are they now?
Willie Maddren (Middlesbrough squad)
Bob's 70-71 pages was
very sad to hear about the death of the Middlesbrough
player, Willie Maddren. The Official Middlesbrough site
gives the following obituary at Middlesbrough F.C.. Comments from some of the
70-71 players follow and are from Middlesbrough F.C.
Willie Maddren Biography
Willie Maddren, January 11 1951
to August 29 2000.
WILLIE Maddren will always be remembered on Teesside as
the greatest player never to win an England cap. A
combination of injuries, playing for an unfashionable
club and the quality of his contemporaries robbed the
classy defender of the chance to wear the famous three
lions - a job he would undoubtedly have performed with
As a youngster of huge potential, Willie attracted the
interest of Leeds United, but a broken ankle just before
his trial meant Don Revie's loss would be Boro boss Stan
He began his Boro career as a striker and possessed so
much natural talent that many of his coaches would have
preferred him to continue to play up front.
But though he was likeable and modest, Willie was also
strong-willed and insisted on playing in defence where he
was most comfortable.
However, his debut came as a striker and he opened the
scoring before breaking his nose in a 3-2 home defeat to
Bury in the last game of the 1968-9 season.
Midway through the next term he replaced Bill Gates for a
run of ten games - this time playing in defence. But it
wasn't until 1970-1 that Willie really established
himself, beginning up front and then switching to the
central defensive berth he would make his own.
In 1971 Anderson made one of the most inspired signings
of his managerial career. He brought in Stuart Boam from
Mansfield and the foundations were in place to inspire
Boro's rebirth as a football force after 20 seasons in
In 1972-3, Anderson's last season in charge, Willie was
named Player of the Year as the team narrowly missed out
The next year all Anderson's hard work paid off, yet it
was not he but newly retired England centre-half Jack
Charlton who reaped the rewards as boss of all-conquering
Galvanised by Big Jack, the team finally did what they
had been threatening for years, winning the Division One
title by a record margin and conceding just 30 goals in
With Northern Ireland international Jim Platt in goal,
full backs John Craggs and Frank Spraggon, and Willie and
Stuart Boam in the heart of the defence, second division
sides found Boro an impossible nut to crack.
Opposition fans could only chant "Boring, Boring
Boro" as Charlton's men kept 25 clean sheets, with
Willie an ever present alongside Boam.
The next season Boro signalled their return to the top
flight with a 3-0 win at Birmingham and, by Christmas,
were in second place in the table.
The challenge petered out, however, and the side, lacking
a proven goalscorer, missed out on a European berth by
They also reached the FA Cup sixth round and League Cup
fifth round, Willie scoring the win in a 1-0 victory
against high-flying Liverpool at Anfield.
Willie was at the peak of his powers and a look back into
match reports of the time shows he won more man of the
match awards than anyone in a team which contained the
likes of Graeme Souness, Terry Cooper, David Mills and
He won five under-23 caps and was called into the full
squad by fellow-Teessider Don Revie, but he never made an
Throughout this time, and even from his teenage years,
Willie was often playing through the pain barrier due to
a knee injury.
Towards the end of his playing days he was hardy able to
train, but his performances were of such a standard that
fans were unaware of the problem.
In the close season of 1977 Willie tried giving his knee
complete rest for the first time. But far from healing as
he hoped, it seized up.
Willie played his last game for his only club against
West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on September 3
1977. After being turned inside out by debutant Cyrille
Regis, Willie realised it was all over.
A subsequent operation was unsuccessful and he was forced
into retirement. He was just 26.
Despite such a tragic end to his career, Willie is still
19th on Boro's all-time appearances list.
He was awarded a testimonial against Scotland's World Cup
squad in 1978. He opened a sports shop and coached
part-time at Whitby and Hartlepool United.
But seven years after that final game he was back at
Ayresome Park as physiotherapist under Malcolm Allison.
When Big Mal was sacked, Jack Charlton was called in as
caretaker but he refused to take the job full time.
Instead, he recommended Willie for the job - handing his
former player an unenviable task.
Boro were limping towards insolvency and fighting to
avoid relegation to Division Three. For 18 months he
worked against the odds to keep the club together on a
On the last day of the 1984-5 season relegation was
avoided with a last-gasp win at Shrewsbury thanks to
goals from Brian Laws and Peter Beagrie. Willie was
carried shoulder-high from the pitch by his jubilant
But it was a false dawn and the next season, inevitably,
the struggle continued.
Despite signing players like future internationals Bernie
Slaven, Gary Pallister, and Stephen Pears as well as
bringing on youngsters like Colin Cooper and Stuart
Ripley, Willie was unable to stop the slide towards
Division Three and, by the time relegation was confirmed
at the end of that next season, he had left the club.
The players he left behind formed the nucleus of the team
Bruce Rioch was to take through successive promotions to
Willie threw himself into his business and, for a time,
stayed away from Ayresome Park altogether.
