‘I jumped at the move’ – Liverpool legend on move to Stoke City that put extra thousand on the gate

Come with us back in our Stoke City time machine.

This week in 1993, Stoke were closing in on promotion from Division Two and the title – but had lost keeper Ronnie Sinclair to a knee ligament injury at Bournemouth. Veteran Peter Fox was on standby but Sinclair was told to expect nine weeks out.

Lou Macari looked to the loan market: “We hope to have something wrapped up in the next day or so. It is important we bring in an extra body. Peter Fox is available but goalkeeping is a position where you must have cover.”

And that something really caught the imagination of the Stoke public.

In came 35-year-old Bruce Grobbelaar, the flamboyant Liverpool hero and Hull City full-back Dave Hockaday filling Stoke’s final loan slots for the season.

“This move could resurrect my career,” he said, penning a two-month deal.

“This is a new start fo rme. A chance to put myself in the shop window and prove I can still perform at first team level.

“I didn’t need much persuading when Lou Macari rang me. In fact, I jumped at the move.”

Stoke City loan star Bruce Grobbelaar punches clear as he keeps a clean sheet at Port Vale in March 1993.

Bruce Grobbelaar turns to celebrates with Stoke City fans massed in the away end at Vale Park.
Bruce Grobbelaar turns to celebrates with Stoke City fans massed in the away end at Vale Park.

Stoke had been poised to sign Kevin Poole from Leicester only for Leicester to change their minds when Russell Hoult – who would be with Stoke in another promotion season 15 years later – broke some fingers in a reserve game against Leeds United.

Grobbelaar had been relegated down the Anfield pecking order behind £1m David James and Mike Hooper.

And all eyes would be on him when he made his debut against Fulham at the Victoria Ground.

Macari said: “Getting Bruce is a big bonus for us. It’s a boost for the players and a boost for the fans.

“He will create a real buzz about the place because he is one of the game’s great characters.

“Going for him was a long shot on my part but it came off. He’s been frozen out at Anfield and that helped make up my mind.

“We needed an experienced goalkeeper who could cope with the pressures of going for promotion. Bruce has coped with pressure at Anfield for years. After that, the pressure here should be nothing to him.”

Sure enough, Stoke’s ticket office was buzzing in the two days after Grobbelaar’s arrival and there were more than 1,000 extra against Fulham compared to the average crowd. He kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.

Meanwhile Fox was allowed to join Wrexham on a month’s loan with a 24-hour recall option that would, in time, be needed. But that’s a story for another day.

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