Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Stoke City and I- Fifty Years On

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the founding of Stoke City Football Club and it gives me the opportunity to think of my memories as a supporter of over 50 years

My first memories of Stoke City encompasses the surreal and the disgusting. I will get the second point out of the way first. The earliest recollection of the Victoria Ground was collecting cigarette butts in a bucket for a relative who had a Rizla machine to roll fags. I would be the child labour and about 5. The butts were the means of obtaining the tobacco supply. It did not do this particular relative harm as they lived to a great age. The bizarre memory is of sheep grazing on the Victoria Ground to keep the grass closely cropped. There might be a picture somewhere in the archives. I am sure that I am not making this up. I went to school at St Peters next to the ground and the club were kind enough to let the school hold their sports day there. I was in a relay team that won the sprint. My first and only ever sporting achievement on any Stoke City pitch

But back to football

My first Stoke match was in March 1962 when I was just short of my 7th birthday. We played Swansea Town and it ended as a 0-0 draw. It’s strange how memory plays tricks as I thought that there were goals. We lived in Lytton St and in the promotion season of 1962-3 the roar of the 40,000 plus crowd could be clearly heard where we lived the other side of Stoke. An early opportunity to make a bit of money was offering to look after supporter’s cars. It was done innocently and not in the modern day way of “ looking after cars” as practised around Anfield or Old Trafford

I missed the centenary game against Real Madrid in 1963 although my father went and bought back the programme. Years later a woman living in Hartshill showed me a Real Madrid medal she was given by Puskas who she met wandering around Shelton.

However I did go to the Matthews testimonial match in April 65 and, unlike Tony Blair, saw “Wor” Jackie Milburn play in the veterans game before the International XI v Matthews XI main feature. Milburn patted his midriff when he was unable to reach a ball much to the amusement of the crowd.. For some strange reason I also remember the Dagenham Girl's Pipers as well.

When the “galloping major” Puskas died a few years ago the sports writer for the Guardian named him as the 5 greatest footballers in the last 50 years along with Pele, Best, Cruyff and Maradona. I was lucky as I saw 3 of the five, not Maradona or Cruyff , at the Victoria Ground.