THIS MAN’S MAGIC…… THE MARK STEIN INTERVIEW

There are few Stoke City players in my lifetime who have received the absolute love and devotion that Earl Mark Sean Stein rightly got – and still gets. His name still resonates amongst the Potters’ faithful as an absolute Stoke City legend: a player who scored unforgettable winners at Wembley, and against Manchester United and Port Vale amongst his 54 goals for The Potters.

Steino and that team of 92-93 gave me some of the best times of my life. Indeed, I would choose that period over even our Premier League adventure as the time I enjoyed the most supporting Stoke City. It was a time when the city was alight with Stoke-Vale rivalry, the clubbing and nightlife scene in S-O-T was amazing, and workplaces, pubs and bars resonated with the constant chat about Potteries football.

And although Lou Macari was the King, Mark Stein was our Golden One. He didn’t even play a century of games for us, but such was Steino’s huge impact on our football club that many would put him in their all-time Stoke City XI. We know we would.

 

Tell us a bit about the early part of your career at Luton Town

My time at Luton was really enjoyable. In my time there we got to 2 FA Cup semi-finals and won the Littlewoods Cup. Being at Luton gave me a great education and great grounding which meant I could have such a long career.

We had a great manager in David Pleat and great players. If it wasn’t for David Pleat I don’t think I would have had a career in professional football, as he gave me the time to develop. They instilled a great work ethic, to be a winner, to be disciplined and how to be a good, honest human being.

This reminds me so much of my time at Stoke City: great manager and good people throughout the club.

What was it like to be at Kenilworth Road with your brother?

Having my brother at Luton was both an advantage and disadvantage. Brian was really hard on me, but he was like that with himself and everyone around him. He didn’t want anybody to be complacent. To be honest, on reflection this is the best thing that happened to me. He just wanted to show that it takes hard work to get into any first team, but maintaining it was even harder.

How did you come to join Stoke?

I originally joined on a month’s loan from Oxford, which I really enjoyed. I fitted in straight away with the Stoke lads and also hit it off with Bertie Biggins. What I remember was in my first game I had a great chance: John Butler (Butts) put a great cross in and I put my header wide when it was easier to score.

I returned the compliment to Butts when I crossed it later and he scored. I think that was the only goal he ever scored in my time there!

I reckon your partnership with Wayne Biggins is as good as Stoke have had in my 40 years of watching The Potters. What we he like to play with, and also what was he like off the pitch? Plus, any comments on other strikers you played with…..

Bertie Biggins was a top drawer striker. He had loads of great attributes; Great touch, good appreciation of other players around him, a great header of the ball, an eye for goal.

We hit it off straight away and we just gelled. Obviously we had different attributes, but it worked. The best part about it was his unselfishness he wouldn’t think twice about passing if I was in a better position to score and vice-versa. Off the pitch he was the life and soul of the changing room which was ideal. He wasn’t the only one; Stigger (Steve Foley), John Butler (Butts), Cleggy (Nigel Cleghorn), Vince Overson…… I was one of the quieter ones. Great changing room though, great banter!!!!!

As for other strike partners – they all brought something different to the table. Dave Regis wasbig and strong, Graham Shaw a really good footballer and a hometown lad, Paul Barnes a goal scorer and was very unlucky as he scored near enough all the time when he came into the team.

Rotherham away sticks in my mind as one of my favourite awaydays watching Stoke. What are your highlights from our promotion season?

My highlight of that season was of course was beating Port Vale at Vale Park 2-0. A great night with and a bonus for me was scoring. The support that night was unbelievable and I think that sealed our promotion – and doing it at Vale Park! Beating Stockport for obvious reasons, as there was no love lost from previous encounters.

That penalty winner in the 2-1 win at home to the Vale – what do you remember of it?

How could I forget?!?!? It was my first ever derby match and what an atmosphere.

Getting to the ground before the match, the anticipation was unbelievable. Getting the winner from the penalty spot…..I remember Peter Swann asking me how my bottle was when putting the ball on the spot. Answer: STEINO shoots bottom right corner to make it 2-1, and three quarters of the Victoria ground go nuts enough said!!!!!!

And the penalty you missed as we went out of The Autoglass?

I don’t like to dwell on the negative things. Put it this way, I was gutted, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

What was the social side like when you were at Stoke?

Yeah, really good. Maxims on Wednesday nights was rocking and Hanley on some weekends, too.

What do you remember of Nello? Any good stories?

Nello was a great asset to the club. Thinking about it, he actually had a relaxing effect on the players and helped release some of the nerves before games. Yeah, I never got over getting substituted for him at that testimonial game at Villa Park, ha ha! The rest of the stories stay in the changing room!

Give me your thoughts on the following 3 games:

  • 2-1 win v Man United in the League Cup
  • 2-0 win at Vale Park to put us 10 points clear at the top
  • win against Stockport at Wembley

The 2-1 win against Manchester United was the best night at the Victoria Ground by far. The atmosphere that night was electric. To score two goals and win the game against a strong Manchester United team was testament to all the lads that night that we didn’t get overawed by the occasion and the team.

