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Willie Maddren

William Dixon Maddren (born William Dixon Maddren in Billingham 11 January 1951 died 29 August 2000) was a football player for Middlesbrough Football Club between 1968-1979.

Footballer at Middlesbrough

He made his debut on April 12, 1969 against Bury scoring a goal and suffering a broken nose. Despite starting his Boro career as a striker he was known as a classy central defender. In the 1970-71 season Maddren established himself in the Boro defence. In 1971 Middlesbrough manager Stan Anderson bought Mansfield Town central defender Stuart Boam to form a formidable defensive partnership with Maddren. In 1973, after repeated failures to gain promotion to the old First Division, Anderson left Boro and was replaced by World Cup winner Jack Charlton. In the 1973-74 season Middlesbrough ran away with the old Second Division finishing 15 points clear from second place Luton Town(Under the old points system of 2 points for a win.) They were promoted to the First Division on March 23, 1974 finishing the season conceding only 30 goals, keeping 25 clean sheets in a 42 game programme. The strength of the Boro team was its defence of Jim Platt, John Craggs, Boam, Maddren and Frank Spraggon.

Willie Maddren
Personal information
Full name William Dixon Maddren
Date of birth January 11, 1951(1951-01-11)
Place of birth    Billingham, Teesside, England
Date of death    August 29, 2000 (aged 49)
Place of death    Stockton-on-Tees, England
Playing position Defender
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Middlesbrough 293 0(19)   
National team
  England under-23 05 0(0)
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

In the old First Division Boro were a strong, competent team just short of being top-class. A lack of a proven goalscorer was a factor in Boro failing to qualify for Europe in 1974-75 by one place. Maddren claimed in later years that if Boro had bid for Malcolm Macdonald they would have challenged for the Championship. His manager concurred. Jack Charlton said his biggest regret in football was not winning the Championship in 1974-75.

Maddren played for England under-23's five times, but despite a call-up to the full England side he never played. This was a source of bitterness for Maddren and many commentators agreed with him. Maddren claimed if he played for a more glamorous team than Middlesbrough he would have played for England. He compared his treatment with that of Brian Greenhoff (Manchester United, Leeds United) who won 18 caps despite being less talented. When BBC Radio Five Live announced Maddren's death on its sports news in 2000, a guest on the station, football journalist Hugh McIlvanney claimed he was the best player never to play for England.

Maddren's final appearance for Boro was on September 3, 1977 against West Bromwich Albion. He was only 26. Maddren had a persistent knee injury and he often played games when in pain. 'He . . . never trained,' said his team-mate Terry Cooper. An operation was unsuccessful and he retired in 1977.

Management and legacy at Boro

When Malcolm Allison became Middlesbrough manager in 1982 Maddren returned to Ayresome Park as physiotherapist. By then Boro were struggling in the old Second Division. Allison was sacked on March 24, 1984 and was replaced by Jack Charlton as caretaker manager with Maddren as assistant. The new management team staved off relegation and Maddren was promoted to post of manager at the season's end.

This period in the history of Middlesbrough is considered its most traumatic. The club was in financial difficulties which eventually led to liquidation in 1986 and the near loss of professional football on Teesside. At the end of 1985-86 season Boro were relegated to the old Third Division. By then Maddren was no longer manager. In his first full season 1984-85 Boro struggled and avoided relegation on the last day of the season, May 11, 1985 in Shrewsbury. The following season Maddren was sacked with 13 games remaining, replaced by his assistant Bruce Rioch. Despite the failure to turn Boro round Maddren is remembered for his astute signings. Bernie Slaven was signed from part-time football in Scotland to become a Middlesbrough legend. He saw the potential of Gary Pallister, a defender with Northern League Billingham Town, despite a lacklustre trial with Boro reserves in front of previous manager Malcolm Allison. Both became internationals. Other signings Maddren made came to fruition under the managership of Bruce Rioch included Stephen Pears , a reserve goalkeeper from Manchester United, Brian Laws and Archie Stephens, important members of the Third Division promotion winning team of 1986-87. Maddren also brought youth team players through the ranks, including Colin Cooper and Stuart Ripley.

Following his sacking Maddren concentrated on his successful sports shop business.

Illness and death

In 1995 he was diagnosed with the terminal muscle-wasting disease Motor Neurone Disease(MND). He became a campaigner for MND research, raising over ú200,000 including ú40,000 from his autobiography Extra Time. In 1996 a benefit match was arranged at the Riverside Stadium between Middlesbrough and Internazionale. He was given a standing ovation from over 20,000. A section of the Boro fans sang "Willie Maddren's Red and White Army" which he acknowledged with a wave.

He died on August 29, 2000 at a hospice in Stockton-on-Tees, aged 49.

Just before his death, Maddren commented: 'This is one game I cannot win but I will go down fighting.'


  • Obituary From a nostalgic football site
  • Boro's Best (1997) A book detailing Boro's top 50 players as chosen by players and fans.
  • An Essential History of Middlesbrough (2002)Usual statistics
  • Middlesbrough v Inter Milan Matchday magazine (1996)Includes interviews with Maddren

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