My Dad who watched Stoke from the 1940s onwards always claimed that Len Shackleton was the best footballer he ever saw down at the Victoria Ground playing for Sunderland. I have been supporting and watching Stoke for over 50 years and I have to say a player who I always admired and turned out as an exemplar in terms of conduct was Bobby Moore.
Alf Ramsay had picked 4 West Ham players * (go on name the four and answers at the bottom of the page) when West Ham turned up to play at the last game of the season on 7th May 1966. Moore was playing that day although I suspect from reading the account of the game its high likely that the West Ham players were not too keen to get stuck in and risk injury.
Farmer was in goal Farmer the poetry writing Stoke keeper (I often wonder whether this was the spur for the Monty Python sketch on Goalkeepers and Yangtze Kiang
“Narrator: Why is it that so many of Britain’s top goalies feel moved to by the River Yangtze. Brian Craft. Craft[Eric Idle]: Well, I must remember, David, are the these goalies, especially Wilson, and on occasion, Gordon West of Everton, are the romantics, the dreamers. The Yangtze is symbol for them, for them it’s a box, David, a temple is far as a spiritual continuity.
Narrator: Bill Shankly.
Shankly[Michael Palin]: O it’s a river of many moods. To young goalie like a Peter Shilton, Yangtze is a beautiful river. To more seasoned goalie like Phil Parkes of Wolves, Yangtze is a river of dissolution”
But back to the 7th May 1966.
It was described in the match report as an amiable untaxing game played on a warm spring day on a surface brown with caked mud. Mickey Bernard played in one of his first games for Stoke. Waddington used the game to try out some of the younger players. One of those players who seem to have taken up the challenge was Gerry Bridgwood who put in a shift that day unlike the more illustrious players on the park that day.
It took some time for West Ham to show their claws Peters put Hurst through whose low shot was covered by Farmer. It was Bridgwood who scored the only game of the game when he was put through by Kinnell and he took his chance well slipping the ball under Standen in West Ham’s goal.
Dobing did get the ball in the net but the cross from Bridgwood was ruled out of play. A rare attack by West Ham saw peters strike the bar with a rising shot. Stoke were the livelier team and Byrne was described by the writer of the Sentinel article as “wandering around aimlessly” a phrase that many Stoke supporter could apply to many a Stoke player over the last 50 years. There was an attempt by Ritchie a diving header which hit a post and a good chance that fell to Bernard in the 70 minute of the game.
Overall it was a lacklustre performance by the Hammers with 4 of their team, no doubt, looking ahead to the World Cup only a few months away.
I mentioned Bobby Moore at the beginning and perhaps this was not his most distinguished game. However, I always was an admirer of Moore for not only his performance in the World Cup, but also for the way in which he handled the jewellery incident in Bogota in 1970.
He was a role model as a player and the courageous way in which he faced his last illness should also be mentioned. He also handed Stoke the Autoglass Trophy that memorable day at Wembley in 1992. A true gent.
* Johnny Byrne was the 4th West Ham player alongside Peters, Moore and Hurst.