Bernie Slaven

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Bernie Slaven
Personal information
Full name Bernard Joseph Slaven
Date of birth (1960-11-13) 13 November 1960 (age 61)
Place of birth Castlemoat, Paisley, Scotland
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Forward
Youth career
1981–1983 Greenock Morton
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1983 Airdrieonians 2 (0)
1983 Queen of the South 2 (0)
1983–1985 Albion Rovers 42 (27)
1985–1993 Middlesbrough 307 (119)
1993–1994 Port Vale 33 (9)
1994–1995 Darlington 37 (7)
Total 423 (162)
National team
1990–1993 Republic of Ireland 7 (1)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Bernard Joseph "Bernie" Slaven (born 13 November 1960) is a Scottish-born former Irish footballer. A striker, with 162 goals in 423 league games, in a 12-year career, he also earned seven caps for the Republic of Ireland.

He started his career in his native Scotland with Greenock Morton in 1980, before moving on to Airdrieonians, Queen of the South, and then Albion Rovers in 1983. He stayed with Albion Rovers until 1985, when he signed with English Football League club Middlesbrough. It was with "Boro" that he made his name, staying for eight years, he made over 300 appearances, scoring an average of one goal every three games, and being promoted three times. He then transferred to Port Vale, where he spent one season, before finishing his career at Darlington in 1995.

Despite being born in Scotland, his Irish grandfather enabled him to win seven caps for the Republic of Ireland, which he did between 1990 and 1993. This short international career resulted in the honour of being named in Ireland's 1990 FIFA World Cup squad – though he did not feature in the tournament.

Club career

Scottish football league

After leaving Greenock Morton in 1983, Slaven joined Airdrieonians and played two games before moving on to Dumfries side Queen of the South later in the year. He played two games during the Willie Harkness era:[1] a 1–0 win over Cowdenbeath on 26 November 1983 and a goalless draw with East Fife on 10 December 1983, both at Palmerston Park. In the second game Slaven was substituted, his replacement being Billy Gordon.[2] When later interviewed for the club, team mate George Cloy said of Slaven, "He was just a man who liked playing football. He was a nice enough guy but he wasn’t one of the more rowdy ones."[3]

From Queens Slaven signed for Albion Rovers later in 1983. With the Coatbridge side he scored 31 goals in the 1984–85 season, winning the 1984–85 Daily Record golden boot in the process. In 42 league appearances with Rovers, Slaven hit 27 league goals.[2] During this time as a semi-professional he was working as a gardener. Slaven, who then lived with his parents in Castlemilk, Glasgow, was a fanatical trainer and non-drinker. Slaven made it clear while at Rovers that he wanted to try his hand at full-time football, and he was subsequently contacted by a reporter from The Sunday Post. The reporter wrote to all the top English and Scottish clubs on his behalf, and Middlesbrough were one of two teams to offer him a trial.


In a trial game against Bradford City, Slaven scored and impressed the Middlesbrough management enough to snap him up. Bradford boss Terry Yorath also wanted him to sign on the dotted line, but the then Albion Rovers owner negotiated a deal with Middlesbrough which satisfied all parties and manager Willie Maddren picked Slaven up in October 1985 for a bargain price of £25,000.[4]

The 1986–87 season followed the club's survival from liquidation, during this season and all future seasons at the club Slaven's consistent goalscoring gave hope to the fans. He helped secure a second successive promotion in 1987–88, which saw Middlesbrough rise from the Third Division to the First Division under manager Bruce Rioch, though they only survived at that level for one season. He played in the 1990 Full Members Cup Final, as Middlesbrough lost 1–0 to Chelsea at Wembley. They won promotion to the top-flight again in 1991–92 under Lennie Lawrence, gaining a place in the new Premier League. Slaven was instrumental in securing Middlesbrough's promotion, setting up a late Jon Gittens equaliser for a side reduced to ten men at Wolverhampton Wanderers, which was quickly followed by a late winner from Paul Wilkinson which saw Middlesbrough automatically promoted on the final day of the season in second place.[5] On 19 August 1992, he became Ireland's first goalscorer in the Premier League.[6] Middlesbrough were relegated the that season and Slaven finally left the club at the end of that campaign.

An accurate finisher with good positional sense and good close control 'The Wolfman' scored 146 goals in 381 games,[2][4] mostly playing in the number 7 shirt. Slaven was a model of consistency finishing top scorer for five consecutive seasons. Team-mate Stephen Pears said of him: "He passed the ball into the net." Despite his fantastic scoring record and unashamedly selfish nose for goal, he was weak in the air and a poor tackler.[4] His customary goal celebration was to jump upon the fence at the Holgate End at Boro's old ground, Ayresome Park – the fans were to see this celebration many times. When the ground was knocked down in 1996, Slaven acquired a section of the fence from the Holgate End, where it now sits, by his own admission, in his back garden.

