It’s 100 years since the first Football League Potteries derby – and I’ll happily wait a bit longer for the next one if it means both sides enjoying a successful end to the season.
I’ve always felt that both Stoke and Vale doing well is good for the city, so all the best to John Askey going for promotion with the Vale, and Michael O’Neill trying to get City out of relegation trouble.
The way I see it, Stoke have got every chance of staying up. I know they have dropped to within a point and a place of the relegation zone, but they have just taken five points from their three games last week, including two on the road, which isn’t bad.
In fact, if they continue the form they have shown since O’Neill came in, they will be fine. Having started the season so badly, the club are finding it hard to break free of the bottom three but they have almost reeled in plenty of clubs above them. From having one foot in League One before O’Neill took over, they now have a great chance of staying up providing they don’t relax and they stick with the approach that’s served them well since he took over.
After all, they only had eight points from 15 games when he got the job, now they are up to 39 from 35.
As for the Vale, I’m keeping my fingers crossed they can go all the way after getting into the play-off spots, but to be honest I’m just pleased and relieved the team are enjoying this sort of season.
I always felt John Askey was a good appointment, and it seems there are strong foundations in place now at the club under the new owners.
But I didn’t expect Vale to be challenging this season. I know I am not only one. I was talking to a couple of Vale-supporting mates this week who said what a good job John’s doing and how they are just delighted to have something to play for – at the right end of the table – with ten games to go.
As for the derby, I’m pleased to have played in a cracker for the Vale, in front of 27,000 at the old Victoria Ground in 1989 in what is now the Championship.
When I signed my first contract for the Vale in 1981, the clubs could hardly have been further apart. We were trying to avoid having to apply for re-election at the foot of the Football League while Stoke were in the top flight.
But Rudgie’s revolution took us into the Championship in 1989 while Stoke had lost their top flight status in 1985.
So, there was a real buzz about the city. We wanted to show we were no longer the poor relation and really were worthy of the same stage.
As I remember it, that 1-1 draw lived up to the hype. We could have won it when Ronnie Jepson had a header that would have made him Lord Ronald of Burslem had it gone in.
I did get to say I scored though. That goal occasionally gets mentioned along with a free pint of I bump into Vale fans, so that can’t be a bad thing!