From 1pm tomorrow look for our sellers near to the away turnstiles.
Unless the stewards are mard, and then we will be as close to the away turnstiles as possible.
Well done, folks.
Unlike most football fans, I can’t really remember my first Stoke game. My first clear memories of watching us were against Middlesbrough at Vale Park and then having a season ticket in 1977 in the Butler Street Stand. Relegation, inevitably, soon followed.
So, basically, I was introduced to the Potters after a visit to our strange, unfriendly rivals and then being forced to sit in probably the only roofless stand in Britain at that time, and watch us go down……….But am I grateful that my old man grasped my eight year old hand all those years ago and walked me to those turnstiles? What a daft, rhetorical question.
Dad’s are the drummers of families. They do lots of unseen work that needs doing; they rarely get the adoration they deserve; more often than not they’re at the back and unnoticed, often steering the ship in the right direction; they have a quiet, unassuming style all of their own, and rarely let anyone down. And the worst haircut of the group. Probably.
My father was Peter William Bunn. For eighteen months or so now I have had the stomach-churning task of writing or talking about him in a different tense.
Because dad sadly passed away on 24th November 2012, just an hour after watching the club he worshiped, Stoke City, beat Fulham 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium. That he did so at exactly 5.59pm, just as Radio Stoke’s Praise and Grumble was finishing, isn’t just ironic, it’s fate. Talking about Stoke City was one of life’s joys for dad and he loved wobbling his head at, and listening to, the post-match radio phone-in. Because that’s what blokes do best: we are ace at talking about putting the world to rights. That obviously includes going five in midfield when you’re one-down or picking a nice, safe away pub when taking your little lad with you to the game.
It’s also fate, not irony, that dad was aged 72 when he died. It simply couldn’t be any other number for a Stokie, could it? (19)72 being the year we won our only trophy in over 151 years of trying.
Add onto the fact that he went quickly, and relatively painlessly, to sleep on the shoulder of his very best mate, Terry (my uncle, who was driving), and that they were in the car within a Greenhoff volley or Sir Stan mazy dribble of the Victoria Ground, simply makes me smile and actually think that if Carlsberg did ways to pass away……
Perhaps I’m looking for fate when there’s simply none there? But whilst football is never “more than life or death”, it gives me huge comfort that he passed away on such a seamlessly brilliant Stoke City Saturday afternoon.
The analogy with Nigel Gleghorn was given careful thought. Gleghorn played in the early-mid 90’s at Stoke and was a player my father admired – a flashback to players who loved their football. he had a wand of a left foot, and always seemed grateful to be playing the working man’s ballet and to be playing for our club. He also scored a most memorable goal in front of me and my father – no, not our second at Vale Park that sealed a vital derby win or against Plymouth at the Victoria Ground to seal the deal on promotion in 1993.
It involved another Victoria – this time it was Victoria Park, the home of Hartlepool United. It’s one of my favourite awaydays of all time and dad can be vividly, easily seen on the telly on Central Sport a day or two later– to the right of the goal, jumping up and down as the 90th minute corner came in, not in anticipation of Gleghorn’s late winner, but because his bladder was about to explode thanks to his pre-match refreshments, after an unbelievable Usain Bolt-like sprint from coach to public house at 2.25pm!
It had to be in that 92/93 season, didn’t it? So many great memories for Stokies, so many days when me, dad, Terry, Brad, Owen, Andy, Tim and a few others who my still grief-addled mind can’t remember right now, would descend on football grounds the country over, watching Lou Macari’s team.
That day, for some reason, it was just me and dad. The 20th December 1992….a dad and his son celebrating their team’s last minute winner, together, on the road to promotion, stood on an open terrace. Heaven.
No-one was prouder of Stoke City or Stoke-on-Trent than Peter William Bunn. When on holiday he’d nearly always be spotted in a Stoke sweatshirt or t-shirt, it was like a privilege, a badge of honour. He saw it as almost ‘representing’ his city and club in foreign climes. An unofficial Cultural Attache for Sneyd Green.
