From despair to where?

Posted on January 15th, 2018 by

From despair to where?

It’s been a hectic day for forefingers, eh?

Social media both is and isn’t the best place to see supporter reaction. Its immediacy can sometimes mean that supporters type before they think, but it also lends itself seamlessly to a spontaneity that you don’t get from any other form of media. But it can also mean you put yourself in one camp or the other; dangerous territory if you quickly nail your colours to the mast over an issue or decision.

But it’s always a very decent barometer of supporter feeling – from the young lads in block 19, to those of us of a certain age in the Family Stand; and from wind up merchants to members of the national media – although that may well be one and the same thing, eh Robbie?

Twitter has been gold dust all day today: humour, anger, bitterness, surprise, disbelief…..mostly negative emotions in the main, and you can’t blame folk can you, when the news broke this morning? A week of expectation and hopes over certain names and potential targets…..I’m sure that nine days ago Paul Lambert wouldn’t have been the name on many Potters’ lips And I’m sure our new manager would understand that, too.

Disappointment in the magnitude of the appointment has probably heightened due to being linked so heavily linked with managers with a much bigger name and/or pedigree. And that is to be expected. If Stokies were asked two weeks ago whether they’d like us to sack Mark Hughes and replace him with Paul Lambert then I think the vote would have been very split. That we didn’t get that absolute cool as **** lad from Espanyol or the motivational/rollocking Eire duo is no fault of Paul Lambert. At least he wanted the bloody job at Stoke!

January is a graveyard for moving clubs. Rarely do you see top players or managers swap clubs in this month. Clubs are halfway through the season and probably still looking up or down with fear or hope, and you simply don’t see the deals that you do in the summer. That’s why the timing of sacking Mark Hughes was so critical – we limited and narrowed the field massively to those candidates not good enough to be in a job, or those who are doing well enough in a job that their employers wouldn’t let the leave. The field available to us wasn’t as extensive as it could or should have been. That’s why I believe that Hughes should have been relieved of his duties – and sincerely thanked for his work – after walking around a 19/20ths empty bet365 Stadium after the Arsenal game last May.

But we can look into the why’s and wherefores all we want – it does no good. All we can deal with is the here and now, and where we go from here.

As stated above, at least Paul Lambert actually wanted to manage Stoke City. Others didn’t, and they can sod off and rot in their respective roles for all I care. And whilst his managerial pedigree might not be what Stokies wanted or expected from our new manager, all we can do at the magazine is wish him well and sincerely hope he does an amazing job for us.

Support, for me, is unconditional. I supported Stoke just as vociferously under Alan Ball as I did with Lou Macari in charge; and as fervently with Joe Jordan as I did with Tony Pulis. Why? Because I can’t affect in any way, shape or form who our manager is. So, I have two choices – I back whoever is in charge or I don’t. Each and every new Stoke City manager has my backing and always will do.

For me, not supporting Stoke City at full tilt isn’t an option. At the end of the season all I can do is look myself in the supporting mirror and know I’ve backed the lads during matches. And by god, do they need backing until mid-May.

The big word today has been ‘underwhelmed’ and I’d be a liar to say I was any different. But wasn’t that the key emotion and feeling associated when Messrs Pulis and Hughes were first appointed? Whilst both had their faults, between them they got us promoted, to an FA Cup final, into Europe, three consecutive 9th place finishes, League Cup semi final….and so many great memories along the way. Surely that is why we have to give Paul Lambert a fair crack of the whip and our full backing.

Lambert has inherited a mess, and a side plummeting towards relegation. I don’t think he can manage our squad any worse than how it’s been managed this season, I really don’t. All I want him to do is get us organised and get us motivated. As I’ve always said – THAT is what I want from a Stoke team. if he does that I’ll be happy and we’ll have a chance.

I won’t lie: Yes I’m anxious, yes I’m a bit angry, and yes I’m a bit confused – but I am a Stoke City fan, and I will be there on Saturday doing my level best to spur the lads on in a massive, huge game. Yes, we’ll have a moan after a game and in the week, but once that turnstile clicks on Saturday then so does a device in my heart and soul that makes me give unconditional backing to The Potters. And I would love everyone to do the same.

I’ve just watched our 3-0 defeat tonight, and my overriding emotion is pride. Pride in our magnificent support, and pride that our new manager heard his name booming out from the away end. That will think so much of us as a support. That is Stoke City. That is what we do. That is what we must do.

Call me a happy clapper, I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is getting relegated and us losing our status, Stokies losing their jobs and the local economy losing much needed revenue. Surely now is the time we see what we are all about – both on and off the pitch? Making Wembley shake when you’re 5-0 up is easy. But don’t we now need to put our big coats on, tuck our chin(s) in, and walk with a renewed vigour and purpose to the ground, to give our superb vocal support to those in the famous stripes that need it?

I don’t see this as the time for questions or recriminations. I see this as a 15 game season within a season. I see this as one of the biggest four months in the history of our beloved club. And I see our support rising to the challenge, yet again. If we can sing Joe bloody Jordan’s name for 90 minutes as we did in his first game against Leicester then we can do the same for Paul Lambert. He deserves and needs our support, as he is the new manager of Stoke City.

Time will judge Paul Lambert. And we really hope it judges him really well. Come the end of the season, let’s not have national media tossers pointing the judgemental  fingers at our support and blaming us in any way, shape or form. Remember The Bearpit days? How ace were they, eh? Let’s get that back pronto. It would be great to hear full houses roaring the lads on every home game, and whilst we know that some Stokies are hurting right now, we’d love to see it happen.

This article isn’t to give our opinion on how Stokies should support our club. How patronising and up-ourselves would that be? No, we have no right to do that and we won’t ever do that! We understand frustrations and we are frustrated ourselves. After all, we all support in our own different ways. I’m just outlining what I’m going to do and how I will support the club and team. I fully respect anyone who chooses a different path. This isn’t a call to arms. This is just my own Stoke-supporting manifesto.

Stoke City need, want, and should get our support. And when it gets hard, really hard, we remember those two simply beautiful lines from 1972….

Every step along the way

By your side we’ll always stay.

Aren’t we needed at their side folks, right now? Let’s have it Stokies. Let’s ****** have it! It’s our club – let’s show everyone just how much we love it.



Posted on January 11th, 2018 by




The first issue of 2018, and life really does begin at 40, because this issue is an absolute belter.

Inside issue 40:

Case for the defence – Dave Proudlove’s plea, for leniency, towards TP.

Driven to distraction – Orfy’s mint two-pager about our road trip to Liverpool in February 2016. The start of the end?

Crafty – The Beerdman carries on his take on the ale scene. This issue, he spreads his wings and it’s the bustling city of Leeds.

Leadership – It’s about leadership. And it’s written by Duts. Expect it to be ace.

A cry for Alp – Rob Doolan is one of the best football writers around. Here, he takes in a two-game weekend, in vastly different cities.

From the Stoke End to The Waddington Suite – Mike Richardson’s simply lovely piece about absent friends.

Following the oval ball – Rugby Union? In DUCK? When it’s Andy Stanier’s superb piece, then yes!

Jumpers for goalposts – Ant Sutcliffe and his childhood with his mates.

Sensible Stoke – Part Two of a Ben Cotton’s mint history of Stoke City in the virtual world.

Get the message – our editorial on Mark Hughes, and my support for the club.

Catalan Convertor – a look at the Catalonian capital city. Barca in Will Farr’s eyes.

Trainer Spotter – we look at the adidas Gazelle, one of the three stripe’s most iconic and seminal sneakers.

……and loads more besides!


Emotion in motion

Posted on January 6th, 2018 by

Emotion in motion

It’s pretty hard to write this without starting it exactly in the same vein as the piece I wrote on New Years Day about football in general, SCFC, and our manager……so, I won’t bother – I’ll start it exactly the same as I did five days ago!

It was a sunny mid-May tea time, and we’d just dismantled Liverpool 6 (SIX)-1 on the last day of the 2014/2015 season. As usual, I was selling the last few of the magazine whilst my youngest lad was getting autographs, a good hour after the final whistle. It was a surreal afternoon, and a surreal atmosphere. All I’d known since a young, young age was losing heavily to the red half of Merseyside and having my nose rubbed in it by the socially bankrupt youth of Stoke-on-Trent in the school playground the following week.

