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He was strong, good in the air... and crackers! Boro are looking for a striker in the January sales as they try to add an extra ingredient to their promotion challenge. Here, legendary former Boro hitman Bernie Slaven looks back at the strike partnerships he played in during his career.

Byline: Bernie's Bolt with Bernie Slaven

IAN BAIRD was my favourite strike partner at the Boro.

1 He was everything I wasn't, or had everything that I didn't.

He was strong, good in the air and had the heart of a lion.

And he was crackers - he would batter and kick absolutely anybody, he wasn't bothered who it was.

He would win the ball in the air and I would pick up the crumbs'

But he could also play and was a good all-rounder.

He used to call me 'wee man' even though we were the same height.

If I went too deep, he would say to me: "You get yourself up front wee man. That's where you get the goals, I'll take these four out."

And he would. He was aggressive and full-on.

I remember when Dean Glover came back to Ayresome Park with Port Vale.

Deano was a fans' favourite on Teesside and was tough, and we were winding Bairdy up saying he was a real hard man.

Bairdy took him out in typical Bairdy style after about 15 minutes.

I WOULD go for PAUL WILKINSON next.

2 He wasn't as strong as Bairdy, but he still liked to get stuck in.

He was very good in the air and used to set up and make goals as well as score them.

He was a willing worker and a good foil for me.

I'd been top league goalscorer for five seasons and managed to make it six in the season we got promoted to the Premier League.

I scored a hat-trick against Brighton and Wilko got taken off - I thought it was a Lennie Lawrence tactic to protect him because I'd scored three and Lennie wanted me out.

Manager-goalscorer relationships can get fractious, like when Graeme Souness dropped Ally McCoist at Rangers and Ruud Gullit dropped Alan Shearer when he was at Newcastle.

I'm not putting myself up there with those two, I'm just saying it can happen.

But that's another story, anyway. Wilko was a good player, and I enjoyed playing alongside him.

IT was a good education for me playing up front at Ayresome Park with ARCHIE 3 STEPHENS.

I'd just moved down to England and he showed me how I needed to play to adapt to the league and the game.

Archie was another good foil for me at the Boro.

He was probably a couple of inches shorter than me, but he could jump about 10 times higher.

And when he was up in the air he used to hover and hang there like a kestrel.

We struck up a good partnership and scored 33 goals between us in Division Three when we got promotion the season after liquidation.

Archie still lives in the Teesside area and got one of my books off me at Christmas.

Not that he paid for it mind - typical Scouser!

I'm going to see Parky with him at the end of the month as well.

NEXT on the list are PETER DAVENPORT and ANDY PAYTON.

4 It would be pushing it if I say I linked up well with Dava, because when he signed I went outside left.

And the roles were reversed where he went outside left and I went back up front.

Dava was a good technical footballer with a good football brain.

When he signed for PS700,000 from Manchester United he got announced on the pitch the day that we beat Millwall 4-2. There could be any number of reasons that his move didn't work out.

Sometimes transfers in football are like that.

Bruce Rioch used to say that I didn't like Dava, but that's not true.

He was a quiet man and a family man and we didn't socialise, that's all.

I also used to get accused of deliberately not passing to him.

But if I didn't pass to him it was only because I was in a better position and wanted to make the most of it.

Andy Payton was brought in to replace me and ended up leaving before me.

He was quick and scored on his debut against Bristol City, but then had to go off injured and I scored the other two in a 3-1 win.

Things didn't seem to work out for him after that and he left to go to my boyhood club Celtic.

Andy is another one I bumped into last year when I went to Hull for a gig.

We had a good chat and a catch-up over a coffee.

5 FINALLY I'm going for not one or two but three of my former team-mates in MARTIN FOYLE, TONY CASCARINO and big NIALL QUINN.

Foyle was a prolific frontman at Port Vale and I remember we both scored hat-tricks in a match against Barnet.

I only won seven Republic of Ireland caps, but I played up front alongside Cascarino and Quinn a couple of times.

Cas wasn't everybody's cup of tea, he was big and awkward, but he scored goals.

And I tended to work well with any player who was different to me, which is generally what makes strike partnerships so effective.

'He would batter and kick absolutely anybody, he wasn't bothered who it was. He would win the ball in the air and I would pick up the crumbs' Bernie Slaven on Ian Baird, pictured in derby day action against Newcastle United at Ayresome Park

CAPTION(S):

Archie Stephens, above, and Paul Wilkinson, left, complete the top three in Bernie Slaven's list of his former strike partners
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2016
Words:923
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