AS PART of the Football Club’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations, Staffordshire University student Richard Forrester has produced a series of exclusive interviews with Stoke City stars from yesteryear.
During the course of a month, four separate interviews with Terry Conroy, Peter Fox, Mark Stein and Chris Iwelumo will appear here on stokecityfc.com.
Each of the Potters favourites share their fondest memories of the time they spent at the Club in fascinating detail, continuing today with Peter Fox.
'THE FOX IN THE BOX'
After securing first division survival at the first time of asking under the helm of Alan Durban, Stoke were looking to progress throughout the 80s. Young goalkeeper Peter Fox, signed by Durban himself, had begun his Potters career playing second fiddle to Roger Jones. However by April 1980, Fox found himself number one where he would stay for the next decade providing scintillating performances week in, week out becoming a fan favourite in the process.
Best known for his bristling moustache, Fox’s Stoke career spanned 15 years, totalling 477 appearances for the Club in which he recalls the successes, forgetful moments and hilarity that ensued over the years. After breaking into the first team, Fox went on to win the Player of the Year in both 81' and 82' and put his form down to Durban himself.
He said: "He was definitely of the Brain Clough mould. I remember at Leicester they had a free kick which hit the post on my side of the goal and he said if that goes in you’ll never play for me again. So he was very ruthless in what he said but he got a lot out of the players."
Durban’s successful stint as manager was not going unnoticed. On a pre-season trip to Barbados, Sunderland’s chairman and directors joined the Club abroad where continuous talks reached a conclusion and suddenly Stoke were searching for a new manager.
"It was a kick in the teeth because we had such a good first season. If Alan had bought another couple of players in with what we already had, we would have progressed because we had a young enthusiastic squad at the time."
Durban’s assistant, Richie Barker was appointed as manager and struggled in his first season, avoiding relegation with a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on the final day. The following campaign welcomed the addition of Mark Chamberlain and Stoke were scoring a flurry of goals including a 4-4 draw against Luton, a game that Fox has tried to forget:
"In those days goalkeepers never got sent off so to get sent off for what was an accidental handball was incredible. You’re talking about a foot outside the area and I tried to fall on it. It was a horrible day and it was very upsetting but by 5.30pm when we were in the North Staffs pub everything was alright."
Barker was praised for his attacking style, however after attending a coaching course in the summer at Lilleshall, he adopted a different, more direct approach. Stoke struggled to adapt, which was evident in results; gaining just three wins in 24 matches.
"We were absolutely gob smacked.
"He’d been on a coaching course and came back with statistics and statistics can do anything. We were thinking, we've got Chamberlain, Sammy McIlroy and Mickey Thomas three fabulous footballers, we had just got a good season behind us and we were going to lump it forward."
Relegation threatened, Stoke relieved Barker of his duties which ultimately began the managerial roundabout, firstly appointing Bill Asprey. The Potters survived thanks to four goals from Paul Maguire on the final day against already relegated Wolves. Nevertheless, any hope of building on survival diminished as Stoke approached the ‘holocaust season.’ Fox recollects painful memories from the 1984/85 season.
"I remember we had a horrendous pre-season that year and went for the money. We flew to Zambia, Zimbabwe, flew back to Heathrow, got a bus straight to Gatwick and then went to Trinidad and Tobago.
"It sounds fantastic but we were absolutely shattered.
"It was unbearable to watch. The way we’d done so well to stay up the season before but they had let some good players go and hadn’t replaced them so it was always going to be difficult."
A re-occurring back injury kept Fox on the sidelines for the majority of the season and cast doubts over the goalkeeper’s future.
"I really thought my career was over and then I returned against Chelsea and the reception I got was just fantastic. The fans were always warm and affectionate towards me; it gave me a real boost."
The Club was in a state of depression. With no funds to sign players, attendances dwindled to below 5,000 but Fox remained passionate and continued to pull off great saves, his favourite being the double stop from Warren Joyce against Plymouth which ultimately sealed Stoke's title in 1993.
"It was better seeing it again than what I thought at the time. It was all instinctive, the header and the follow-up shot but very important at the time.
"I’ve seen Warren Joyce a couple of times and he still talks about it, but not many people remind me of it anymore, it’s mostly that 4-4 draw to Luton!" he laughed.
The squad visited a variety of countries for pre-season and Fox recalls the time they team thought they were being shot at in a friendly at Tampa Bay.
"The Americans liked to celebrate goals and we didn’t know that. However it turned out they had a special celebration every time Tampa scored.
"Someone had a shot from about 16 yards, its hit the crossbar, bounced down and out. It turns out they thought they had scored and what they did was they set off this cannon.
"I and all the defenders dived on the ground thinking what’s going on, and then they go and put the rebound in so were 1-0 down all spread out on the floor!
"We had some great memories abroad but I will never forget when 35,000 Stokies were at Wembley singing my name that was amazing.
"It put a lump in my throat."
Striker Mark Stein, who netted 72 goals in 144 games for the Club, features next week and talks about his memorable spell at the Victoria Ground.
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