The original gloryhunters, the playground wasn’t full of Man United fans back then, but faux-Reds, resplendent in their shiny 70’s and 80’s liver bird tops.

I’ve always hated Crown Paints ever since.

So, here was my moment. We didn’t just hammer Liverpool in Steve Gerrard’s last match that day – we sent a message out to football: We were a player or two off seriously having a go at the top 6 or 7. We saw Bojan hobbling around pitch at the end of the game, and thought to ourselves “put that lad into this team and we are in serious danger of bloody winning something soon!!!”. The lap of honour at the end saw Stokies to a person staying behind and giving the squad and manager a humbling reception. A corner of ST4 owned football that day, if only for two hours or so. Only Peterborough away and Bolton at Wembley came close to how I personally felt that day.

So, I waited. Well, we waited. And waited……

Me, my kids, my mate Brad, and his daughter. Long after all the players had gone. Long after the media had gone. They came out, and I had to speak to them. It was akin to when I used to take the kids down to the training ground in the school hols in our first years in the Premier League, “good things come to those who wait” I’d say to my two eldest, and then he’d appear – Ricardo Fuller, and hour after every player had left Clayton Wood. We’d always have Ric to ourselves so could have a quick chat and as many pics taken and things signed as we wanted. And it was the same with Mark Hughes.

Hughes and his two lieutenants came out….

“Mark, can I just say thank you. Thank you for possibly the best performance I’ve ever seen from a Stoke team, and thank you on behalf of every kid from Stoke who used to get the p*** taken out of them at work or at school. Today means so much to us”.

He was a tough nut on a football pitch was Sparky, but he seemed genuinely surprised and moved by the emotion me and Brad showed that day as we both thanked him. He thanked us for our support, shook our hands, and wished us a great summer. We drove off the car park but would have gladly crawled the six miles home that day.

The key word in the above paragraph is EMOTION. It’s what football is all about and it’s what Mark Hughes was all about when he strode the turf, warrior-like for Manchester United. We hated him back then. He was everything we detested about Manchester United as teenagers. Cocky, classy, tough, and win at all costs – the ultimate passionate s***house, full of emotion and will-to-win.

A press conference or an interview last week, I forget which it was, saw our manager say something along the lines of there’s too much emotion about at the moment when it comes to views on him and Stoke City. That was it for me. Never, ever should emotion be a negative in football. Ever! At times, it’s all that we have as Stokies and football fans in general, have – daft, unremitting hope, and emotion. Because take emotion out of football and it’s not football. What it is, is what those clueless tools on the playground will never, ever know or show: supporting your football club is a bond, an attachment based on total love and belonging. We don’t ask for trophies. We don’t even ask for wins. We just ask for hope and for us to be in a world, well away from the 9-5 grind. We want a world of emotions. Football is just that.

They’re often stupid, totally fact-free emotions mind you, based on blind loyalty and little else. But they’re the greatest kind of emotions. Because for every 500 times they break your heart, you get a Liverpool 6-1, a Bolton 5-0, a Paul Ware free kick at London Road, a Sidibe scrambled winner against Villa…….

So, when Sparky wanted emotion removing from the current scenario he went all a bit Holden Lane Primary School 1978 on me. He made it personal. He was basically rejecting that stupid-yet-100%-honest and cringey, blubbering homage I’d paid to him after what I’d witnessed from his team in the 6 (SIX)-1.

Tonight isn’t a night for saying where it went wrong. Tonight, for me, certainly isn’t a night for celebration or rejoicing.

A manager who did so many great things for our football club has ben sacked. And a man has lost his job. What he earns means little to me, I’m a nice bloke and don’t like to see folk upset!

Hughes’ first two years in charge must mean that he is one of the very best managers in my lifetime of supporting Stoke City. Granted, it’s not got the entry field of a Grand National, but he turned a support that had big reservations at his appointment into one immensely grateful that Mr Coates employed him. His last two years are something for another article, another day.

Tonight, I want to thank Mark Hughes.

Yes, of course it was the right decision to let him go and many, many feel he has been unbelievably lucky to have lasted this long. But whenever we lose a manager is a sad occasion. It means we aren’t doing very well, and it’s a period of massive uncertainty. And we simply cannot overlook the impact he made when came into our club. The likes of Robbie Savage may just want to look at Hughes’ first two years – and that’s their prerogative. But the bigger picture has been clear to see for a long time, and this has been coming for some time. But we have to give credit where it is due, and I just wish it hadn’t come to the likes of banners and mass shouts of “Hughes out!”.

I feel old. Perhaps I’m getting to the end of my days watching football in the Premier League and seeing what my beloved ‘working man’s ballet’ has become? Seeking contact in the box, having a ‘right’ to go down when there’s minimal contact, VAR systems, fourth officials who simply get bellowed at, hundreds of instant replays putting incredible pressure on officials, SKY Sports News, social media replacing the pub after the game…….the list goes on. I quite like that we still have a chairman who is loyal in a drive-thru world, but I also have my views on when the manager should have gone, too.

You see, I’m confused. The only clarity in all of this, is this: As a supporter of Stoke City, it’s my duty to do my bit to help my beloved club stay in this division. Even though this division often leaves me cold. Economically, this city must have a team in the top league of English football.  We’ve walked the walk of 23 long, hard years without top flight football. Tonight, I’m not going to look at the hierarchy, the new manager, or the players – just what can I do, as a humble supporter, to help get my team over the line? Lord knows, they need us. Time to do what we do best, eh?

The ground needs to shake again. Opposition players need to fill their Louis Vuitton pants in the tunnel at 2.55pm again. Emotion is what we do. And we do it so bloody beautifully well. Bring it on.




Geordie Unsure

Posted on January 1st, 2018 by


They say that you should leave it for twenty four hours. To let it sink in and for it to digest. Give yourself the time to be objective and avoid knee-jerk reactions……

But I’ve got work to do tomorrow. Work that takes planning and focus – completely the opposite to what I watched three hours ago in ST4. Sorry, Mark…..

I sat in the car, in the south car park, watching the raindrops trickle down the windscreen at around 5.40pm. ”In fairness, they’re moving slightly faster than our two centre halves today”, I thought to myself as fellow disgruntled Stokies were sat alongside us in the , monotonous queue to get away, get home, and get moody with loved ones when they ask us “how have Stoke gone on today?”.

Praise and Grumble was on, and it won’t be a surprise that the latter easily beat the former. As easy as most teams seem to take three points off our team, to be honest. But one statement stuck with me, from one excellent caller….

I agreed with everything he said apart from at the end of his call he stated that “football is an entertainment business”.

I wholeheartedly disagreed. And if you are that bloke, reading this, then I apologise for disagreeing, but please read on. Plus, I thought your call was ace, mate!

Watching my football club has never been about entertainment. If it was, then I’d be watching another club, or indeed, another sport. No, we don’t choose to be Stokies: Stoke chooses us. And we then strap in and buckle up for a lifetime ride of pain, pleasure, heartache, joy, despair, fear, loathing – and any other of Snow White’s mates.

No, I watch Stoke City for hope, emotion, and belonging. Entertainment never, ever really comes into it for me. If Stoke win, then I’ve been entertained. If Stoke win and played entertaining stuff….then ace. Those days are to be cherished. But I had a more entraining day watching us lose 1-0 at Fulham back in 2009 than beat the same team 4-0 at home a few years later. Because I’ve always seen football as not just about the ninety minutes. Thank God!

Apart from family, nothing comes close to football in how it shapes my life. I don’t buy my season ticket thinking “they’d better entertain me and my kids for the £600 I’ve spent”. If Stoke win, I’m entertained. If I’ve had a great day out with mates, my kids etc…I’m entertained, even if we’ve lost.

Those of my age have seen far, far worse from Stoke City. But those not my age can’t be judged about their opinions on Stoke’s current plight just because they weren’t ‘fortunate’ enough to have been born early enough to watch Swindon put six past us, or to fall down the grass bank at Wigan watching Alan Ball’s team go through the motions. They say it as it is, and rightly so. Thing is, the football supporting goalposts have changed now…..

