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150 Memories - Terry Conroy

PUBLISHED

13:50 18th March 2013

by Richard Forrester

The first of four exclusive interviews with SCFC stars

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.

Over the course of the next three weeks, four separate interviews with Terry Conroy, Peter Fox, Mark Stein and Chris Iwelumo will appear exclusively here on stokecityfc.com.

Each of the Potters favourites share their fondest memories of the time they spent at the Club in fascinating detail, starting today with Terry Conroy.

'THE GOLDEN ERA'

WHEN Terry Conroy introduced Tony Waddington to his father in 1967, the pair spent the night celebrating Stoke’s new arrival to the club. 

At 21 years old, the bright lights of London hadn’t been enough to convince Conroy to leave Dublin, nevertheless when Waddington and Conroy shared a two hour train journey across Ireland; well, the rest was history. 

He said: “I was about to head back to Dublin until George Eastham Senior said ‘I’ve got someone here who would like to meet you’ and introduced me to Waddington.

 “I got the train and within two minutes he says ‘you haven’t met me before but you’re not signing for Fulham, you’re coming to Stoke.’

“He was so influential it took him two minutes to sell me Stoke City.”

The late 60’s were perilous times being a Stoke fan. Seven defeats in a row meant the club were staring down the barrel of relegation. 

However, a Peter Dobing inspired hat-trick in a 3-2 win against Leeds, before a 2-1 victory against Liverpool on the last day of the season kick-started the Waddington rise in the early 70’s.

With Denis Smith becoming a permanent fixture in the heart of defence, Stoke needed power and prowess up-front, welcoming the return of John Ritchie and a club record £100,000 on Jimmy Greenhoff.

“When Ritchie came back from Sheffield Wednesday it was like the prodigal son had returned, a stroke of genius.” Said Conroy.

“Then he bought in Jimmy Greenhoff too, and the two players had a great understanding. That had a huge effect on the way we played.”

The addition of Greenhoff provided a major contribution to Stokes highest league position in 22 years. 

A ninth place finish in the 69/70 campaign and a fine 5-0 drubbing of Arsenal the following season, along with a FA cup semi final looked promising. 

Cue the controversy; “The first semi-final against Arsenal was unfortunate. The second was ridiculous.

 “I remember thinking how much more time is this referee going to play. It was about the 97th minute and Banksy was fouled when the free kick came in but scrambled it away for a corner. From the resulting 
corner, they got the penalty.

“Fast forward a year and there was an ice cream seller wearing a white jacket walking round the pitch. John Radford was 3-yards offside and the linesman looked across, saw the white jacket and didn’t put his flag 
up. 

“An ice cream seller had cost us a trip to Wembley.”

Stoke didn’t need to wait long to play at the home of English football though!

A tie against West Ham which Conroy described as ‘the most exhilarating cup tie he’s ever played in’ lasted seven weeks, four games and included a stint in goal for Bobby Moore. Stoke had made the final of the 1972 League Cup.

“It was a typical night in Manchester, torrential rain all day, a full house there and it was just the way it was, it was meant to be," he laughed.

“We went in at half time 2-2, so little between the sides and I managed to hit the winner. We had made Wembley after coming so close the year before. Real elation.”

Just fewer than 100,000 attended the 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final. Memories are still fresh in the mind of Conroy who played a key part in the win, scoring the first and assisting the winner. 

“Without a doubt it was my proudest achievement as a player. 

“You have things in your life that happen which are good like representing your country. Wembley was a fulfil lament of a dream every kid had since before he could tie his own shoe laces.

“You can’t put a price on the feeling because it’s extra special.”

The future looked bright for the Potters, attracting the likes of Geoff Hurst, but Stoke soon seemed cursed with a series of unfortunate events. 

It began when the impeccable career of Gordon Banks suddenly came to an abrupt end, losing control of his car which left permanent damage to his right eye. 

“It was a killer blow, even though Banksy was 34 he could have gone on for many years. He was near invincible, didn’t make mistakes. Because he was with us for so long we took him for granted.

 “For that to happen to him for everybody, England, Stoke and players it was devastating.”

A remarkable injury crisis including three broken legs hampered the Potters title challenge and in January 1976 hurricane force winds battered the Victoria ground leaving the Butler Stand in ruins. 

With high rebuilding costs, Stoke had no option but to sell influential players such as Alan Hudson and Mike Pejic. Not forgetting the one that probably still hurts the fans the most, Jimmy Greenhoff. 

“We didn’t know at the time but if you look at it now that was the decline of the club," Conroy recalls.

“Everything stemmed from the Greenhoff sale, the team broke up, we got in inferior players because we didn’t have the money and it was only a year later that we got relegated.

“It was inevitable that Waddington would leave because his heart was broken. All of his ambitions for the club had been taken away from him.

“He was a father figure for everybody. He had done so much for the club he got us to a point where we could compete with the best clubs in the land.

“For a club like Stoke to have gone so near, that was a remarkable achievement, and it was all down to Waddington.”

Goalkeeper Peter Fox, who made 477 appearances for the Club between 1978 and 1993, features next week, and talks about his 15-year spell at the Victoria Ground.

To share your own Stoke City memory, tweet us using the hashtag - #150memories

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