STOKE CITY were acclaimed by leading figures from the worlds of politics and football when they took their 150th Anniversary celebrations to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson and Football Association Chairman David Bernstein were among those to offer their congratulations to the Club when they attended a special reception hosted by Lord Grocott to mark this prestigious landmark in their history.
In particular, Robertson and Bernstein focused on the tremendous work which is undertaken by the Football Club to make them a pillar of the local community.
Chairman Peter Coates was accompanied by manager Tony Pulis, his first team squad and other senior management figures from the Club for the occasion, one which began with a tour of Westminster Hall and the House of Lords upon their arrival.
The afternoon reception, which took place in the Cholmondeley Room overlooking the River Thames, was attended by the leader of the Labour party, Ed Milliband, together with four local MPs, Rob Flello, Tristram Hunt, Paul Farrelly and Joan Walley.
Staffordshire-based peer Lord Grocott, a lifelong City supporter, welcomed the Club and special guests, saying: "I am immensely proud to be able to host this event in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the second oldest Club behind only Notts County.
"As a founder member of the Football League, the Club is steeped in so much history. It is quite fitting we should be celebrating the occasion in this way.
"It's a really illustrious history dating all the way back to the Club's formation, not by a group of potters as you might expect, but by railway workers back in 1863. Along the way since then, we've had lots of memorable moments to make us all proud.
"As a Stoke City supporter, I appreciate the presence on this occasion of members of the House of Lords and House of Commons, who are passionate about their own clubs. I know you want to beat us when you play us, but it shows there is plenty of goodwill."
Although the Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson was unable to attend the event due to other commitments, he conveyed the following message:
"I wish Stoke City Football Club all the very best as the Club celebrates its 150th Anniversary," he commented.
"Football clubs play an important part in local communities across the country, making a positive difference to the lives of so many people and I wish Stoke City continued success in this area for many years to come."
Those were views echoed by David Bernstein, Chairman of the Football Association, who are also celebrating their 150th Anniversary this year.
"It's a real privilege to be here for this very special occasion and I would like to congratulate Stoke City on this fantastic achievement," he declared.
"While we are here to celebrate the Club's success on the pitch over 150 years, I think it is also important to use this occasion to highlight the tremendous work which Stoke City do in the community which impacts upon the lives of so many people.
"There are all sorts of problems in communities, as we know, and the Club are to be commended on the work that they do to make a difference in this field."
Chairman Peter Coates presented a specially-crafted commemorative bowl to Lord Grocott, one which had been made by Longton-based Aynsley China, in recognition of the fact that the Club had been able to take their celebrations to Westminster.
"It's a tremendous honour and privilege for us to be here in this great institution, the House of Lords to celebrate our 150th anniversary," he said.
"I would like to thank Lord Grocott for presenting us with this chance to mark the occasion in this way. He is a true supporter of the Club because I often invite him into the Boardroom, but he prefers to sit out on the terraces with his son.
"We're honoured to have all the esteemed people here today and I would particularly like to thank David Bernstein because we are sharing 150 years together with the Football Association this year, which makes it extra special for us.
"Although we enjoy wonderful occasions like this and are fortunate to be competing in the richest League in the world, we come from a working class community and have our roots in the city, so we have a humble background and a humble tradition.
"Stoke are no different to other football clubs in that we have a huge responsibility to the city. We engage with 150,000 people through our community work, so we are an important force for good, but we are not special and we know we have a lot more to do."