1992 wasn’t just the year we won the Autoglass Trophy. It was the year that football supporting changed forever. It was the year that conceived entitlement and smacked-arsesness, and a plethora of bedwetters who use rulers on TV screens to see if a lad’s left patella is offside. The working man’s ballet that has now morphed into a sport that applauds ‘seeking contact in the box’ and ‘being entitled to go down’ under a challenge. It’s all a bit shit really, isn’t it?

The money sloshing around in football since 1992 has turned it into a new sport. A better one? You know my opinion on that, but I can’t change the world, nor football. It is what it is.

Back to The Potters – What I want to see off any Stoke City team – no matter the division we’re in, the price of the players etc – is a plan, a set-up, a focus, a desire, and an effort that gives me hope. Performances that stir my emotions. I don’t expect entertaining football. I want to see Stoke City do their very best. To see Stoke City give themselves the very best chance of reaching its potential in every game. Entertainment is an added bonus, not the raison d’etre.

We apparently play in ‘The Best League In The World’. A league that has transfer totalisers every six months allowing clueless, grinning whoppers the opportunity to twice-yearly gurn orgasmically as totally crap players get transferred (for around £18 million!). They sell us this 24/7, despite us having the context of being at games like today’s and watching with our own eyes multi-millionaires struggle to control or pass a ball. Entertainment – pmsl!

And then they get the stats out: pass completion, heat maps etc – to try to tell you a crap game you’ve just watched wasn’t crap. It’s simply one huge patronisation exercise, but it really is the place to be. Because if we aren’t in the Premier League come August, then we will see local people lose their jobs and the local economy take a massive hit.

And that’s before we get on to the football bit of it…….

Let’s get it right, that game today was hardly First Division standard, was it? Yet, Newcastle fans, quite rightly, would see it as entertaining. Winning is entertaining. And if we go down, I’d wager we would not finish in the top half of The Championship with this squad. As I type this, Coventry City are 5/1 to win on Saturday. Not one Stokie I know thinks it will be a shock if we lose at The Ricoh in five day’s time, not one.

Entertainment? No! I want a Stoke team who will give their all for every minute between now and mid-May. Silky, attacking football? No! I want us to shithouse our way to wins and park the bus to scrape points. And I want a manager who will get a team organised to do so. The current one has displayed time and again over a number of months that he now cannot do it.

I watch Stoke City as they represent me and my city on that beautiful couple of green ST4 acres. And whilst I personally will never love the league we are in, it kind of is the only place to be. We need to stay in it. We have to stay in it. It took us over two decades to get back in it, and we have been sleepwalking our way out of it for almost two years now.

Today was simply shambolic in so many ways. But it’s the latest in a long, long shambolic list. The likes of various national media bods like Robbie Savage will never know what we know, as they don’t ever see what we see. You see, Stoke City are nowt to him, but everything to us. I go crazy when I hear him and his mate ask “just what do Stoke fans want, what do they think they can do?”. Patronising crap, so beautifully put in it’s place twenty months ago by Leicester City, a club he ironically played for.

I’ve been on local and national media in recent weeks, praying for the manager to turn it around. he hasn’t and indeed, it’s getting worse. The stats are damning – and even more pertinent, performances are even more so. Of the games we’ve won, only Swansea and possible Watford were merited. Team selections, tactics, set-ups are seemingly done at the behest of whichever way the wind is blowing as it scatters the Match Attax cards across the manager’s desk at Clayton Wood. It’s desperate stuff. And it got beyond desperation as we lost yet another six-pointer to a very poor team who were simply better organised, hungrier and pacier than us.

Football is nothing without hope. Mine has been all but sucked out of my soul for this season now. Football is nothing without emotion, yet all I feel is bitterness and anger. And football is nothing without belonging.  That is what will never leave me, as it’s mine and our club. Those three in themselves are what entertain me, and always will do. Football isn’t a product, it’s not a consumerable. For something that relies on points, tables, and statistics – football supporting is ALL about feelings and emotions. Yes, entertainment is one of those – but it will never be the sole reason for watching my football club, for me. And in the state we are now, it’s the very last thing on my supporting mind.

Happy New Year.



Posted on December 20th, 2017 by


It’s a grey Thursday in April, and I’m sat in the foyer of Holiday Inn, by junction 15 of the M6.

It’s late morning, and the hotel reception and café is full of business types running around: all contrasting-coloured pointed shoes and slicked back hair. They don’t stop to see they’re in the presence of true greatness. They don’t see that the greatest goalkeeper to ever walk this planet has just entered.

Gordon Banks OBE is a true great, a true legend. In an age where these terms are thrown around like confetti, where this man is concerned – believe the hype.

I count myself blessed to have spent around ninety minutes with the great man, who looked in great nick and was on great form……


The humbling moment when you meet a true gentleman, and true greatness.


Tell us a bit about yourself growing up Gordon. What kind of kid were you?

I didn’t like school. I wasn’t brilliant at school at all. I just looked forward to playtime and kicking a ball about to be honest. I left school at 15, and my first job was a local coal round. I was the youngest of four sons and we all had to get a job as soon we left school in those days.

The wagon would come to the sidings full of coal, and we’d be in a lorry and we’d shovel the coal into a bag on the wagon. The bags would be stacked on the lorry and we’d take them to houses and put the bags into house cellars. We got paid next to nothing but we had to bring money into our house.

So how did you got spotted?

I played for my school team and for the Sheffield boys team. My brother, David, got me a job on his building site as an apprentice bricklayer. I was digging ditches, mixing concrete…..crikey!!!!!!

Then, when I was about 17 – I work until Saturday lunchtime to get some overtime. I’d then run home, get washed and changed, and get the bus or tram into town. I’m a Sheffield lad, and used to go watch United and Wednesday when they were at home. It didn’t matter which one, I just loved the sound of the crowd, and all the sights, sounds and smells of a game.

This particular Saturday I missed the bus, and so went to watch my local team on the rec. I was leaning on the fence and one bloke came over to me and said to me “Didn’t you used to play in goal as our goalie has not turned up?”.

So, I rushed home, got my boots and stuff……after game they asked me to play regularly for them.

Walking off the pitch one game, a bloke came over to me and said he was from Chesterfield FC, and they likes me to play for their youth team until the end of season and assess me then. So I did that, and they signed me on as a semi-professional at the end of the season. I was still work on building sites but I trained Tuesday and Thursday nights. It was all so different in those days…….there were only two televisions in our street as folk couldn’t afford them, so kids were all out playing football as there was nothing else to do back then. You rarely see that nowadays.

Why were you a goalkeeper?

Well, when we played five a side no one wanted to be a goalkeeper. So, we took it in turns. I went in one day, and I’m diving about and making saves, and I’m thinking “This is quite exciting”, so I started playing in goal a little bit more.

Ever think you’d have the career you had when at Chesterfield?

Crikey, oh no, no. I played six games at Chesterfield, which I enjoyed, but I never thought I’d have the career I did. I did my national service when I was 18 and afterwards they signed me on as a professional.

You moved to Leicester and were superb for them – then you, you moved to us. Tell us about the transfer……

I’d been playing really well, and despite losing a few times at Wembley, I felt I was at the top of my game. A very young Peter Shilton was coming through the ranks and was highly rated, quite rightly, by them. There weren’t goalkeeping coacjhs back then and so I’d take quite a bit of the coaching duties. Peter looked a really good goalkeeper, no question about that, but stated he wanted first team football. At first, I took no notice, as he was only young and starting his career. But I was playing for England, as well as in a number of finals – including the World Cup Final, and it was a real jolt out the blue when Leicester’s manager at the time came over to me one day and said “Gordon, what would you think about leaving?”.

It was then that I knew – I had to leave. I said “if that’s all you think about me, then yes, I’ll go”.

You had plenty of interest from other clubs – why choose Stoke?

I couldn’t have picked a better club. I was delighted to come to Stoke. Waddo was so charismatic – he really sold the club to me. I knew the fans were great from playing in front of them, but everyone at the club was great, from directors, to fans, to the manager…….different class.

Waddo had a great knack of putting experienced players with younger players. He’d give kids a chance, but he also brought in some great experienced players, too. We had a great blend of youth and experience, and I could see it was a club going places.

What was it like having the (in)famous homegrown back four in front of you? Bloor, Smith, Pejic, Marsh: What a defence that was! They all did their jobs superbly. Hopefully, if you ask them, they will tell you I helped them to play well, too. Modern goalkeepers don’t seem to communicate with their back four. Jack Butland does it, but I’d always be shouting at the lads in front of me if players were unmarked or to make them more aware.