So many ace times, we had. I vividly remember Wembley in 2000, and after beating Bristol City 2-1, we giddily went back to Harrow-on-the-Hill where our buses were parked.
We went into a huge pub, full of Arsenal fans watching their team’s live game at Leeds. As we flooded into the pub, high on winning a trophy, no matter how small, we were given the usual small-club-northern-idiots jibes from the deluded, self-admiring, self-loving Gunners, looking right down their noses as we entered.
Half an hour later, as the coaches were due to leave on the journey back to The Potteries. Dad had had enough.
“Sorry, but I’m not letting them run Stoke down. Back me up, lads”, he announced.
Then, as the assembled Stokies prepared to depart, and at the tender age of 60, he stood, arms outstretched on a chair, and shushed the pub before leading a huge, proud ‘Delilah’ that finally shut those of an Arsenal persuasion firmly up.
Although his Ashes will be scattered at the Britannia Stadium – and by the way, the club were absolutely brilliant with the logistics of this and his now redundant season ticket – his heart and soul will forever remain with his family, and at the Victoria Ground.
Dad never really took to the Britannia Stadium.
For him, the lack of a proper matchday routine has never really been replaced, even after 15 years at our new stadium. Dad’s routine was drinking in the Gardeners Retreat or Michelin Club, both close to Campbell Road, and a five minute brisk stroll at 2.40pm to the ground: Campbell Road – Nicholls Street – Lime Street. He loved holding court with tales of Sir Stan leaving the ball by the corner flag and his marker also leaving the ball and simply following him, or the time he kept a pub from rioting at closing time as the assembled Stokies wanted to see the FA Cup semi final goals on the telly on their way back from Hillsborough.
I hope the tales he told were true, but if they weren’t, we loved listening to them anyway: How he came back from Ajax, days late, and simply went straight to Stoke’s next game; or how he moved his wedding day to a Sunday to avoid a cricket match; and how he got a lift home on the team bus (and drank ale with the players) after his transport conked out on the way home from Spurs in the 70’s (all of those are definitely true!). He told his tales time and again, but it didn’t matter. Our group loved nursing a pint of ‘Peddy’ and watching the glint in his eye as he told them.
Proper Werther’s Original stuff.
But strangely, what makes him unique is that he’s just like any one of us.
Sounds daft that, yeah, but does anyone who doesn’t follow their football club truly know what it means to belong to something so special? How can they ever replace taking their kid to watch their city’s football club? How do they ever feel what we feel? Can their bond with their father ever be as emotionally watertight as ours is with our fathers who support the stripes?
I don’t really know.
All I do know is that me and my brother probably only now realise what we had and what we’ve lost, and that it would be a dream to be even half the dad he was, to our own kids. The hundreds of Stoke games we watched together and the hundreds of times he watched us, his lads, play football and cricket seem to have decreased in number as advancing years and grey hairs dim the memory. But deep down, we know he was always there, and now we somehow have to get used to the idea that he no longer is.
But isn’t life also about what you leave behind? If so, this proud man that me and my brother were honoured to call ‘dad’ has left something of more value than any lump sum of money ever could – he left us with the same standards as he had, a love of sport and the friendships this brings, and he left us to truly cherish our families. He did so in a beautifully understated manner, too. He never moaned or shouted. Good men don’t have to, do they? He was a true man of the Potteries: a proud Potteries man.
For me, my football club is part of my family – it’s such an integral part of who I am, and it was to dad, too. That’s why, at 12.01am November 25th, – I wanted it to be the day after his death – I posted about my father’s passing on a Stoke forum.
I still don’t know truly why, to be honest, it’s just that dad’s family always seemed to include every single Stoke fan. The 14,000+ views and hundreds of messages meant more than anything to me and my family. Blokes who had been the game with dad in the 50’s onwards contacted us; strangers who knew of dad and had funny stories emailed me; even Port Vale fans set up a thread on their own messageboard, which was a fantastic gesture.