In 1995 he was handed the biggest challenge of his life
when he was diagnosed with the terminal muscle-wasting
illness, Motor Neurone Disease.
As ever, Willie came out fighting and he remained an
inspiration to all around him.
More than £200,000 was raised in his name for MND
research, including around £40,000 from his
autobiography, Extra Time.
He remained cheerful even in the face of death.
His faith in God was important to him and he was
confirmed into the Church on the day his young son,
David, was baptised.
More than 20,000 fans packed the BT Cellnet Riverside for
a benefit match against Inter Milan in 1996.
By this time he was having to be fed by his wife, Hilary,
and even though he desperately wanted to thank the
supporters who had turned out, he worried he would be
unable to do so.
But when the moment came, so did the inner strength he
needed, and together with Hilary, sons David and Steven
and daughters Laura and Lucy, he stepped out onto the
pitch to a deafening ovation.
Grown men cried as Willie told the crowd: "I'm still
in there fighting and will continue to do so. They might
take my strength but they will never dim the light."
Physically he continued to deteriorate until he was
confined to a wheelchair and had difficulty speaking, but
that light continued to shine and there was never a trace
Willie Maddren fell asleep at 10.30am on Tuesday August
29 2000 in the Butterwick Hospice, Stockton.
"This is one game I cannot win but I will go down
fighting," he wrote at the end of his autobiography.
"I pray to God that he will give me more and more
Extra Time. And yet even on the day they die, many people
look back on their life and wonder what it was all for.
"When I go, I will do so in the knowledge that I
lived life to the full and, through my wife and children,
I found total happiness. No man could ask for more."
William Dixon Maddren,
January 11 1951.
Source: Juniors, June 1968
Retired: February 1979
League appearances: 293 goals: 19
Cup appearances: 58 goals: 2
International honours: Five England under-23 caps
Boro manager: 1984 to 1986
Stuart Boam (Mansfield
"I'm still getting over
the news. Not only was he my playing partner, and a very
good one, he was also a good friend.
It's been awful to see his deterioration in health over
the last few years but being Willie, that's why he's
lasted as long as he has.
He was a fighter on the field and off it as well. If I
was to pick any person out as an icon as a footballer and
as a person, then Willie would be the one.
He was a brilliant player, very loyal to the club,
trustworthy and intelligent.
I'm in mourning. If my daughter brought someone home I
would want it would be someone like Willie."
Frank Spraggon (Middlesbrough squad)
"A lot of people said that if it wasn't for the
likes of Norman Hunter and Bobby Moore, Willie would have
played for England.
If it hadn't been for the injury problems with his knee
I'm sure he would have.
He was excellent to play alongside. He was a lovely lad,
he'd join in with everything.
What can you say? It's very, very sad. I'm going to work
tonight and I don't want to go.
My wife and I feel for his family, Hilary, and his
children and his Mam. They've been so strong over the
last few months. In one way it's a blessing in disguise
but it's a very sad day."
Jim Platt (Middlesbrough squad)
"He was a tremendous player, but because of
injury he didn't achieve all he could have done. It made
my job pretty easy most of the time having people like
having someone like Willie in front of me. It was a
pleasure to play with him.
We had a good team spirit. We were all 18 at heart and we
had a good time. We all knew each other and played with
each other for years. We had a few good players but
Willie was one of the best.
It's a real shock and very sad. I think we've all known
for a long while he's been living on borrowed time, but
it's still a shock when it happens.
This is a sad day for everyone connected to the club. In
some ways it's a blessing in disguise but it's very, very
sad day. He was a lovely man. He lived for football and
for his family and he was Middlesbrough through and
England under-23 team mate David Mills (Middlesbrough squad).
"Our association goes back more than 30 years.
We played in the same Stockton under-15 schoolboys side,
we knew each other a long time and spent a lot of time
together through our footballing careers, playing in the
juniors, the reserves, the first team and at
His illness has been tragic, but I think he was quite
incredible in his approach and outlook towards it. I
found him to have incredible courage and to be perfectly
honest I don't think I could have dealt with it in the
I went to see him as often as I could and I saw his
deterioration over the years, but he had such immense
courage and a sense of humour that he used to raise my
spirits, rather than the other way round!
He was an outstanding player who had a presence about him
which all outstanding players have and the courage he
showed as a player carried through into his life away
from football, never more so than in the last few years.
I don't think you can speak too highly of him, both as a
sportsman and a person.
He was a gentleman. In 30 years I don't think we ever had
a wrong word, he was one of those fortunate people who
got to play for his local team and that was a source of
great pride to him. I'll miss him as a friend as much as
anything else, a terrific friend, he had an immense inner
strength and I just feel so very, very sad for his wife
John Hickton (Middlesbrough),
"It's terrible news. It's been expected for a
while but it's still a shock. He was a tremendous fighter
and such a nice chap.
He was the mainstay of our team when Jack Charlton was
manager. He was a great player.
It's so sad that he has been taken so young, that's the
hardest thing about it. He'll be sadly missed by a lot of
See more September 2000
news at the following ...