The social side of playing at Stoke…… know have ex-players meeting on a weekly basis. It’s brilliant to see….

Yeah, you had the likes of my great mate George Eastham living in Sneyd Green (yes, behind The Sneyd Arms, near us – ed) no disrespect to the area, as I love it, but can you imagine Premier League players doing that now! I love the walks, lunches and meet ups that ex-Stoke players have every week. It kind of sums up the football club and the area – amazingly friendly, and loyal.

We loved socialising together. We played and trained hard, but we loved life. Is there another club in this country that does this? I don’t know, but I do know that our friendship and camaraderie is lovely. It would be nice to think the players of this age would be doing the same in twenty years’ time, but I doubt it.


Would you swap your memories for the money around in the Premier League as a player in 2017?

No, not a chance. Never. Absolutely no way. It’s a different game now anyway, and one I don’t like anywhere near as much as when I played.

And how about being a goalkeeper in 2017? No way, ha ha! Not with how much those balls swerve!

So, would you have made the save from Pele with a modern ball, Gordon? Oh, and the answer is ‘yes’ by the way……

Ha, ha. I’d do my best! You’ve seen Asmir Begovic score with those new footballs – crikey, I struggled to get those old heavy balls out of my own ar!

Who was your best mate at Stoke…..

George Eastham. Yeah, we’re big mates, still are…..he’s now living in Cape Town.

Your finest saves…….everyone knows about the save from Pele’s header. What are your choices?

Obviously, everyone talks about the Pele save, but there’s two that stick out. The first one is the save after Mickey Bernard’s backpass in the League Cup Final– as it helped us win the cup, that makes it a really special one. And then there’s the one from Geoff Hurst’s penalty in the semi final…….

Geoff says that my save from his penalty was better than the save off Pele. I just remember his run up…… was massive. He rarely missed penalties, he was a great striker of a ball. He started from outside the area and when he started his run up, I knew he was going to put it to my right if anything as from his body position I knew he couldn’t rotate and put it to my left. He just absolutely walloped it, just right of centre. I looked up, and I’d pushed it over the bar. Then all I knew I was screaming at our players to stop jumping on me and start marking their players for the corner! I was pushing them off me!

Which leads us nicely to the club’s finest ever day: did it fly by or do you remember lots about it?

I remember most of it. I’d played at Wembley lots of times before and in cup finals. But I knew how important the day was – the chance to help Stoke City win their first ever trophy. So, I was having a joke on the bus and trying to get our players to relax.

It was a huge thrill and honour for me: walking down that tunnel with those players, and seeing and hearing those Stoke fans… unbelievable feeling. We were massively the underdogs, with Chelsea being the firm favourites. It was such a thrill. What a day it was!

What did you do after the game? I remember on the Thursday night before the final we went to see Trent and Hatch – the players had a few beers that night, too!

We had a ‘do’ at the hotel in London with our wives there after winning the cup. It was The Russell Hotel, I think. The menu had things like “Soup of Bloor” and the like on. All the courses were named after the players. At least we had a ‘do’ that night – the FA put nothing on for us after we won the World Cup! Can you believe that?

Talking about England – how big a thrill was it to play for your country? The ultimate accolade. Every

Everyone talks about 1966, but did we have a better team in 1970? Possibly, but history states we won it in 1966, so it’s hard to argue that wasn’t our greatest ever team. But we had two great teams back then. Superb players, and we played in some amazing matches. It’s often said by Brazilian players that the day they beat us 1-0 was the day they won the trophy, not the final.

And what about the heartbreak of the West Germany game?

It was amazing. We all ate the same food, drank the same drinks, at the same time, together, every day. And yet I was the one who was violently sick and had absolutely terrible diarrhoea. I couldn’t do anything – the sickness came straight out of me.

There was no way I could have played. No chance at all. I do wonder why it was just me who was that violently sick. I couldn’t believe we’d lost when I was told.

Going back to Stoke, and 1972 (as we love to hear tales about it), and the open top bus………

It was obvious just what winning a trophy meant to Stoke fans that day. Absolutely thousands upon thousands of them lined the streets. I pray we get to see something similar soon. We had a great team then, and we deserved to win more trophies. We were robbed in those FA Cup Semi Finals against Arsenal……

My dad never ever forgot those games, Gordon….

Same here. One thing always rankled me……We never ever played injury time in those games. Yet on that semi final day the huge Hillsborough clock was nearly at ten to! Whilst in the other semi final we had that infamous linesman confusing an ice cream seller for a Stoke player. Twenty yards offside, their lad was!

How come they sold ice cream at football matches?

Ha, ha. They did back then. Programmes, ice creams, the board with Golden Goals…….

It seems to me that your talent and knowledge as the best goalkeeper of all time has been criminally underused by professional clubs and others….

Well, that’s not for me to say. I wanted to stay in the game and help out as much as possible, but that’s probably a question for other people, not me? I did bits and bobs, but I couldn’t seem to find work in the game. I still do the Pools Panel, so I still get to say Stoke will win a game!

Like Stoke 15 Arsenal 0, then? Ha, ha – yes, I’d absolutely love that!

So, come on then, the Pele save, I’ve been dying to relive this with you….

He was a great player, a truly great player. It was the way he headed it, a punched header, so precise. I never stood on my line much, and I was three yards off the line. The pitch was like concrete. The ball bounced all over the place, and I think this is what made it a harder save than it possibly would have been on a lush, grassy pitch.



Talking Pele’s save, with the man who made it. Wow!

We played at midday, over 100 degrees… was sweltering. Balls travelled like missiles when they were hit or headed. When he headed it, it was going to bounce a yard or so inside the post which was going to be hard, and also I needed anticipate how high it would bounce off the pitch. As said before, balls were bouncing far higher than they would over here on our pitches.

(Gordon mimics the save now – unbelievable stuff. Goosebumps everywhere) So, I got the top of my hand to it, and I honestly thought it was a goal, I really did. By now, my body was hitting the hard ground, and the momentum saw my head turn and I glimpsed that the ball had gone over the crossbar and behind the goal. I won’t tell you what I called myself – it did have the word ‘lucky’ in though, ha ha! Bobby Moore then came over and with a big smile on his face said something like “Banksy, try to get a hold of those, for Christ’s sake!”, ha, ha!!

Brazil were the hot favourites that year, but we played just as well as they did that day, created just as many chances as they did, but they grabbed the one goal of the game.

What were your main strengths as a goalie? My positioning was a major one. I only dived when I needed to. I watch some goalkeepers nowadays and they seem to dive for the sake of it, for the cameras.

Your thoughts on Jack Butland, Gordon?

Cracking goalkeeper, and it’s lovely that he said he’s in awe of me even though he’s too young to have ever seen me play. He’s a lovely lad with a great attitude, and he’ll go all the way, make no mistake about that. He’s got it all.

And keepers you rate nowadays in the UK? Jack Butland, without a shadow of a doubt. And one I really like is Kasper Schmeichel. He earns his teams points and I’m amazed another club hasn’t come in for him.

I’ve spoken to Jack about goalkeeping, but it’s not about technical stuff – just talking about keep training hard and keep being positive. Jack will come back from the injury well, I’m sure of that. He does the right things, he has a great attitude, he’s a lovely lad. He’ll be fine!

You have never left this area, like so many of the players that played for us in those great Stoke teams. Why?

We love the people. We love the place. Everything we need is here. My grandkids and great grandkids are big Stokies, and it’s simply a great area to live in. I’m so honoured to be Club President – I have a real pride in Stoke, and have never seen any reason to leave.

Any regrets?

Oh no. To have a career like I’ve had, and the experiences I’ve had – no, no regrets.

What makes Stoke City FC so special? It’s obviously not cups, trophies, glory, or awards. It’s the same as what makes our city great – the people. As the second oldest club in the country we have a trophy cabinet that is hardly the envy of many. But pick an All Time World XI, and we’d probably have numbers 1 and 7 sewn up. That’s some going for a club of our size.

One of those players is (obviously) Gordon Banks.

Banks is a son of Sheffield. But he’s also an honorary Stokie, one of us. To see him using salt cellars and the like to discuss zonal marking was one of the most beautifully surreal moments of my life, as was greeting him by a sign in the hotel saying ‘The Gordon Banks Suite’.