What it means, and this is so clichéd I know, is that those who watch football really are one family. We feel what everyone else feels, we drink from the same pint pot, no matter the strip we wear. Whilst staunchly parochial, we all have a respect and give a knowing doff of the cap to those who go through the good and dreadful times following a football club.
Fenton Bowling Club – watching Stoke win alongside his best mate – three generations of the Bunn’s there at The Brit – going to sleep on his best mate – and 72, that beautiful, beautiful number, 72: It was scripted by the footballing Gods, dad, wasn’t it?
Whilst it turns my stomach to know he’s no longer here, it swells my heart to know that he went on his own terms and how many of us would want to go like that? I can’t believe I won’t see him in his SCFC manager’s coat again, but he’ll always be there, walking with us to the ground come sun, rain, snow, wind or whatever the weather throws at us. A truly wonderful Stokie.
That my dad got to walk down, well, shuffled down as he wasn’t brilliant on his feet for some time, Wembley Way with his family on May 14th, 2011 now means everything to me. That we didn’t win hurts, but it would have hurt more if we’d have won and he wasn’t there!
Because even if we win the FA Cup one glorious day, it will never really mean the same without dad being present: standing still, huge beaming smile, and holding his arms high in the air when we scored, as he always did as utter carnage reigned around him.
Mere memories aren’t enough, they never are. But they have to suffice as he’s not here now. I pray he knew how much he was loved, but being a bloke I rarely said it enough when it was needed and necessary. I hope he could hear me as I stood by him, stroking his hair as he lay motionless, looking serenely at peace with the world, on that dreadful Saturday night at the hospital. “We won dad, we won”, I kept muttering. He knew.
Why am I writing this now? Well, in the space of the last three years we’ve also lost all family possessions in a house fire (also, whilst I was at a Stoke game!) and had other pretty bad times too. Only now, have I really felt true loss as only now have I had the time to reflect and dwell on my life. It’s also the start of a new football season in a few days time: a time when you either think everything is better than it actually is, fear the worst, or in my case, think about those who introduced you to your football team and years of heartache punctured by occasional shards of real beauty and genuine love.
The final words?
They have to be from the most poignant, beautiful and apt football song ever written, don’t they? A song dad actually sung on, back in 72, our League Cup Final song…
“We’ll be with you every step along the way. We’ll be with you, by your side we’ll always stay.”
Love you, dad. God bless.
There are plenty of things we take for granted in this day and age. Fresh drinking water, the air we breathe, the food we eat, equalisers in a Potteries derby… Every weekend we pay our money to watch between eleven and fourteen of our favourite footballers turn out in the red and white and in every squad, we have our favourite players. Ricardo Fuller? Peter Thorne? Peter Hoekstra? Nobody ever says Mamady Sidibe do they? I’m here to look at a few of the players who perhaps deserved more credit for their part at the club over the past 15 years or so (If only I was a bit older so that I could talk about the players from the 70’s and more too! I grew up with stories of Denis Smith, Jimmy Greenhoff & Terry Conroy!)
1. Chris Iwelumo.
Recently Chris got engaged to his playboy bunny girlfriend after proposing in Trentham. Now a Potteries resident, we can easily forget that ‘wumooo’ was not once but twice crowned top goalscorer at Stoke in 2001/02 & 2002/03. I personally remember him for heading a last minute winner at home to Milwall, an equaliser at Vale Park and for a thumping volley that almost broke the net in an FA Cup tie against Wigan. He was a superb goalscorer at League One and Championship level even after leaving Stoke, and if not for injury may well have been a real threat in the Premier League too.
2. James O’Connor
What a guy. Now embarking on a coaching career with the sister club (Louisville City) of Stoke City’s sister club Orlando City, his performance in one game in South Wales in particular will mean he always has a special place in our hearts. Years of trying desperately to get out of Division Two and it was thanks to two goals (arguably anyway) from the ginger wizard himself that Stoke secured a playoff final place at Ninian Park in front of a Cardiff crowd that was urged to stay off the pitch for their play-off final celebrations. Cute!