Port Vale & Darlington

In March 1993, Slaven signed for John Rudge's Port Vale on a free transfer. Despite being sent off on his debut against Leyton Orient, he quickly gained the devotion of the Vale fans, scoring the goal that took Vale to their first Wembley performance in the then Autoglass sponsored Football League Trophy. In the final Slaven scored Vale’s second in the 2–1 victory over Stockport County[7] and, to many, became a Vale legend in doing so.[8] Eight days later he featured again at Wembley in the play-off Final, which ended in a 3–0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Having scored four goals in 15 games in 1992–93, he started the 1993–94 season with a hat-trick against Barnet in the first home game of the campaign. He went on to score twice against Cardiff City, before knocking Premier League Southampton out of the FA Cup on 18 January.

Slaven left Vale Park for Darlington in February 1994, who were struggling at the bottom of the Third Division. The "Quakers" again fared poorly in 1994–95 under Alan Murray, though Slaven managed to hit seven league goals in 37 league games.

International career

Slaven qualified for Republic of Ireland through his Irish grandfather.[4]

His international career included a call-up for Jack Charlton's Ireland squad for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Slaven made his debut against Wales shortly before the tournament and scored the only goal in a 1–0 win, slotting home a rebound after team mate Kevin Sheedy had missed a penalty. Slaven didn't play in any of the games and later admitted in his autobiography that, during the World Cup Second Round match versus Romania, he was hoping Ireland would lose so he could travel home to Middlesbrough to see his dogs.[2][9] Slaven became the third player with Queen of the South among his ex-clubs to travel to the World Cup finals after George Hamilton and Sam Malcolmson.[10]

He donned the green jersey for the last time in an international friendly against Wales. The game, which finished in a 2–1 victory for Ireland, would also be John Byrne's last international duty.

Slaven's former international teammate Tony Cascarino claimed in his autobiography that, Slaven would telephone his dog every night when away from home with the squad: "... Bernie would be howling like Lassie into the phone 'Woof, woof, aru, aru, woof!' He'd be kissing the receiver and lavishing affection – 'Hello, lovey dovey' – on a dog!"[11]


Following his retirement, he played a handful of games for Billingham Synthonia, who held a close relationship with Middlesbrough.

He also presented Legends Football Phone-In for Real Radio North East, alongside Malcolm Macdonald (formerly of Newcastle United) and Micky Horswill (Sunderland). The programme was axed following the end of the 2011–12 season. However, on 1 August, it was announced via a press conference with Slaven that the Legends would be returning on Morpeth based, Koast Radio; the show is scheduled to start on 13 August, but will only feature Slaven with guest hosts until November, when MacDonald and Horswill will no longer be tied by their severance contracts with Real Radio.[12][13]

He published an autobiography entitled Legend?. In August 2006, he released a DVD called Lucky Slaven, which features 90 of the Middlesbrough goals during his spell at the club. In October 2006, Slaven and his commentary partner Alastair Brownlee, won an award in New York for their commentary on Middlesbrough's UEFA Cup run in the 2005–06 season.

In 1999, Slaven bared his buttocks in Binns department store window in Middlesbrough following a bet on Century FM. He bet that if Middlesbrough beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, he would perform the dare. Middlesbrough ran out 3–2 winners, so Slaven had to go ahead with the dare, with the score painted on his cheeks.[14][15]

In 2002, still a popular figure in the area, Slaven ran for the position of Mayor of Middlesbrough.[16] Slaven admitted knowing little of politics and his campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.


with Middlesbrough
with Port Vale


  1. "Stats". Neil Brown stat site. Retrieved 21 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "World Cup Doonhamers" on
  3. "Interview with George Cloy". Retrieved 21 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "BERNIE SLAVEN 1985–93". Retrieved 21 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. [1]
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  7. Kent, Jeff (1996). Port Vale Personalities. Witan Books. p. 269. ISBN 0-9529152-0-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Bernie Slaven". Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Trans America, Dave Hannigan – I'll root for a Seamus but not for a Slaven mentality". Retrieved 14 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "George Hamilton profile". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino. Simon & Schuster/TownHouse. 2000. p. 74.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "The Three Legends are Koast-ing Home". 1 August 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Legends radio show to return on Koast Radio". 2 August 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Middlesbrough questions". Retrieved 21 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Rich, Tim (14 February 2004). "United fall to Job's late strike". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "BERNIE SLAVEN interview". 12 August 2005. Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links