The 2-0 at Vale Park was really important as it did put us 10 points clear and for me we made a massive statement that night that we weren’t going to make the same mistake as the previous season. It was also really satisfying to do it at Vale Park with the bonus of scoring.

Funnily I went to Port Vale’s most famous supporter –  Robbie Williams’ – concert, and met him before the show. It was a great show and that’s the closest I will get to complimenting that side of Stoke-on-Trent, ha, ha.

Winning at Wembley was the least we could have done after the disappointment of losing in the Play-Offs to Stockport. What a great day, having forty thousand Stokies at the home of football – we couldn’t fail. On the day we were far superior to them. Scoring the winning goal at Wembley was really humbling as I followed my big brother’s footsteps him scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in the Littlewoods Cup Final.

Most of all it was for the supporters who had travelled the length and breadth of the country to support us.

After we won promotion we had a great start to life in The Championship with you in great form. Did you know other clubs ie. Chelsea, were interested then?

Obviously, getting into the Championship was a great achievement. Life in that league was another hurdle to overcome and all the lads looked forward to it. We started really well and never felt out of place in the higher division.

I was lucky enough to continue to score goals and there was rumours that Premier League teams were watching. They were only rumours . The important thing for me was that it didn’t distract me, otherwise the lads would have let me know and so would have the gaffer.

Despite Stoke’s Premier League years, many Stokies remember the Macari era as the best time ever – why do you think that’s the case?

The reason why people remember that era was because everyone was together. There were no superstars, everyone mucked in together. The players socialised with the supporters. There were great people working at the club – Winnie (laundry lady); Lace (youth team coach); Bernard (chief scout); Diane (office); Pottsy (secretary;  Lizzie (reception).

And we had a great. Lou wouldn’t complicate the game and would give us a rollocking if we needed geeing up. We were a better team than we got credit for. We had great players Butts (right back) Beest were so underrated; Stigger was a cracking scoring midfield player; Cranny was the bravest man in the world; Cleggy had a wand of a left foot; Warey was our midfield enforcer; Bertie was quality – sorry to anyone else I have left out. And of course, the supporters were a massive part of it!

You scored many goals in the top flight after many years in the lower leagues – what do you think makes the difference between top players and those who don’t quite get to the Premier League standard?

I think the difference between Premier League strikers and lower league ones is being clinical. At the highest level chances are scarce.

What is your favourite memory of Stoke fans – was there one match with an electric atmosphere that stands out for you?

My favourite match at Stoke was the Man United game. As I said before, the atmosphere, the way we played and not being overawed……I wanted to play in the Premier League to test myself against the best players week in week out. I would have loved to try and be a part of trying to get Stoke into the Premier League. That wasn’t to be unfortunately.

At Chelsea, you played in a cup final and broke a Premier League goalscoring record – good times?

Having gone to Chelsea and not scoring straight away, I was always confident I could score goals at the highest level.

I kept working hard and it’s a fine line between success and failure. Breaking the Premier League record was a great achievement/honour for me and holding it for 10 years – eventually being beaten by Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

It was fitting that you featured in our last ever season at the Victoria Ground. Tell us about your return to Stoke…..

Returning to Stoke and the Victoria Ground where I had so many great memories was hard. The fact the club were relocating seemed to me an end of era. I returned to Stoke on loan and really enjoyed it, but with different players it seemed weird. The only thing that was the same were the great supporters, and of course Lou.

11 clubs: 486 matches: 205 goals. You must be proud of that record?

I am very proud of my goal scoring record – something I can speak to my boys about. If any of them play football I will challenge them to beat it. No pressure there, ha ha!

How did you become a physio?

As my career was coming to an end I was always interested in injuries, what with having a few myself and being treated by some really good physios. So I went back to get myself educated at college then at the University of London.

It was the hardest thing I did but I’m glad I did it as it gave me a different skills set of which I am proud of. Since qualifying, I have had 3 physio jobs in football. Starting at Barnet then moving to Crawley and Rotherham.

Tell us a bit about your life now – where do you live, family, interests etc

Presently, I am living in London and work in a secondary school helping special educational needs students to be healthier and also have an awareness of their well-being. I also have two young boys who keep me really busy.

What does the future hold for Mark Stein?

Hopefully keep making a difference in children’s lives, making it better in any way I can. At present I am trying to raise £800 pounds for four Special Educational Needs children to go on a school trip to Wales. Their parents cannot afford it, and they have a tough time, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and give them an experience which hopefully they will not forget.

I also want to attend more Stoke matches with my two sons in the future to get my boys to have first-hand experience of the buzz of the Stoke City supporters roar!

I have never known one Stoke player to be so adored by our support. You were, and are, worshipped. How do you feel about that and have you got a message to the thousands of Stokies who were honoured to watch you play for us?

I am really humbled and honoured to be part of Stoke City’s great history. What makes the club so great is the supporters. I would like to thank them for their support then and how they  appreciated and supported me: that’s what makes them SPECIAL!