The inside story of the match Stoke City fans were happy to lose

It was the one game when Stoke City supporters smiled even in defeat.

Stoke had been crowned Division Two champions on April 28, 1993 so what happened six days later didn’t really matter a jot… except for Port Vale.

The Potters could do their neighbours a big favour by beating Bolton Wanderers, Vale’s rivals in a frantic battle for the second automatic promotion place.

Lou Macari’s build-up to that game has now been revealed as the heroes of that season prepare for a reunion at the club tonight.

Then centre-half Ian Cranson said: “I remember the relief after the (Plymouth) game (when Stoke sealed the title) and then the celebration. We went into Newcastle and (director) Bob Kenyon bought us a few drinks.

“The biggest thing was Lou saying before that if we win, we go up as champions and he didn’t want to see us again until the end of the season. It was a case of if we had won we could just turn up for the remaining matches. That was the incentive!

“So we did and then there was Bolton away, Burnley at home left. We planned to travel up to Bolton on the day of the game and it almost just, ‘See you on the bus!’

“Lou said to us, ‘You’ve done it, other clubs can’t expect you to do them any favours, so go and enjoy it.’ We had a two or three-day gap when we didn’t train, then Chic Bates got us in on the morning of the game and that was it.

“I think ultimately by Bolton beating us they forced Vale out of the top two. But we had done it, we had worked hard. We had done our job.”

Ian Cranson wins a header as Stoke City beat Port Vale 2-1 in October 1992 on their way to be crowned Division Two champions.

It was probably the height of the Potteries derby, with Macari and John Rudge locking horns five times that season.

Cranson said: “The rivalry was brilliant. We won at the Vic and went to Vale Park and beat them there 2-0 but they beat us twice in the cups.

“They were close games and Vale were there or thereabouts in the play-offs. It was good to beat them and important to beat them not just because it was a local derby but it kept us top of that league.

“We were ok with everybody, there wasn’t a problem with that. Peter Swan lived around the corner from me and everything was fine. Just on the day of the game that was forgotten and you had 90 minutes of hell and torture. After that everything was fine again.

Rearguard action from Ian Cranson and Vince Overson as Stoke City beat Port Vale 2-0 at Vale Park in March 1993.
Rearguard action from Ian Cranson and Vince Overson as Stoke City beat Port Vale 2-0 at Vale Park in March 1993.

“I was very naïve when I first came here because I didn’t realise the clubs were so close in terms of location. When we played the first derby I was gobsmacked, 27,000 people there and you suddenly think, ‘Wooh!’

“It didn’t take you long to realise how much it meant to everyone and it snowballed because we played them so many times in such a short period.

“I kicked Martin Foyle a few times, he keeps reminding me! They were a decent side with good players, Foyley, Ray Walker, Neil Aspin, Robin van der Laan. John Rudge had done really well getting that group together and they were one of the best teams in that division.”

Ian Cranson scored the winner as Stoke City beat West Brom 4-3 in a thriller in September 1992.
Ian Cranson scored the winner as Stoke City beat West Brom 4-3 in a thriller in September 1992.

Cranson, now 55, he has clocked up 15 operations on his problematic knees – although he played 107 games in the first two seasons under Macari – and has been told it’s a case of when not if he’ll need a replacement.

Stoke City receive the Division Two champions' trophy in 1993.
Stoke City receive the Division Two champions’ trophy in 1993.

But as he goes around the Potteries delivering parcels each morning he left in little doubt about the esteem in which that side is still held.

He said: “It’s interesting because you bump into supporters and they remember that time as proper football.

“You’ve got the Premier League now and in terms of standards and abilities it’s unreal but perhaps you don’t have the nitty, gritty sort of games.

“I think the big thing for fans was the fact it was the turnaround of the club after some bad seasons. We were on the up a little bit and two seasons after that we were just missed out into the Premier League.

“It was a good area, a good time, a good team and if we had held onto a couple of players at the right time I think we could have done something even more special.”

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