He’s also a man who played 37 games in the North American Soccer League (NASL) for Fort Lauderdale Strikers five years after losing the sight in one eye. That he then helped his team win the league and was named NASL Goalkeeper of the Year shows just what the man is all about.

Gordon Banks is a gentleman and a legend. As we all know, he’s not been particularly well recently, and I’m immensely grateful that he gave up his time to speak to DUCK.

Gordon is backing United Against Dementia campaign ( launched by the Alzheimer’s Society, with three of his World Cup winning team mates now living with the condition. DUCK will be making a donation to this superb charity.



He’s behind you! – Aladdin at The Regent Theatre, Hanley

Posted on December 19th, 2017 by

He’s behind you! Aladdin at The Regent Theatre

If I mention ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘pantomime’, you’d probably think I was talking about Marko Arnautovic and our defence, and Stoke City’s general performance last Saturday, wouldn’t you? It was a match that saw japes and slapstick galore on the bet365 pitch, but ones that left us leaving fuming, not happy.

Yet the day before the West Ham debacle, Jonathan Wilkes and Christian Patterson launched The Regent Theatre’s 2017 panto, Aladdin, and left to cheers and wild applause rather than boos. There were a few tears, but they were kids heartily laughing at the likes of the breaking wind jokes, whilst adults walked into the chilly Potteries’ night air with a knowing smile thanks to a number of perfectly-pitched puns that went well over the heads of their younger companions. Widow Twankey, indeed!

Once again, Messrs Wilkes and Patterson have pulled it off whilst treading the Regent’s boards over the festive period. Once again it’s a Stoke-on-Trent pantomime, and a bit like going to the game – it’s a fiercely parochial ninety minutes or so. And it sums the city’s people up perfectly, too – a population who can laugh at themselves and each other, and one that likes a damn good night out!

Aladdin is just that. It’s full of special effects and stunning backdrops, but as ever, it’s the two main men who are the stars of the show: As Wilkes said to me when I interviewed him last year – “Why get a huge celebrity name in? The pantomime is the people of this city’s pantomime and shouldn’t be hijacked by someone simply pushing their own catchphrase“.  What you get is a wish-granting genie, an evil sorcerer, a lamp-full of laughs, a spectacular 3D sequence which will send audiences flying over Old Peking and beyond on a magical flying carpet ride – and the usual self-effacing Potteries and district jibes. A lot of hard work goes into the panto, but Wilkes and adopted-Stokie Patterson are effortless in their delivery. Besst mates, having a laugh up ‘Anley duck.

The time flies by, yet you get full value for your ding. And you don’t need the likes of me critiquing it, either: just look at the kids’ faces as everyone streams out at the end. They are the real judges.

Yes, that lady in the audience is still 111 years old, and yes, there are plenty of gentle Staffordshire Moorlands put-downs. But a Wilkes and Patterson panto is now as essential a part of a Potteries Christmas as oatcakes on Boxing Day,  moaning at Top of the Pops and the Queen’s Speech, not having enough batteries for that toy, kids crying as they’ve chucked away a gift voucher with the wrapping, hoping that that relative you don’t like isn’t driving and so doesn’t drink your best stuff, forgetting the Wi-Fi password, queuing outside Pandora for hours, watching lads being sick down Trinity Street alleyways on Black Eye Friday….and a 3-0 capitulation against a poor team!


Aladdin is at The Regent Theatre until Sunday 7 January 2018.

Tickets are now on sale and are available in person from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting


Can’t start a fire, can’t start a fire without a………

Posted on December 11th, 2017 by

Can’t start a fire, can’t start a fire without a………

24th May 2015…..

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. Over 25,000 Stokies had just witnessed one of the greatest Stoke City displays of our lifetime. Five-nil up at half-time to the mighty Liverpool in their greatest ever player’s last game. Okay, so that Brendan Rodgers ‘vintage’ wasn’t particularly brilliant, but they were easily good enough to beat us., and for many a Stokie this was payback for all the trouncings that we had witnessed first hand from The Reds.

“Can I just say thank you, lads, for one of the greatest days of my lifetime watching Stoke”.

I was talking to Mark Hughes and Mark Bowen about an hour after the final whistle had blown. Yes, it was a bit cheesy, but it was the truth. We were the talk of football that night. Pictures of Steve Gerrard with a smacked-arse of a face at half and full time set against the backdrop of the scoreboard were everywhere. He fittingly scored on his last performance in a Liverpool shirt, but it was more fitting on the day that Peter Crouch had ensured that we had the last word on such a memorable day that we had bossed.

Fast-forward two and a half years……….

In fairness, two and a half years is a very long time in football. Indeed, if you’re a Crystal Palace manager then it can seem an actual lifetime. And in double fairness, I don’t think anyone could really expect us to massively improve on what we were in May 2015. We had a cracking team, and we had the sight of an injured Bojan grinning ear-to-ear with Messrs N’Zonzi and Arnautovic at the end of that game as the players were thrown scarves, love and plaudits galore as they did the yearly lap of hour. We were ready to be a force in English football.

Fast-forward again……this time to our last lap of honour, against Arsenal in May 2017……..

We’ve gone from a team on the edge of Europe and great things to one of the edge of relegation, and one that receives absolute beatings on a regular basis. We’ve gone from a team just one or two players away from possible silverware to one that if you take Messrs Butland and Shaqiri out of it would struggle to finish top half of The Championship if that league is, as they say, based on doggedness and sheer bloody mindedness.

Frightening, isn’t it? So, has been 25,000 staying behind to applaud the team on the last day to a couple of thousand.

But let’s forget the manager for a minute – and quite a few are trying to. This is the state of play: Stoke City Football Club simply can’t afford to be relegated. We’ve just spent umpteen million quid on ground developments, and just spent a decade in the Premier League. And never mind as a football club, our city needs a team in the top league, too. Apparently, around 150 Sunderland employees lost their job at the end of the season, and you can add onto that millions lost in sponsorship, TV deals, tickets and merchandise revenue etc – and it would also be worrying times for our Cat 1 academy, too, if we went down.

No, at the heart of all of what’s going on, we do feel that as supporters we have a duty to support the team as we simply can’t go down – and isn’t that what supporters do anyway? Supporting Stoke City isn’t a lifestyle choice. Indeed, it shouldn’t be a choice. No Stokie should ever want us to lose to sate their manager-sacking appetite. Because we have to stay in this league.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, if we go down I’ll still be here – and so will countless others. There are any number of cracking aways in The Championship (albeit more expensive, ticket-wise!) and more local rivalries, too. But I couldn’t see our current squad returning to the top league the following season, I really couldn’t.

So, we need to keep getting behind the stripes. Indeed, we need to do so more than ever. Isn’t it easy to support in the good times? We find out about ourselves in life when we face tough situations. Let’s tuck our chins into our big coats and get belting out our choruses in homage to the lads.

“Happy clapping, *******!”, I hear you say. Far from it. Please read on……

No-one is happy with what’s happening on the pitch at Stoke at the minute. Indeed, you can trace it back over the long rather than short term. And once again, Liverpool feature.

We knew that all that Stokealona garbage wouldn’t last. Massively cringey. But Christ, it was bloody good whilst it did! We were always going to get figured out, and Liverpool did it by pressing our back four in the League Cup semi final first leg at our place. But before that night we’d gone to The Hawthorns with it seemingly obvious what kind of game it would be and which of our players seemed to need a rest. We ran into a Tony Pulis ‘masterclass’ and we started the new year on a negative. A few days later we met Liverpool, and our false nine blueprint was in tatters. After ten minutes it was obvious we had to change the personnel and shape, but we didn’t. Indeed, we were lucky to get a 0-1 if truth be told.

Saying that, we were bloody unlucky to not go through to the Final after a superb showing at Anfield in the return leg. Indeed, we were the width of a post from doing so. The sight of a distraught Muni on the pitch being consoled and serenaded by 5000 Stokies was one I won’t forget in a hurry, and that night hit us and the squad hard.

But was there any need to almost totally go against what we had built up over Sparky’s first two seasons in charge almost overnight?

