Ron, 75, is to retire in the summer having more than played his part in ensuring Boro has an Academy to be proud of and a reputation second to none.
“It’s been a roller-caster ride for me,” he says, adding something that only a privileged few can say. “I can sum it up by saying I’ve never ever got up on a morning not wanting to come to work, I’ve enjoyed every minute. It’s a privileged position to be in, as my son keeps telling me.
“You have your ups and downs like everything else, but the ups have outweighed the downs considerably.
“We have always been way above the national average for producing players and it’s still a great feeling when you see those players pulling on a first team jersey.”
To date, 95 players have played first team football for Middlesbrough, or another club, and 18 players have played international football at U21 level or higher – and that’s just since the Academy started in 1998. Ron was with the club long before that and was responsible for many more pulling on the red and white jersey.
During his time at Rockliffe, Boro’s youngsters have been FA Youth Cup winners and runners-up, U18 National Champions, U14 National Champions and on May 7th 2006, 15 of the 16 players on duty in a Premier League game against Fulham at Craven Cottage were from the junior ranks of Middlesbrough Football Club
“I don’t keep lists, but people tell me about the numbers and I just think ‘wow!’
“People think I scout them personally, I don’t. I work with a lot of good people. It’s about having the right people around you, I’ve worked with some good scouts over the years and they have helped develop the players.”
Ron, a former player, was coaching the Hilda Park side at Chester-le-Street when he was approached to join the Boro.
“It was like a who’s who. I had Gary Bowyer, son of Ian, Paul Nattrass, son of Irving, Stephen Pitt the son of Richie, Gregor Rioch the son of Bruce and Andy Todd the son of Colin!
“I was working for Newcastle at the time and Colin and Bruce were always on my back to move to Middlesbrough when they came to watch their sons. Bruce invited me to lunch one day and again asked me to join him at Boro. I remember thinking, ‘Well he is the manager of the cub and he really wants me’. Later that night I rang Peter Kirtley at Newcastle and rather sheepishly told him I was leaving. He wished me all the best then and later worked for me at Middlesbrough!
“When I first started I had to chip in with the first team as well. I recommended Curtis Fleming, Craig Hignett and younger ones who came through the ranks like Alan Moore, Graham Kavanagh, Jason Gavin, Ben Roberts, Andy Todd, Michael Barron.
“Remember, before the Academy there were eight years of the Centre of Excellence.
“In those days we were only allowed to coach the kids once a week, we had no real access to them beyond that, we weren’t allowed to run teams. We had strong links with Ireland and frankly some of the youngsters there were better than the ones we had at the time.
Then along came the Academies and with it longer coaching hours. Things changed then.
“But there’s always been change. I think there was maybe more natural talent around when I was young. There was no TVs then, no gaming devices. I was brought up in the days with Wilf Mannion and Len Shackleton. People might think that I’m a silly old man talking about them, but there were more technically gifted players then because they spent more time playing football.
“There has been a lot of change since I started, but fundamentally the game is the same.
“But I suppose in the society we live in now it’s more dangerous for children to be out playing and that’s a real shame.”
Ron has had his fair share of watching young players on a wet and windy Sunday morning, and in more glamourous locations too.
“It makes it all worthwhile when someone you have spotted, scouted, nurtured and helped along the way makes it into the first team.
“I remember I was once in France at a tournament when I got a call to say Mark Summerbell had made his first team debut alongside Juninho at Tottenham. Mark was such a small, slight figure and there were trials and tribulations in getting him to where he was. I was elated, I felt a real tingle.
“I get quite a bit of micky-taking for it sometimes, but you watch out for them all. David Atkinson was a lad who was with us since he was eight and I’ve always thought he was a really good player. I took a shine to him and help him to this day. But all of them, they’ve all been special.
“Always look after the welfare of the player. When they join us it’s like one big family, they’re like our own kids and you want to help them as much as you can.”
So what now for the septuagenarian from Chester-le-Street?
“I won’t be sitting in the house that’s for sure!” is the swift and emphatic reply.
“I’ll probably play more golf, my son’s big into that right now, watch cricket and travel. But it may surprise a few people to know that I won’t be watching much football.”
What he may be doing, is indulging in something that has brought entertainment to many over six decades, playing his guitar.
“I’ve been playing since I was 14. I still enjoy it and believe it or not I’ve had a couple of offers to go and join bands, but I don’t think at my age I could stand on the stage for that long,” he says with a healthy laugh.
“I’m a lead guitarist, but I’ve done them all, lead, rhythm and bass. I’m right into the Eagles, Cliff and Shadows, Mark Knopfler but I have a wide range of music tastes, anything to do with guitars.
“I’m like a little boy in a sweet shop when I go to a guitar shop. I just stand at gaze through the window, there’s just something about guitars I like looking at. “
Ron leaves with the good wishes of everyone at Middlesbrough Football Club and takes with him more memories than most can cram into a lifetime.
“I came down to Teesside from up north as a total stranger, I didn’t know the area at all. Now I have so many friends and they are the ones I will miss, the many, many friends I have made over the years. I’ll always follow Boro.”