By Robert Nichols
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Jim Platt is tipping a draw in the weekend's big Boro v Leeds game. The former Boro and Northern Ireland keeper was getting reacquainted with George Best's signed Boro shirt at the Back from the Brink exhibition at the Dorman Museum yesterday. He paused in his progress looking around at the exhibits to chat a little about tomorrow afternoon's game.
Jim Platt played in many big Boro v Leeds United games in his time and in those days it was counted by many as a Yorkshire derby. Leeds had experienced the highs of being the top club in the country but from what was still nominally at least the North Riding of the county Middlesbrough were emerging as a real force under from Leeds defender Jack Charlton.
The Boro team was anchored by that water-tight defence of Maddren and Boam with Craggs and Spraggon at full backs and behind them Northern Ireland international Jim Platt. In the middle of the 1970s that was a defence to match any in the country, no wonder we broke all records in winning promotion to the top flight. Then the first season up in the old First Division Boro pushed all the way for the title only tailing off in the final weeks to finish seventh. A position we never matched again until Steve McClaren's day.
Jim was posing for photos with the Boro shirt George Best wore at his testimonial game in the early 80s. It is a shirt so unique that it will now sit pride of place in the Boro Back from the Brink exhibition at the Dorman Museum. It will be cheek by jowl to other incredibly historic items such as a Alf Common England cap, Bernie Slaven's hat trick balls and Steve Vickers Championship medal.
My first memory of a Boro v Leeds game was in the summer of 1973, a testimonial for Bill Gates the Boro one). I'll let Jim take up the tale.
“Yes he got 29-30 000 people which was unbelievable. We played Leeds who had just won the First Division and we won the 2nd Division. I think the match was 4-4. I remember Jack Charlton saying to the players it is a testimonial let people shoot, don't block them because people want to see goals. I let in 4 goals that night and he said to me after. 'I didn't mean to let them in.' I said, 'I didn't let them in.' There were a couple I should have saved but it was only a testimonial.”
And how does Jim see the game going tomorrow?
“I fancy a draw because our home record is poor really this season, we've only won seven. The other night we struggled to beat Barnsley but our away form is brilliant. I think we struggle at home because our style of play suits the away games because we keep the ball. Away from home teams have to come at you whereas at home they drop back our build up is so slow we let people get behind the ball so we have to play through eleven, that's why in my opinion. But that is how Tony wants to play and he is proved right because we are fourth in the league.”
I put it to him with Adam Hammill in the ranks we should have more pace to scare the opposition.
“It was my first look at him the other night and I quite liked him. He doesn't know the players yet because he went for one-twos and didn't get it etc. When you get used to somebody you know what he likes and doesn't like etc.
Hopefully Jutkiewizc will be fit for Sunday because he obviously wasn't fit the other night. He didn't head a ball. He had six staples in his head.”
Finally I asked Jim about how he viewed the run-in for Boro. We have 12 matches left do you think it is shaping up for an interesting end to the season?
“Yes I would said early on we were pushing for a top two finish but I think realistically now if we get into the play-offs we will have had a fantastic season. And it is on. I know four of the next five matches are away from home...
But we are good away.
“Yes. West Ham is one of them but West Ham are struggling at home. Ipswich will be a hard match. We've got some hard matches coming up but if we can hang on in there as Tony has always said it is just a culmination of points and getting the points in the bag. Towards the end of the season if you've got enough points obviously you are going to be in there.”
Back from the Brink is open six days a week, 9.30am-5pm, closed Mondays, through to mid-April. Entry is free. So far over 13 000 people have attended. Get along this weekend,