As a support we were flattened by that night at Anfield. It knocked us for six, so heaven knows what it did to the lads in the stripes. Those final few months of the season were understandably solemn ones. Wounds were licked but we unbelievably limped to 9th place, as we leaked at least 3 goals in a game five times after that Anfield penalty shoot-out heartache. A portent of things to come.

That’s when we needed to stick to our guns and go again.

What we got was a start to the following season that saw us win not one of our first seven games, finally getting three points against the relegation fodder that was Sunderland, and being kept off the bottom three by Derby’s reserve team keeper. The writing on the wall from the previous Spring was now more prominent. It’s now written in IMPACT font, in block capitals, in marker pen, and fills the page.

I’m not one for data and stats. I tend to rely on my own eyes, common sense and experience of watching and playing football for my context. But have a look at some of the info below. Most are based on defensive stats – because isn’t that the first port of call when things are going badly?

  • 0-3; 0-3; 0-3; 1-4; 0-4; 0-4; 1-4;0-4; 0-4; 1-3; 1-4; 2-4; 0-4; 1-4; 0-4; 2-7; 0-3; 1-5…….
  • Since that first leg against Liverpool we’ve let three goals or more in on 18 occasions. Or half a season’s worth of games. That’s simply dreadful. Even JLS haven’t got a record that crap! And by regularly getting hammered you can’t help but call into question the work we do defensively on the training ground, and how we set up for matches.
  • At present we have the worst defensive record in the Premier League – and that’s after signing two centre halves for around £25 million this summer. For Stoke City, that’s big money.
  • Three at the back and zonal marking. Seriously, don’t get me started on either. Please don’t. We continue with both despite the facts and figures above, and despite not having one player who is a genuine wing back, too. The one game we’ve looked half-solid in during recent weeks and win, we then go back to a back three at Spurs and get tattered a week later. Wow!
  • In the calendar year of 2017 we’ve won just 9 out of 37, and let in 63 goals whilst scoring 37.
  • Remember when we all made fun of Tony Pulis’ ‘Bonus games’? Well, against the top six teams we’ve let in 54 goals in our last 18 games. White flag, anyone?
  • And how about this…….we’ve let in 35 goals so far this season. That’s the most we’ve let in at the same stage of the season since 1984/85. And didn’t that year go swimmingly?
  • We’ve spent massive fees (for us) on Messrs Imbula and Berahino, both of whom seem/are surplus to requirements.
  • Losing to Championship reserve teams in the cups. Indeed, getting outplayed by them in the process.
  • Loanees: do we really think Bojan, Imbula and Muniesa would produce less than what we’ve seen from quite a few this season? Indeed, Muniesa is tailor made for the left side of a back three and yet we replace him with a player who only really got close to Spurs players when he was hugging them at the end of the game?

There are a number of other criticisms that can be levelled at the management, too, but my fingers are hurting. As is my head and heart.

Hughes out? That’s not for me to say. I have my own views, but I’m mindful as co-editor of a magazine that my view may not be that of others. I don’t represent anyone else and respect everyone’s opinion. I can categorically say though that I want the current malaise turning around. I have severe doubts that the current manager can do that, but I hope he does, and I still feel that the powers that be will give him some more time. I also hate it, and my stomach churns, when a manager’s head is called for. It means we’re doing badly. That’s never good.

I’m all for loyalty, and I detest the drive-thru mentality of modern football, but I also realise that at most other clubs the bullet would have been fired long before now. Some say it’s a gamble to get rid mid-season, but when does it become a bigger gamble to stick with the hand you’ve got?

All I want is for a manager to right obvious wrongs. The figures show that this hasn’t been addressed, has it?

All I want is for a manager to make the best of what he has available. Again, should a squad with several Champions League winners and many internationals be so beige and rudderless?

All I want is for Stoke City to have an identity on the pitch, and to show it matters. I expect the odd hammering – it’s an unforgiving league. But 18 in just over two seasons, and players coming out and questioning desire and effort of others?

And the players don’t get away scot-free in all of this. I don’t care if players don’t play for the manager – play for us bloody lot, then! Those 3000+ who spent a good proportion of their wages journeying through dreadful winter weather to watch another capitulation. Give it your best for them lads, and if a really good team beats you 5-1 then we can accept that. Hardly putting a tackle in we can’t, and won’t.

“Be grateful for what you’ve got”, other supporters say about us. Shut up and mind your own bloody business, folks, ta. Our club is nowt to do with you, and you don’t spend your hard-earned following Stoke. I have no interest in the plight of other clubs, absolutely none. Why? Because I don’t support them. I support Stoke City FC. That’s why I’ll be singing my heart out at Turf Moor tomorrow night in sub-zero temperatures along with 1300 or so others.

I want my club and team to be as good as it can be. Three top half finishes showed that it could be done, so why can’t we aspire for 8th place and a cup run? Failing that, just doing our level best is always good enough.

I don’t expect us to win games. I never have, or will. We are Stoke City, after all. I just want us to give it a go and to make the best of what we have. I’ve seen countless average-to-useless managers and the off cracking one. I’ve seen relegations, promotions, and countless false dawns. I’ve never shouted for a manager’s head purely because it’s nowt I can ever control – and I also hate anyone losing their job, I really do. But gone are the days when I want my club and city to settle for average or satisfactory. Our last ten years and recent City of Culture bid has shown us that we should be blowing our own trumpets. No-one wants Stoke City to win at Burnley tomorrow more than me. But I’m also a realist and I’m not totally tick, either.

Mark Hughes has given us some great times. That’s only fair and right to say and I am grateful for those days and nights we’ve witnessed. But we’re talking mainly past history here – and unless we find the plot we’ve so evidently and obviously lost, history is what he and we’ll be.


SIX FOOT TWO, EYES OF BLUE – The Denis Smith interview

Posted on December 6th, 2017 by


Five broken legs, four broken noses, a cracked ankle, a broken collar bone, a chipped spine, broken most of his fingers and toes and has needed more than 200 stitches. All in the line of duty. Oh, and don’t forget, a great footballer, too.

Denis Smith. One of us. One of the very best of us. And DUCK spoke to him…..

I was football mad. I played for my school and then represented the City of Stoke-on-Trent team along with Bill Bentley, and we won the National Schools Final at the Victoria Ground in 1963. Quite a few lads from that team made it, but I wasn’t taken on straight away by Stoke. I was offered terms by Spurs and Portsmouth, but I was a Stoke lad and didn’t want to leave the city.

Alan Bloor grew up a few streets away from me, but I didn’t know him too well as he was a few years older than me. ‘Bluto’ and me had a great partnership. I attaked every ball in the air and if they got past me then Bluto would sort them out! We got on really well, and talked a lot during games. Indeed, we often talked centre forwards out of the game!

I was eventually taken on when I was 18 years old at Stoke. My first wage was just £12 a week!

Who were your big mates at Stoke?

I wasn’t really a drinker, and didn’t socialise too much. I always thought I work with and see you lot all week anyway, so if I did go out I went out with mates who weren’t at the club.

For away trips I tended to room with Jackie Marsh, and then for some reason always seemed to room with goalkeepers, such as Roger Jones and Shilts.

The biggest day of your career – the League Cup Final?

Definitely. Many say that Wembley passes you by, but not me. I remembered everything, especially the sea of red and white as we came out of the tunnel.

Most folk had us down as underdogs that day, but not us. Indeed, we fully expected to win. We were a really good team , playing well and we played reasonably well on the day. I wasn’t nervous: the big games suited me and the only nerves I had were during Mike Bernard’s back pass! The one surprise was that we didn’t go back to Wembley more often with such a cracking side.

A great story from the final was Jackie Marsh losing his contact lense, which he did regularly. Chelsea had a corner, and I heard Jackie shout, “Oi, Den”. I replied, “What Jackie, I have my man, mark yer own”. He replied, “But Den, I conna bloody see a thing as I’ve lost a contact lense”.

So there he was: the middle of a League Cup final, on his hands and knees in the penalty box, looking for a contact lense!

So Europe, and the mighty Ajax. They wanted to sign you, didn’t they?

Yeah, we drew the first leg at Stoke 1-1. I scored from three yards and Rudi Krol from about thirty three yards. We played brilliantly in Amsterdam: I got a nasty gash on my shin but carried on playing and we should have scored in the last minute. We deserved to win.

Apparently, Ajax wanted to sign me, and so did Manchester United and Leeds United around that time, too, but I loved it at Stoke. That night the players went out on the town in Amsterdam with Brian Clough, but I was feeling so low that I didn’t bother.

