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By The Numbers – Part 4: Stoke City
1863 Stoke City are currently the world’s oldest professional Football League club having been founded way back in 1863. According to legend it was set up by former pupils of Charterhouse School who were working as apprentices on the North Staffordshire Railway.
1868 It was 1868, five years after the initial founding, that The Field magazine reported on a new Association Football Club in Stoke-on-Trent and named Henry Almond as a founding member.
1868 This was also the year of the team’s first officially recorded game, in October. The team, then known as Stoke Ramblers, faced a team called EW May XV and drew 1-1 at the Victoria Cricket Club ground. Almond was the skipper and the scorer of the first-ever official goal by Stoke.
5 It was not just the number of years between their claimed founding and their first official match, it was also the number of games they played in what was effectively their first ever season.
2 The margin of victory of their first ever win was 2, in a 2-0 win over Newcastle-under-Lyme.
1870 The year of their first recorded defeat, 1-0 to Whitchurch in a match which rumours claim was played using a rugby ball.
1875 Stoke, no longer using the appendage of Ramblers, moved their home games from the Victoria Cricket ground to Sweetings Field in this year.
250 The early matches at Sweeting Field were played in front of crowds of around 200-250.
1877 The establishment of a County Cup in this year meant that Stoke played their first truly competitive fixtures in this year. They also won the cup, making it the year of their first ever trophy.
26 Stoke’s record win was 26-0 over Mow Cop in that first season of the County Cup. The record still stands today, over 150 years later.
1878 Stoke merged with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club in March 1878 and moved their home matches to the Athletic Club ground. The site became known as the Victoria Ground.
119 The Victoria Ground remained Stoke’s home for 119 years!
1880 Teddy Johnson became Stoke’s first international when the centre-forward helped England to beat Wales 3-2 at Wrexham in 1880.
1882 It is believed that Stoke’s famous red-and-white striped shirt was adopted in this year. It is still the club’s official strip.
1883 Stoke first entered the FA Cup in this year, which was seen as the benchmark for the best team in the land. After going out in the first qualifying round, the following season they withdrew after being drawn against Scottish side Queen’s Park.
1885 Their early attempts at the FA Cup had taught them that the time of amateur clubs was over and they turned professional in August 1885.
7 Their first payroll had 7 players on it. Goalkeeper Philip Birch, full-backs Tommy Clare and Edgar Montford, half-backs Ted Smith and George Shut plus forwards Alf Edge and Bernard Rhodes.
12 The players were initially paid a half crown (12p) a game each.
25 Stoke were forced to up the match fee to five shillings (25p) after a players’ revolt. The club had tried to introduce different pay for certain players until the senior players went on strike.
10 It took until the 10th month of 1886 before Stoke won their first FA Cup match 10-0 over Caernarfon Wanderers. The result is still the club’s biggest win in a first class match.
12 In 1888 the Football League was founded and Stoke were one of the 12 original members.
2 The inaugural season of the Football League in 1888/89 was a difficult one for the Potters. It began with a 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion and continued with problems of getting players to turn up for training and matches. There was an instance against Preston North End when 2 of their players had failed to make it to the morning train to Preston and Stoke had to borrow 2 of North End’s reserves to make up their numbers!
12 Stoke finished 12th out of 12 teams in their first ever league season, suffering 14 defeats along the way. The Potters had to be re-elected to a league that they had been a large part of creating.
10 The club’s second league season did not start out much better than the first and they suffered an early 10-0 thrashing at the hands of reigning champions PNE. That result still stands as Stoke’s biggest ever defeat.
1 In November 1892 Jack Evans became the first Stoke City player ever to be sent off in a match against Everton.
1896 In February 1896 Stoke bought Darwen striker ‘Archie’ Maxwell in return for a set of wrought iron gates for Darwen’s ground.
1898 An even more bizarre transfer deal was made in 1898, as Stoke struggled financially, player-secretary William Rowley transferred himself to Leicester Fosse (later to become Leicester City) and agreed his own signing fee. The Football League were not impressed and promptly suspended him.
5 Stoke reached their first FA Cup semi-final in the 1898-99 season and each of the players was awarded a £5 bonus as a reward.
1908 The Potters suffered severe financial problems at the start of the 20th century and relegation to Division Two added to dwindling attendances led to the club going bust in 1908. They lost their Football League status and replaced their reserve team with the first team in the Birmingham & District League for the 1908/09 season, after re-registering as a new company.
4 Despite the players having to race from stranded trains, to taxis which then broke-down and then on to the ground itself to face Blackburn Rovers in a match which had to kick off half an hour late due to the travel chaos, it all went for nought as the match was abandoned with 4 minutes to go!
1924 The club’s finances remained tight right through the pre-war era culminating in an attempt to introduce wage cuts in 1924. The cuts were dropped to stave off a players’ revolt.
17 The ‘Wizard of Dribble’ Stanley Matthews was 17 years old when he made his Stoke debut in 1932. His emergence as one of the biggest stars of the game completely transformed the fortunes of the Potters. His very presence added thousanda to the gates each week as he became the central figure of a formidable Stoke team.
