My memories of Stoke City are fuzzy. As a child growing up in South Wales in 1980, I — along with tens of thousands of other impressionable 11-year-olds throughout Great Britain — was addicted to collecting Panini stickers. Stoke City, at the time, was in the First Division, which is akin to today’s Premier League. If you were one of the 22 teams in the First Division, Panini had more pages for each team compared to the lower divisions such as the Second Division, etc.
Stoke City was one of those teams. Thinking back, I remember peeling those Stoke City stickers and carefully placing them in the Panini sticker album. I can’t recall any memorable players from that season, and after doing some research on the Internet, I couldn’t find any notable ones either. Legendary England goalkeeper Peter Shilton had left Stoke for Nottingham Forest years earlier, and star striker Garth Crooks had just left the club to join Tottenham Hotspur.
At the time, it seemed perfectly normal for Stoke to be in the top division in English football. After all, Stoke had been there for 15 of the previous 17 seasons except for a spell in the late 70s when they dropped down to Division 2 for two seasons.
You may remember Stoke’s impressive performance from earlier this year against Newcastle in the third round of the FA Cup. Stoke drew Newcastle 0-0 at a rain soaked Britannia Stadium before succumbing in the replay at St. James’s Park.
Stoke’s journey to the top league in English football is a welcome return. For a club steeped in so much history, I’m looking forward to seeing the club perform in the Premier League.