When you look around at football in 2014 does it make you wish you played in this era, with all the riches around?

No, not at all. You can’t pick and choose when you play and you simply have to enjoy the period when you are fortunate enough to make a living playing football. I wasn’t badly paid, and if I had gone Ajax I would have made a lot more, but I loved my playing career and it’s not abput making money, it’s about playing football. I was simply delighted to play for the club I loved.

….so I bet you’d love to see a local lad in this current Stoke team? Well, we have Wilko and Shotts in the squad, so that isn’t bad. There’s nothing better than seeing a Stoke lad playing for Stoke, but football has changed and it is a huge step up from youth football to the first team.

You always champion the city of Stoke-on-Trent. How would you improve it? Well, I would make the town of Stoke the city centre. We have the football club, train station and civic centre there. How difficult is it to explain to people from outside the area that Stoke actually isn’t the city centre, but Hanley is? It drives me mad!

There are some beautiful areas in the city, plus some lovely places just outside it. We are very fortunate in that Stoke is so central and is in such a great position in the country. Shouldn’t more be made of that? I have sons living in Oxford and York, and I can get to them in a few hours, have lunch with them, and get back the same day.

Talking of your kids, did you want them to go into football? My two lads have played semi-pro to a good standard. Like I said before, one lives in York and one in Oxford, plus my daughter is down in Cornwall. All are happy, and that’s all that matters to me.

Right, let’s talk injuries. The plethora of broken bones, operations and stitches that you suffered as a player – do they affect you now?

Ha, ha. Yes, I suffer from metal fatigue as I have plates all over my body, from my neck down to my ankles! It’s part of being a professional footballer. I think I had 24 or 25 broken bones and over 200 stitches in my face – they didn’t improve it though! I remember one period, I fractured my ankle and it was put in plaster. I had the plaster on all week until the next game and then it was taken off so that I could play. I’d have an injection, play, and then back on went the plaster.

Once, I had done my back in and we were due to play a huge cup game against Man United. I wasn’t playing, but the missus drove me to the ground to watch. As she dropped me off, I got out of the car and the back clicked back into place! I told Waddo that I was a bit better, did a couple of step ups, played, and scored!

Geoff Hurst famously said that he signed for us as he was fed up of being kicked up in the air by you!

Ha, ha. It’s funny that I was attacked at Upton Park once. I had treated Geoff like a crash barrier all game to be honest, and as I was coming off at the end some woman started whacking me on the head with an umbrella!

Disappointed that you never played for England?

At the time, Roy Mcfarland was a great centre half. He was a good footballer, but I was a lot better on the ball than many people made out.I was just a bit unlucky as I got in squads and got injured. I did my knee in 1975 and was never as quick again. There’s a lot of luck involved in sport.

Many folk will have forgotten the longevity of your managerial career too….almost 1200 games?

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Had some great times, especially at York and Sunderland. The Sunderland people were great; very similar types of people to us Stokies. Very loyal, passionate, and always wanted to talk football. I think they saw that I was the same. I had great times there, but you always will when you are successful and have a great affinity with the fans.

What were your best attributes as a manager?

I’m an honest and straightforward person. There’s never been any hidden agendas with me, and the players always knew where they stood. This might have put off a number of chairman I suppose, but that’s just the way I am.

Some players make good coaches and some make good managers. I think I can spot which will do well and which won’t. I did fall out of love a bit with coaching to be honest, and quickly knew I’d be a manager. I didn’t agree with some of the coaching methods being used at the time: as Waddo used to say, “If you can’t pass and control it, you can’t play”.

Management is a lonely place at times, as many folk think they know better than you do. The best advice I ever had was from Waddo: “Just make sure you sign good players”.

You signed Andy Cole, and he credits you with really kickstarting his career…

Yes, I signed him from Arsenal. It was seen as a gamble, but when I spoke to him he told me that he thought he deserved a chance in the Arsenal first team. Well, if he felt he was good enough to play in the Arsenal team then I felt it wouldn’t be too big a gamble to take him to Bristol City.

Cole wanted to come short and link play, but I told him to simply play on the shoulder of the last man and score goals. He certainly did that, didn’t he?

Who is the best player you have ever worked with? It must be Banksy. He was the best in the world in his position. Outfield players must include Huddy, an amazing player. He was very one-footed but could do nore with one foot than most others could with two. Considering the way he lived he was an incredible athlete.

Best player you’ve played against? George Best. He could go inside or outside you, was strong and quick, and had amazing skill. I just aimed at his chest and hoped for the best, ha, ha.

And the toughest?

Big Joe Royle was always a handful. Also, Frank Worthington was a brave lad, too. I would clatter him, but he’d the try to show you up later. Mick Jones at Leeds was a hard player. They liked a tackle, Leeds. The likes of Bremner, Charlton and Hunter were hard but fair.

Any regrets on your football career?

No, none at all

Not managing Stoke?

No. It was an unbelievably hard decision, but I listened to my wife. She was right. Kate didn’t want it to go wrong as that would hurt me more than anything.


Posted on December 5th, 2017 by


Whilst we adore football and our football club, we hope that we get across to you lovely readers that the mag is about a bit more than simply the ninety minutes on the pitch? Thank the good Lord, eh?

Take the city’s bid to become the UK City of Culture 2021, for example……

Whilst recently we saw a report stating rather brilliantly how much a successful Stoke City FC had done for the local area and local economy, shouldn’t it be on every single Potteries’ agenda to push our beloved city’s bid for cultural success? The city was shortlisted for the title in July, and the final bid was sent off to government on 29th September. Indeed, the bid was launched (literally) via a duck that was shot 20 miles straight up into the atmosphere!

The submission was accompanied by the city’s distinctive bid logo and the SOT duck videoed and photographed against the incredible backdrop of the planet and thin blue line separating earth’s atmosphere from the blackness of space. We did offer to send Orfy instead of the duck (as he does look a little alien-like), but the powers-that-be weren’t having it!

The bid for UK City of Culture status isn’t something that just happened by chance. Nor did the final submission come down to the work of one person. This is a city-wide submission, and is the culmination of months and months of hard work. It has been driven by Paul Williams – a Scouser by birth, but more than a honorary Stokie in this day-and-age, and a man who loves his football, loves this city, and has an amazing energy for pushing this city forward. I’ve met him a number of times, and you can’t help but be impressed by the bloke.

The bid is for us all. Every single one of us. To see the impact and benefits of actually winning the title, just take a peek up the M6/M62 towards Hull, where we’ve seen the following figures bandied about…..

– 9/10 residents have attended or experienced a cultural event or activity since it claimed the title
– recent months have seen more than 1.4 million visits to cultural events, exhibitions or activities in Hull
– a 14% increase in hotel occupancy.
– at least 450 events, exhibitions and cultural activities taking place during the first season, which attracted over 1.4 million visits
– there’s been a huge, positive feelgood-factor amongst the people in Hull since they won their bid

This is a chance to show everyone what this city is about and it’s a chance to ensure our city – one that has made very positive progress in recent times – is one that reaches its full potential.

Cities aren’t about buildings. They’re all about the people who live in them. We’ll never be a Chester, a Bath, or a York, but there’s no need to be – we’re a Stoke-on-Trent. And we’re a city that has the friendliest, most down-to earth folk in the UK. We should be singing what we have got from the rooftops, and not hiding it under a bushel/kiln, as we always have done. Creatively, the city has boomed in the last few years, with any number of start-ups and people getting off backsides and having a go. This, all on the back of a resurgent pottery industry, means it really is our time.

We are also in a brilliant logistical position, with any number of airports, motorways, and major railway stations within easy reach. We also have a depth of cultural heritage and history – but it’s about time this city started making more history, for future generations of Stokies to wax lyrical about.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or what football team you support. The bid has had the relentless backing of community, resident and art groups; businesses; education establishments etc… well as the support of many partners throughout the region and beyond. And we’re proud that Duck has been on board since day one, too. We see what it can, and will do, for Stoke-on-Trent.

For too long we were the ‘Sick city’; for too long we were the butt of jokes from the ignorant and clueless. But when the likes of TV’s Clare Balding walks the streets of this city and then plasters positivity all over social media (when she had no reason to do so), then as Bob Dylan said, “The times are a changin”.