Of course it wasn’t just that game that James is remembered for and when the club were battling against relegation under Tony Pulis, he was more than happy to run his legs off in the cage too.
3. Mark Crossley.
A bit of an odd one considering he only ever made 12 appearances for Stoke, but having been shipped out on loan to Stoke once, he was brought back to Stoke by Tony Pulis to provide competition for Steve Banks as Stoke began a late surge for survival, and with Crossley in goal for the final eleven games of the season, he kept a whopping seven clean sheets against the odds, making a number of excellent saves that secured survival, particularly in fixtures against Rotherham, Reading, Wimbledon and Ipswich. Who knows where we would be now without his acrobatics?
4. Gerry Taggart.
Hard as nails, no nonsense and one of the most Tony Pulis-esque defenders you’re ever likely to meet. Whether you loved him for his defensive ability or the way he schooled Dennis Wise in a game against Milwall, you can’t argue with the facts that show Stoke picked up seven wins and a draw in his first spell at the club, including an unlikely win on his debut against West Ham where he showed the Premiership class. Gerry, Gerry, Gerry!
5. Mamady Sidibe.
Whilst now he and wife Bineta may serve delicious macarons to the people of the Potteries, ‘Big Mama’ was once the selfless forward providing for the talismanic Ricardo Fuller. A double against Bristol City in our promotion season was something special, but perhaps greater still was his Premier League home debut against Aston Villa where his memorable header from a Rory Delap long throw is one of THE images of our debut Premier League season. And what an amazing guy he is to boot.
Of course there are plenty more unsung heroes that I’ve failed to mention. People like Ade Akinbiyi whose header on the last day of the season guaranteed safety, Wayne Thomas who will probably be remembered for running the length of Highbury after scoring in an FA Cup tie at Arsenal and of course Souleymane Oulare who, without even realising, scored one of the most vital goals in the clubs history when his backside made contact with a James O’Connor free kick at Ninian Park.
I encourage you to bask in these glorious memories with a cup of tea and YouTube where you can probably find the clips to take you back. A personal favourite of mine is the video of the play-off semi-final at Cardiff; it all could have been so different!
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Stoke tore into their opponents from the off, and Bojan had the Spurs back line IN TRANCE, as he sprinted from the halfway line and hit a fantastic (LOVE) DRIVE into the bottom corner. 1-0 Stoke, and it was all The Potters in a rampant first half that left those of a Spurs persuasion at the ground wishing they’d taken their kids to THE ZOO.
Walters was in absolute DYNAMITE form on the right, and gave Danny Rose a torrid time. Fair play to Rose, realising that NO ONE LIKE(s) YOU, and still putting on a display that will surely get him into the England back four, so comical it was. Walters eventually escaped the home back line to put the Potters deservedly two-nil up as the Stokies in the away end knew that later on it was going to turn into one of those BIG CITY NIGHTS.
CATCH YOUR TRAIN might as well have been sound advice for those Spurs fans still in their seats as their outplayed heroes trooped off at half time. But Stoke being Stoke, we knew that a WIND OF CHANGE was forthcoming, but with Moses and Diouf’s pace on the break you could clearly see Lloris shouting instructions of SPEEDY’S COMING! to his defence with Stoke looking just as likely to score the next goal as their hosts.
Rose, certainly TOP OF THE BILL in the mard stakes last year at The Britannia, crossed for Chadli to score Spur’s consolation, but the home side ended with 10 men as Naughton didn’t go OVER THE TOP but did bring Victor Moses down as the winger bore down on the home goal late on.
It was all too little too late for Tottenham, who had no STING IN THE TAIL and it really was SAVAGE AMUSEMENT to listen to the home crowd’s booing at the final whistle as Pochettino longed for the NIGHT LIGHTS of St Mary’s.