510 Club legend Bob McGrory hung up his boots to become manager in 1935 after 510 appearances for the Potters. It could have all been so different as it is said that on his arrival in Stoke from Burnley in 1921 McGrory very nearly turned round and went back. The story from the time was that he was not impressed with Stoke the city or the club on first viewing. I think it is safe to say that both grew on him.
17 After retiring from playing to become manager McGrory went on to 17 years in charge, though it was interrupted by the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939 and the suspension of league football until 1946.
1938 Snowballing rumours that Stanley Matthews was unhappy and wanted to leave Stoke City prompted a public meeting at the Kings Hall! Three thousand people fill the hall, while over a thousand more waited outside to find out the result of the meeting. Unsurprisingly the meeting decide that the club should do everything it could to keep hold of their star man.
33 Sadly with the return of football after World War 2, there came the loss of more life. The 1946 FA Cup 6th round tie at Bolton Wanderers saw 33 supporters tragically kille and 520 injured when crush barriers gave way.
1947 The return of the Football League following the Second World War saw a strong Stoke side, though robbed of its prime years by the war, challenge for the title right up until the final game of an elongated season. With a harsh winter causing the season to finish in June, the Potters just needed to win their final match at Sheffield United to win the title. Unfortunately for Stoke, they lost 2-1 handing the crown to Liverpool. Maybe even worse was the the legendary Stanley Matthews left to sign for Blackpool with just three games left to play.
53 Without Matthews, Stoke struggled and dropped down the table until eventually relegated in 1953 with just 53 goals scored, the lowest in Division One.
1952 Tony Waddington arrived as a coach with Stoke in 1952. He was promoted to assistant to manager Frank Taylor in 1957, before inheriting the job of manager in 1960. The Potters’ side he took over had finished 17th in the second tier, after a battle against relegation, conceding 83 goals. Waddington created new tactics, which became known as ‘Waddington’s Wall’, which gradually turned the tide.
1962 The return of the great man himself. 1962 saw Stanley Matthews return to Stoke after 14 successful years with Blackpool. Despite being 46 years old by now, the gate for his first appearance covered his entire £3,000 transfer fee, as nearly 36,000 witnesses his homecoming against Huddersfield Town. Just two weeks earlier less than 8,500 were watching the home game against Preston North End.
50 The now Sir Stanley Matthews played his 701st and final league game against Fulham in 1965 aged 50!
52,000 Waddington paid Leicester City £52,000 for England’s World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks in 1967. Banks was still England number one and many believed the best goalkeeper in the world, his arrival stabilised a struggling Stoke team and kept them safe in the top flight.
97,852 A crowd of 97,852 at Wembley witnessed the Potters win their first (and so far only) major honour on 4th March 1972. A 2-1 win over Chelsea was enough for Tony Waddington’s charges to lift the League Cup. 250,000 people lined the streets of Stoke to welcome the team home the following day. It was just a few months later, in October 1972, that Gordon Banks lost his eye in a road accident, ending his career.
325,000 Replacing Banks was a difficult job, but Stoke splashed out a world record fee for a goalkeeper of £325,000 for the man who had replaced Banks at Leicester City, Peter Shilton.
440,000 After a storm blew part of the roof off the Butler Street stand in January 1976, Stoke hit some financial difficulties paying for the repairs and Alan Hudson, Mike Pejic and Jimmy Greenhoff were sold off for combined fees of £440,000 to keep the club afloat. Unfortunately, losing three players of such quality led to the team being relegated at the end of the 1976/77 season. It also saw Waddington walk away from the club.
5 The 1980s saw Stoke go through 5 managers and 5 chairmen as stability and success eluded the club. The final chairman of the 80s was the one to restore stability as Peter Coates stepped in to the hot chair.
25 Lou Macari was brought in while Stoke were in the third tier for the first time in their history and he led the team to a club record 25 games in a row without defeat between September and February on their way to winning the division with a club record 93 points.
1,500,000 Stoke were dealt a double blow at the end of 1993 as Macari left to take over his first love, Celtic, while a month later goalscoring hero Mark Stein headed to Chelsea for a club record £1,500,000 fee. The Potters paid just £100,000 for Stein a couple of seasons earlier.
28,000 After over 100 years at the Victoria Ground, Stoke moved to their brand-new 28,000 seater stadium for the 1996/97 season. West Bromwich Albion were the last team to play a league game against Stoke at the Victoria Ground, just as they were the first in 1888/89.
2,500,000 The club’s record transfer fee was raised to £2.5m in the 1997/98 season as Mike Sheron moved to Queens Park Rangers.
1999 The year 1999 was a big one at Stoke as they were bought by an Icelandic business group who appointed the club’s first overseas manager Gudjon Thordason in November.
12 In 2009 Stoke ended their first ever season in the Premier League with a 12th placed finish under Tony Pulis.
40 Under Tony Pulis the sight of Rory Delap hurling the ball 40 yards into the penalty box from a throw in became a common place occurrence. Initially Delap, who was a javelin throwing champion as a youth, threw the ball further but it was found that a flat trajectory, though reducing the possible distance, made for a more dangerous ball.
10,000,000 The summer of 2011 saw Stoke spend a club record of £10m on England striker, and now podcast legend, Peter Crouch.
Written by Tris Burke April 08 2021 20:53:26