‘How he got there I’ll never know’ – Mystery Irishman’s role in Stoke City’s finest hour

There are big and small statuettes and shields in the Stoke City trophy cabinet but there is no doubt about what takes pride of place. Sitting right in the middle is the three-handled silver urn the Potters won with a win over Chelsea on March 4, 1972.

The League Cup is 27cm tall, about 6lb 8oz heavy – and absolutely priceless.

It is 48 years to the day since Tony Waddington and Co went to London for the most famous afternoon in the club’s history. Preparations featured an evening with Danny La Rou and a changing room welcome from a mysterious Irishman called Seamus.

“How he got there I’ll never know, but there he was,” said Willie Stevenson. “After the game we returned to the dressing room and lo and behold there he was supping champagne with Tony and toasting each one of us as we walked in the room.”

TV presenter Jimmy Hill was also in there for interviews, having seen a rare Terry Conroy header and strike from George Eastham secure a 2-1 victory. Hill had tipped Chelsea to win so Stoke players tried to dunk him in the team bath.

Playing the joker… Peter Dobing has George Eastham and Gordon Banks in a head lock, while John Ritchie and John Mahoney look on, as they relax before the 1972 League Cup Final

Peter Dobing (left) celebrates Stoke's Wembley winner with goalscorer George Eastham
Peter Dobing (left) celebrates Stoke’s Wembley winner with goalscorer George Eastham

Gordon Banks lifting the League Cup with Stoke City in 1972

Welcome home! Peter waves the silverware to adoring fans after the squad return to the Potteries
Welcome home! Peter waves the silverware to adoring fans after the squad return to the Potteries

By that point captain Peter Dobing had climbed the old 39 steps to collect the cup from Dr Gustav Wiederkehr, president of Uefa. In the days before Delilah, supporters burst into a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

“I have always been a person who has shrugged away from the limelight,” said Dobing, “so it was difficult for me to go up for the cup. However, it was a very proud moment.”

The night went on with a gala dinner at the Russell Hotel, in Bloomsbury. The menu was a story in itself. There was Coupe de melon au Porto Banko; Creme Ritchie; Supreme de turbot Dobing; Filet de boeuf Bluto; Petit pois Greenhoff; Haricots verts Eastham; Pommes Bernardo; Pommes Smith; Pejic trianon; Marsh mallows; Cafe Conroy. Burrows montrachet; Chateau Stevenson; Moet Farmer; Haslegrave brandy; and Skeels liqueurs.

Entertainment was provided by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, the duo behind We’ll Be With You, which reached number 34 in the charts without the vocals of ‘tone deaf’ Jackie Marsh and Terry Lees, who were ordered out of the squad chorus. Trent and Hatch changed the lyrics to one of their other hits, singing: “The other man’s grass is always Greenhoff.”

Champagne was flowing but Denis Smith really wanted to toast the occasion with a bitter.

He said: “Most of the younger lads decided to continue the celebrations out on the town, but my ankle had swollen after being stepped on by Peter Osgood during the final so by 11pm I was tucked up in bed, where I did manage to order a pint – of milk.”

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