My memories of…..Stoke City

stoke awayAs we look forward to the weekend and the enticing prospect of only the second away win of the season I look back to a few previous games against the Potters. Including the most pointless match ever played and one in 1977, what was at the time, quite a pivotal month for Everton.

Friday 7th May 1971 and Everton head down to London for… the FA Cup 3rd / 4th place play off. Someone from the forward thinking, innovative FA had this bright idea to reward the losing cup semi-finalists with their own trip to London. The game Everton really didn’t need was against Stoke City at the enticing venue of Selhurst Park on the eve of the Cup Final. Just over 5,000 attended and I would doubt many, if any were from Everton or Stoke. For the record, Everton lost 3-2 with goals from Alan Ball and Alan Whittle. Like the ScreenSport Supercup years later, Just why?

The FA Cup 3rd round brought the two sides together on Saturday 8th January 1977. After what was  a reasonable start the season our results had dipped sufficiently enough for rumours about Billy Bingham being sacked were rife around the ground. A surprise 3-0 victory away at high flying Man Utd in the League Cup quarter final in December was sandwiched in between three heavy league defeats.

What seemed a last throw of the dice from Bingham had, amongst my mates and I caused major excitement. The signing of Bruce Rioch to strengthen the midfield and more strikingly Duncan Mckenzie from Anderlecht was intended to add precious goals to both league and cup campaigns and with his reputation, no little flair. Duncan Mckenzies debut less than a month earlier had brought him two goals and the promised flair. I remember going home excited and in those days of very little football shown on TV, no chance to relive the performance, even if it was only a 2-2 draw. As far as I can remember he was pretty much every Evertonians new favourite player.

On a damp Saturday afternoon Everton took the field against a Stoke City side struggling against relegation. Looking back the Everton team, despite under performing for much of the season had a sprinkling of real talent with Mike Lyons and (future European Cup winner) Ken McNaught at the back, Martin Dobson, Andy King and Bruce Rioch making up three quarters of the midfield and Latchford and McKenzie up front.  

What followed was an exhibition of genius proportions. Duncan danced for 90 minutes around the Stoke players, single handedly beating them on his own. One of his dribbles stands proud on Youtube as a reminder of that day. He scored as well of course as did Mick Lyons on the way to a 2-0 victory. The start of a cup run that ended of course in the infamous Clive Thomas injustice. Billy Bingham was sacked two days later.

Tuesday 18th March 1980 sticks in my mind because it reminds me a little of this season. The mood at the start of the season was of optimism, just like last summer was. We had finished 4th the previous season which was decent but still regarded as failure as we had been expected to push on with a possible tilt for the title. Nowadays of course it’s a place in the Champions League, and success, how times change. The season was pretty much a disaster from the start and only a cup run saved it.

Wallowing near the foot of the table with just enough points to keep us out of direct danger we took on Stoke City. It was remembered by me as possibly the drabbest victory I had seen, which was a feat in itself. We won 2-0 with goals from Peter Eastoe and Bob Latchford. It’s strange what sticks in your mind over the years though because my memory was of their keeper Peter Fox having a decent game but I can’t remember the soon to be legend Adrian Heath at all. Under the Gwladys Street stand, especially at an evening game in those days there seemed to be quite a dark sense of humour amongst supporters chanting to each other to relieve the boredom. In those days you would hear how grateful fans were for the matches on Saturday giving us something to do between 3pm and 5pm given that’s when the pubs closed. Of course this was a night match and my usual ritual was to head off for a couple of pints at the Blue House after the game. We finished one place above the relegation places that season, 4 points clear of the drop (under 2 points for a win) with a vastly superior goal difference.  

Saturday 7th January 1984, Stoke City v Everton in the 3rd round of the FA Cup has gone down in Everton history as Howard Kendalls most inspired team talk. Legend has it that Howard has seen the amazing support the blues had brought with them. An estimated 10,000 out of a total of just over 16,000 were making themselves heard. Howard opened the window of the dressing room and said “that’s your team talk, don’t let those fans down”. They didn’t. The team ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Andy Gray and Alan Irvine and progressed all the way to success at Wembley. Inspired indeed!

Saturday August 12th 2017 v Stoke City marked Everton’s first opening day win since a 1-0 victory over Man Utd 5 years earlier. A largely uninspiring display capped off with Wayne Rooney’s first Premier League goal since his return at least gained 3 points. Great expectations at the time have been replaced in our miserable season by a mixture of despair and broken dreams. Still, the chance for our first double of the season on Saturday afternoon. Feeling positive anyone? We live in hope!

Heres to a stress free and winning weekend!

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Paul Chaloner

Paul Chaloner was born less than a mile from Goodison Park in 1962. He retired to Spain where he follows Everton from afar. He went to his first Everton match in 1970 (5-2 v chelsea), sold cushions in the stands throughout the 1970s until they were abandoned in the early 1980s and continued to watch the blues until relatively recently before going to live in Spain. He has three sons, all blues!

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