And every one of us can influence that change in our own small way. Just get behind the bid. Do what you can, when you can. Share information with others – both inside and outside the city; join the thousands who back the bid on social media (just search for sot2021 and don’t forget to use #sot2021). Tell @DCMS on Twitter just why Stoke-on-Trent is ace!

Our city has so much to offer, and winning this would create a massive boost for the entire region, plus it would also give people in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and beyond the chance to share in the culture and heritage of Stoke-on-Trent on a national stage.

Sorry that this isn’t a football-based editorial. In fact, no, we’re not sorry at all! As proud Stokies and editors of this humble magazine we can never influence how our team doe: But we’d love to influence everyone reading this to back the bid. And come decision-day in December, we pray we get the chance as a city to sing……“UK City of Culture, we know what we are/we won it one time!”

To the people responsible for making the decision. we say choose wisely – you have the power to change our city forever. It’s s city that is eager to change; we’re a people that deserve change.


CATALONIAN CONVERTERS – Duck speaks to Muni & Bojan

Posted on December 4th, 2017 by


Bojan Krkić and Marc Muniesa are both fiercely proud of their roots in Catalonia, yet now find themselves plying their trade in ST4 – although both are on loan in La Liga at present. Both made their debuts for the Barca first team as teenagers, both have Champions League winners medals, and both love life in The Potteries. Both are massively popular with Stoke fans, too.

We chatted about their life growing up in Catalunya, attending La Masia and how that differed from other academies, playing for their beloved Barca, injuries, and life at the bet365 Stadium.


BK: I grew up in Linyola. It’s got a small population and my family are from that town. My mother’s from there and it’s my best place, my favourite place. My family still live there, although I don’t have any brothers or sisters. It’s about an hour from Barcelona. I love it there.

MM: I was a quiet boy. It’s great to go back. I really started getting into football when I was about four years old and I eventually signed for Barcelona when I was nine. My father was a professional footballer – I watched a few games, but not many. He played in my position; he was a number 10.

I was born in Barcelona, but on my second day we were in Lloret De Mar. It’s by the sea, a popular seaside resort, and in the summer thousands go there on holiday. I don’t have a sister but I have a younger brother who is nineteen years old – he plays football too, as a hobby with his mates. My parents both work in hotels – different hotels – because Lloret De Mar is a tourist kind of place, and in the summer we get something like 300,000 tourists, so they’re really busy. Mainly from Britain, Germany, Italy…..

As a kid I was polite and I liked to study and play sports. I’m still studying at the minute (Business Management).

(To Bojan) I heard you were a good musician when you were younger?

BK: laughs) Yes, I enjoyed playing the violin when I was young, and I love music. I would like to get back to playing music one day.



BK: I was playing in a tournament in France. It’s an international tournament and there were lots of scouts there. They (Barcelona) saw me and liked me. A lot of teams had scouts there, but I signed for Barcelona, the team I loved. It was a dream.

So I went to La Masia (La Masia de Can Planes, usually shortened to La Masia) the Barcelona training ground at the age of 9. For the first three years I was travelling from home, but when I was 12 I moved there to live there with my grandparents where we lived in a flat. In the morning I’d take a bus to school and spend all morning there.

MM: My father and my grandfather are massive Barcelona supporters and they went to watch games, they had club cards. I used to go to watch Barcelona with them. I started playing football with my father outside, and at five years old I started to play in the village team.

Barcelona came to see another lad playing who was a couple of years older than me. They saw me and they ended up taking both of us to train with them. I would have been eight or nine years old at the time – he was about eleven. I was lucky and he was unlucky I suppose as they kept me but didn’t keep him.



BK: Well, everyone has different ways of coaching kids and what they believe in. I think that Barcelona’s is the best academy because they put your schooling first and after that its football. I like the idea of that. School is very important as it’s everything when you are a youngster growing up.

Barcelona like to have that education philosophy and mentality in their football. But when we trained it was almost always with a ball.

MM: I had a leg injury and had around a year off football, but when I was ten I started playing for Barcleona regularly. I lived at home until I was 16. My mum or dad drove me three days a week to training. Unlike Bojan, I studied at home in Lloret. It was really difficult as every training day I’d end up doing my homework in the car, having dinner in the car…….I’d get back about 11pm, absolutely shattered. At 16, I moved to Barcelona, La Masia.

Yes, everything was with the ball. Everything. I didn’t touch the gym until I was 17/18 years old. Sometimes you hear about kids of 10 or 11 doing gym work or just running. Not at Barcelona – we had the ball all the time and it’s a concept they have there that has done well for them.

When I signed for Barca I was a left winger. When I was 11 I moved back into midfield, and then a year later I was in the defence. A lot of people at Barcelona start in the attack and then they move them around. They like players being used to different positions on the pitch. I was used as a centre back and then also as a left back. I started playing in the Barcelona Under 19’s and played really well. I love Barcelona and I knew other teams were interested at the time but….(shrugs shoulders and laughs), I love Barcelona.



BK: Yes. I knew that something strange had happened straight away and that it wasn’t nice. I was running and my studs stuck in the turf, it was just a complete accident. Things can happen like that as we play football. It was a complete accident. I now feel strong and good.

I felt a lot of emotions at that time. You always have doubts, but for me the key is to think if you have a doubt then you have ten positive thoughts to make up for it on the same day. I looked at the injury as though your leg is just a small part of your body, and I was very positive. Recovery is about your body and mind. It’s hard when you have an injury but that’s football and that’s life. I am a positive person.

So I went back to Catalonia. It was very nice and important for me to go back home to recover. It was hard to move away from the team and the club, but I had to as I felt that it’s so important to get your mind totally right and focussed, without distractions. For that, you have to be around family and friends. The sun also makes a difference too, ha, ha!

It was my idea to put videos of my recovery on social media as we as footballers are important to our fans. But not only when it’s going well and you are in a good way – it’s easy then – but more so when it’s hard. I worked really long hours to get back to good health and get my leg strong, and I even wrote a daily diary, but it was worth it!

I wanted to show my fans that ‘ok, this hard, but I am going to come back stronger and I am doing my very best to do so’. I feel they have the right to see how I am doing and they liked doing so. I’m not at 100% yet but I am working hard towards that goal. It’s was a long time that I was out of football, but I am working so hard to be at my very best. I need games to get that fitness, plus training of course – but I am very happy with how it’s going.

MM: I have done both legs! I had a knee injury when I was 20 (in a pre-season friendly against Hamburg, he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament), and when I came back I was playing with the second team. I was 21 and thought it was time to leave and get regular first team football.

I had already torn my other leg’s ligaments when I was 16, so I have done both legs! The second time I knew I had done it, the first time I didn’t. After the second one, I saw my family suffering and crying; far more than me, so I just had to be strong. It made me stronger, and I wanted to get back to playing again and make them happy again.



BK: I knew Stoke were a Premier League club and had played many years in that league. I knew Stoke City has a lot of history, too. I knew of the reputation they had before I came and some people said to me ‘look at their reputation’ – but I knew Mark Hughes was the manager and I replied to them that if Mark Hughes wanted me then I know he wants to play in a certain style.

Mark Hughes was hugely important in getting me to Stoke. He’s the gaffer and he knew I wanted to play games. He gave me confidence and it was a really good move and I feel really comfortable here.

MM: I had a knee injury when I was 20 (in a pre-season friendly against Hamburg, he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament), and when I came back I was playing with the second team. I was 21 and thought it was time to leave and get regular first team football. I was sad as I love Barcelona, but it was the right thing to do and the right time to go.

I wanted first team football, simple as that, but I hadn’t really thought too much about whom for and what league, to be honest with you. I hadn’t thought too much about the Premier League at all, to be honest. A lot of people said how physical it would be, being a defender in the Premier League. But a defender has to also be intelligent, be good on the ball, and good tactically, too.

I then had the opportunity to come here and to speak to Mark Hughes who wanted to change the style of play, and he convinced me to come. It was a big step, but one I was really glad I made. I had to do more gym work and more running to build myself up physically at first. It is more physical over here, it’s a lot calmer in Spain.

I didn’t know much about the city at all, but I had heard that they played a lot of direct, physical football. I also heard about Rory Delap, too!


No part of this interview is to be used without our permission