ERIC SKEELS admits he was taken aback by the state-of-the-art training facilities at the disposal of Stoke City’s Premier League stars.
Skeels, the Club’s record appearance-maker, was one of more than 60 Potters legends given a guided tour of Clayton Wood as part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations before and during the recent game against Tottenham.
The ex-players also enjoyed a Champagne breakfast at the training complex before moving on to the Britannia Stadium to parade in front of a sell-out crowd ahead of the final home game of the campaign against Spurs.
It proved to be a memorable occasion for all concerned and a real eye-opener for Skeels, who made 592 appearances in a 17-year career with the Club.
“I hadn’t seen the Clayton Wood training complex before the 150th Anniversary celebration day – it’s fabulous. The pitches are like snooker tables; pitches we played on weren’t like that,” revealed the 73 year old.
“The facilities are fabulous … there was nothing like this in the time I was at the Club.
“The facilities when I was playing were very basic. The pitch at the Victoria Ground was nice, but we had no actual facilities around it.
“We had one playing area which we used to train on and other than that we used to run to Trentham Gardens, up over the hills and back.
“We didn’t have a gym at one stage, although eventually we got one, so we used to run round the track at Stoke and use that as our main training area.”
Sunday’s celebrations brought the memories flooding back for League Cup winner Skeels, who spent the vast majority of his Stoke playing career working under the management of the legendary Tony Waddington.
“Tony knew how to talk a player into coming to the Club,” he reflected. “Obviously, if you had a bad game you got the usual rollicking off him, but generally he was a nice bloke.
“I didn’t have a lot to do with him. He would come in and tell us how he wanted us to play and afterwards, he would pat you on the back and ask us all to go and have a drink in the bar.”
The players who took part in the grand parade at the 150th anniversary celebration match against Tottenham Hotspur were: Ade Akinbiyi, Gordon Banks, Carl Beeston, George Berry, Wayne Biggins, Dave Brammer, Martin Brown, Harry Burrows, Martin Carruthers, Neville Chamberlain, Clive Clarke, Terry Conroy, Ian Cranson, John Devine, Salif Diao, Carl Dickinson, Michael Duberry, George Eastham, Abdoulaye Faye, Nigel Gleghorn, Andy Griffin, Sean Haslegrave, Phil Heath, Chris Hemming, Andy Holmes, Alan Hudson, Matt Hughes, Sir Geoff Hurst, Chris Iwelumo, George Jackson, Paul Johnson, Paul A Johnson, Gerry Jones, Graham Kavanagh, Johnny King, Terry Lees, John Lumsdon, Jackie Marsh, Chris Maskery, Mike McDonald, Carl Muggleton, Brendan O'Callaghan, Mike Pejic, Don Ratcliffe, Eddie Rayner, Dave Regis, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Robertson, John Ruggiero, Lee Sandford, Carl Saunders, Geoff Scott, Graham Shaw, Mike Sheron, Steve Simonsen, Eric Skeels, Denis Smith, Ken South, Willie Stevenson, Mark Stein, Wayne Thomas, Peter Thorne, Steven Tweed, Steve Waddington, Gavin Ward, Don Whiston, Ron Wilson, John Woodward and John Worsdale. Also present were former manager Alan Durban and ex-physio Mike Allen.