In Barry’s memoir he confesses to having been to Stoke City’s Victoria Ground on two occasions. Fortunately it seems not to have had a negative effect on his psyche.
“Surely you’re not taking the boy to the Victoria Ground!” exclaimed my mum when she heard dad wanted to take me to see a friendly between Port Vale and Stoke City. In his broad Potteries accent dad indicated that I would be all right. But mum was not convinced. She is a Smallthorne/Burslem girl and doubted very much that Stoke followers could behave themselves.
She never used the Pottery slang like dad. When she spoke it was usually in a soft and gentle manner. But when she wanted to make a particular point, dad paid attention. So it was on this occasion. Her concerns included not taking my football scarf, that if anything went wrong she would be sorely displeased and I wouldn’t be allowed to go to the Victoria Ground again. It was 1951, and I was nine years old.
Dad assured mum that I would be OK and that he wouldn’t let me out of his sight, adding that it would be good for me to the ‘Lads play Stoke on their own ground. The game came and went – yet another draw. As we were making our way out of the Boothen end of the ground an opposition fan snatched and ran off with my scarf. My scarf! My pride and joy was last seen disappearing into a homeward bound football crowd. Needless to say I was a miserable little soul all the way home. Dad was somewhat circumspect as a result of this incident.
“See, I told you, didn’t I! Didn’t I!” double exclaimed my mum when the sorry tale had been recounted. “I told you they don’t know how to behave” she went on, and reminded dad that Burslem folk wouldn’t have stooped to such a beastly deed. As for my scarf. Well, according to mum, that was dad’s responsibility to replace it.
After that I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the Stoke City football ground.
When I did go again it was with my second eldest brother. I was 14 years old. Odd though, my brother spent most of the match talking to a girl he’d recently met.
Yes, I confess, I went to Stoke City’s Victoria Ground twice. But I never once thought of going there on my own or with my mates. I’d sooner walk from Bucknall to Vale Park and back home again than ride on a bus to the Victoria Ground.
But wait, there’s a sequel to this story.
My mum, dad, eldest sister and myself came to Western Australia in 1960. During the early 1970s mum and dad returned to Stoke-on-Trent for a holiday – staying with my second eldest brother and his family in Baldwins Gate. The story goes, according to mum, that when they went to visit dad’s brother in Trent Vale they passed through the Stoke shopping precinct. Whilst walking around they came upon a sports store which sold Port Vale and Stoke City scarves and badges.
Mum says she doesn’t remember what prompted dad to reflect on the time my Port Vale scarf was pinched from me. But he did. When they returned home to Western Australia they presented me with a brand spanking new Port Vale Scarf and badge. Dad muttered something along the lines that the scarf was a replacement for the one I’d lost so many years before. Needless to say, the scarf and badge remain treasured items.
PS. Stoke City did make do tour of Australia including our home town of Perth. The Perth game was played at a venue no more than five miles away from our house. I thought dad may have been interested in going to see them play Western Australia. He wasn’t. I wasn’t. So we didn’t go. “If it had been the ‘Lads”, dad said as he puffed away on his pipe, “If it had been the ‘Lads”.
See you later…