Interview with Craig Hignett
Craig was a very popular player at Middlesbrough. He scored 33 goals in 155 appearances for the club from 1992-1998.
Craig began his footballing career at Everton where he trained as a 9 year old until he was 12. When Liverpool came calling it wasn't a hard decision to move across the park as Liverpool were Craig's favourite team and the one he supported.
He joined Liverpool where he became an apprentice and enjoyed his time there training and playing with some of his heros. Kenny Dalglish was player manager and Craig's boyhood hero. Dario Gradi the Crew manager offered craig a 2 year professional contract and because there wasn't an offer on the table from Liverpool he signed for Crewe, then in the old 4th Division.
Dario Gradi wanted Craig to strenghen up and get some experience so he sent him out to Staffor d Rangers. In 14 games there he scored 7 goals and this alerted Gradi who called him back and put him straight into the first team at the age of 19.
Craig made 121 appearances for Crewe scoring 42 goals from a wide right position. This alerted several top clubs but Lennie Lawerence beat everyone to his signature and signed him for Middlesbrough, who were then in The Premier League, for £500,000 in November 1992.
His team mates at Boro then included Alan Kernaghan ( who was captain ) Bernie Slaven,John Hendrie,Paul Wilkinson,Steven Pears and Jamie Pollock to name but a few.
Sadly Boro were relegated that season and struggled the next season in The Championship as Lennie had to sell some players to balance the books. Crowds dwindled to 7,000 - 8,000 and the Chairman took the decision to sack Lennie Lawerence and bring in Man. Utd. legend Byran Robson as player manager.
Bryan was allowed to spend some money and brought in Allan Millar,Clayton Blackmore,Nigel Pearson and Gary Walsh. He was given the luxury of being the first Middlesbrough manager to spend £1 million on a player when he bought Neil Cox from Aston Villa.
Middlesbrough got promotion from The Championship in Robbo's first season and Craig remembers the excitement of the last game at Ayresome Park against Luton. Craig scored 12 goals that season to help clinch promotion.Times were changing at Middlesbrough under Robbo and a new stadium had been built and named The Riverside. Big names were being attracted and money was being spent. Craig wanted to be part of The Riverside revolution and after talking to the manager about a new contract he decided to take a pay cut in order to remain at Boro.
Nick Barmby was signed along with Steve Vickers as Middlesbrough tried to stabalize their position in The Premiership.Craig will go down in Middlesbrough's history as the first player to score a goal at the new Riverside in the 2-0 win over Chelsea ! That season despite not being a regular Craig scored 10 goals. This got the attention of other clubs and Celtic offered £1 million for him but manager Robson persuaded him to stay.
Next season was the season Middlesbrough made a statement to the rest of the Premiership by signing Juniniho, Emmerson and Ravenelli. Craig said' Although Juno struggled at first his thirst to be the best was unqueationable and in my opinion was one of the best players to play for Middlesbrough. Certainly in the time I played for the club and laterly supported them. Ravenelli was the best finisher I've seen but he was so selfish on and off the field that he became unpopular although I always got on well with him."
That season was a true roller coaster. Middlesbrough finally reached a Wembley cup final losing to Leicester in The League Cup after a replay at Hillsborough and also reaching the FA Cup final losing to Chelsea. When you consider Middlesbrough had never reached a major cup final in over 100 years that was an extraordinary feat. Unfortunately the season was tinged with sadness when they were relageted on the last game of the season at Leeds after The FA deducted 3 points for failing to feild a team against Blackburn.
"From a personal point of view I played at Wembley, everyone's dream and I played in two cup finals but it was very disappointing to get relagated." said Craig.
Next season saw a turn around of players again after relagation. Juniniho was sold as was Emmerson and eventually Ravenelli. In came Paul Merson, Branco, Townsend and Gazza. Boro came straight back up and again reached The League Cup final losing once again to Chelsea 2-0.
" My time at Middlesbrough sadly had come to the end. I scored 2 goals in our last home game but that didn't stop me from getting the chop and I was released. I loved almost every minute of my time at Middlesbrough. Apart from those cup finals and promotions my fondest memory would be beating Liverpool twice in the League cups and actually scoring against them."
" I signed for Aberdeen on a free transfer and spent a short time there under Alex Miller before John Hendrie who was manager at Barnsley persuaded me to sign for sign for Barnsley."
Barnsley had just been relagated from The Premiership and Craig spent 1 1/2 seasons there scoring 28 goals in 66 matches.
"Dave Bassett tok over and we reached they play offs losing to Ipswich 4-2. Tony Mowbray scored one of their goals and I scored both of ours. i suppose this persuaded Graeme Souness who was manager at Blackburn to pay £2 1/2 million for me.'
Craig played 53 games for Blackburn gaining promotion to The Premiership and was in the winning team in the final of The League Cup beating Tottenham - his first winners medal. He played in Europe getting knocked out by Celtic.
Craig went on loan to Coventry under manager Gary McAllister. Unfortunately he broke his leg. He joined Leicester for a short time and went back to Crewe on loan.
Craig's career was coming to an and but he had one last flourish. He joined Limasool in Crypus and helped them win the league qualifying for Europe.
Craig now works for Middlesbrough F.C. on match days as a popular host. He also works for the Middlesbrough Academy coaching the stars of the future.
He has joined the after dinner circuit and is proving very popular with all the stories he tells of his time in football.