We did it folks!
We banded together and triumphed when no one else believed we could; Stokies standing shoulder to shoulder, crossing divides and ploughing ahead stoically to victory.
No, not making it to the end of lockdown (although that’s been tricky enough), but pushing plucky Penkhull to an incredible victory in the nation’s new lockdown fascination – the FA Cup of Flags.
If you haven’t heard about this incredible victory then where have you been?
The village of Penkhull – a place so small that it doesn’t even count as one of the six towns of the city of Stoke-on-Trent in its own right – somehow rallied the entire Potteries to vote for it, defeating fellow West Midlanders Bloxwich in the semi-final on Tuesday, then mighty Preston in the final on Friday.
As the finishing line approached at 9pm on Friday night tweets flew around like Rory Delap throw ins into Arsenal’s penalty area. Support came from Preston’s rivals Blackpool, vanquished Bloxwich and even Portsmouth (no idea why…). Even international votes came in from the village of Lidice in the Czech Republic, with which the people of Stoke-on-Trent have such a strong and longstanding bond stretching back to its destruction by the Nazis in the Second World War.
It was tense. Neck and neck. Preston led at one point but Penkhull surged ahead and held on in nailbiting fashion. Nathan Jones would have had no fingers left it was that gripping.
Speaking of Jones it’s nice to welcome him back into football as the new manager of former club Luton Town this week.
I say it’s nice mostly because it means we will know exactly how to beat them if we are still in the same division as the Hatters next season.
Anyway, back to Friday night.
In the end, of an astonishing 12,754 votes cast in the final, across a 12-hour period, 52% went to plucky Penk and 48% to the gallant runners-up.
We did it.
In fact we did it for … Sir Stan, Neil Morrissey, Penkhull Ukulele Band, Josiah Spode, Slash, The Domesday Book, Oliver and Eleanor lodge, The Marquis of Granby, Bill Bratt, John Wain (not that one), The Jazz and Blues Festivals and that view of Stoke City FC’s 2 grounds.
It seems that nothing has brought the city together so much in lockdown quite like the FA Cup of Flags. I even liked a tweet by Port Vale FC!
Congratulations to the Flag Institute for organising the tournament, which really caught the imagination of a competition-starved public. And also to the people of Penkhull for galvanising the rest of the Potteries to vote for them.
But what of the actual flag? Is it really that great?
At first glance it looks like a Brazilian Chicken Rampant.
Although the official description is a golden saltire nowy, charged with a blue oval, bearing a golden rooster, all on a green field.
Much more poetic.
Preston’s was a much more straightforward blue cross on a white background with a small ram holding a cross of St George flag in the middle.
Undoubtedly the more interesting flag won. And it can be flown proudly across the city, but never more so than in the little village on the top of the hill.
Which just leaves me to say:
Tom Finney, Preston North End FC, Nick Park, Mary Ann Hobbs, Freddie Flintoff, the Bus Station with the funny roof, Holly Bradshaw, John Inman, Mark Lawrenson, Jessica Taylor, R2-D2, Roy Barraclough, Ranvir Singh, Peter Purves, Richard Arkwright’s Water Frame, Helen Clitheroe, the guitarist out of Steeleye Span and John Thomson… your boys took one hell of a beating!