 4-0 defeat at Maine Road in the second. This was a night on which Boam was simply overwhelmed by a rampant City attack. He was not alone.

A rousing 4-1 victory over Arsenal took Boro into the FA Cup quarter finals in 1977 but this time they would lose at Liverpool after a spirited performance.

The biggest disappointment of all came in the FA Cup of 1978. Middlesbrough accounted for Coventry City, Everton and Bolton Wanderers to be handed a home tie with second division Orient in the quarter finals. After being held to a goalless at Ayresome Park they would go down 2-1 in the replay.

This meant that Boam had no opportunity to cap eight years of sterling service with a major honour but he had contributed hugely to one of the clubs' finest periods.

Although he had now entered his 30's it was a surprise that John Neal decided to offload Boam to Newcastle United in the summer of 1980 given that he had again been voted the clubs' player of the year.

His spell on Tyneside would not be a particularly happy one as a remarkably mediocre side struggled to make any impression in the second division.

The end of the road for Boam came during his second season at St James Park. Newcastle could not find a way through the Exeter City defence at home in the 5th round of the FA Cup and were then embarrassed in the replay 4-0.

The highlights of this game were shown on national television, how exciting was Sportsnight?, and Boam had to take his full share of the blame for a dreadful defensive display. He would only make another three appearances for the club.

Boam would then rejoin Mansfield as player manager but quickly marginalised himself as a player. He could not inspire the Stags from the sidelines in the way he had formerly done on the pitch and lasted just two years in the Field Mill hot seat.

After a solitary game for Hartlepool United his league career was over.

For fourteen seasons Stuart Boam gave unstinting service and was one of the most reliable men to be found anywhere in the Football League. These efforts brought him only a second division championship medal.

They also made him a hero at Mansfield and Middlesbrough, however, and he helps provide a reminder of much that was good about a bygone age of football.

Without earning a fortune out of the game Boam is still remembered fondly by the fans he gave his all for and he remains inexorably woven into the history of Middlesbrough Football Club.

Rate Stuart Boam
6 Absolute Legend
5 Hero status
4 Quality
3 Average
2 Donkey
1 Two Left feet
0 Scottish Division

Stuart Boam Career Statistics
CLUB GAMES GOALS
Mansfield Town FC 175 3
Middlesboro FC 322 14
Newcastle United FC 69 1
Mansfield Town FC 15 1
Hartlepool United FC 1 0
TOTAL 582 19
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