ENGLAND’S 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst will be one of over 80 Stoke City legends in attendance at the Britannia Stadium for this Sunday’s final home game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur.
A plethora of Potters stars from yesteryear will reunite as part of the Club’s 150th Anniversary celebrations ahead of the live televised encounter against Andre Villas-Boas’ Champions League chasing side.
Hurst, who scored 37 goals in 128 appearances during his three-year spell at the Victoria Ground, will be joined by the likes of Gordon Banks, Denis Smith, Eric Skeels, George Berry and Peter Thorne at the game,
as the Club recognise all of those who have played a part in its long and proud history.
Speaking exclusively to stokecityfc.com this week, Hurst says that he is looking forward to being a part of such a monumental occasion for a Football Club that remains incredibly close to his heart.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, and it coincides with the FA’s 150th Anniversary too, which is tremendous,” the 71-year-old said ahead of Sunday’s fixture.
“To become only the second football club in the world to celebrate its 150th Anniversary really is a fantastic achievement, and everybody connected to the Club must be incredibly proud of its history and heritage.”
Hurst, who was regarded as one of Europe’s most prolific marksmen during his time with West Ham United, made a surprising move to the Victoria Ground in the summer of 1972, ending a 13-year association with the Hammers.
“I have really fond memories of the three years that I spent at Stoke,” he added. “I have a great fondness for the Club, for the people and for the local area too. In fact, my eldest children grew up there too.
“The Club was absolutely terrific to me, and really did look after me. It had a great feeling to it, and the people in charge really made it an easy decision for me to make to come to Stoke.
“When I made the move there, I felt that I still had a bit to prove as a 30-year-old, and I think I did that by scoring 30 odd goals in 90 League games. For a guy who was coming towards the end of his career, I don’t think that was too bad.
“I remember the Chairman Albert Henshall, the Vice Chairman Jim Crowe and of course, Tony Waddington. The three of them were inseparable. They had a great relationship and I think that is why the Club enjoyed such a good period on the 70s.
The Ashton-Under-Lyne born star penned his deal with the Potters just weeks after the Club secured its first, and only major trophy to date – the League Cup against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium back in 1972.
Terry Conroy and George Eastham were both on target for Waddington’s underdogs against the much-fancied Blues, with Peter Osgood scoring for the Londoners as they crashed to a surprising 2-1 defeat.
“I wasn’t a part of the set-up at Stoke then, but I suppose I did play a big part in the Club winning the cup by missing a penalty for West Ham against Stoke in the semi-final,” he acknowledged.
“Obviously, at the time, it was of huge disappointment to me, because being at West Ham, I was desperate to win the trophy with them.
“Thankfully though, I didn’t put the penalty up into the stands, it took a great save from the best goalkeeper that the world has ever seen, Gordon Banks, to keep it out – so I can forgive him for that one I think.
“It has come up in conversation from time-to-time to be honest, and maybe it will again this weekend too, with a few of the other lads from the 72 team who will be in attendance.”
Stoke’s triumph ensured a first-ever crack at the continent for Waddington’s stars, and just months into his Potters career, Hurst went on to etch himself into the Club’s history books by scoring in the first ever European encounter against German side FC Kaiserslautern.
“I didn’t realise that it was the first European game for the Club, so that is a new one to me, but I do think I remember scoring the goal,” he said.
“It was a great period for the Club at that time, and I still have incredibly fond memories of the years that I spent there. I probably left the Club earlier than I really should have, having left to go to West Bromwich Albion.
“In hindsight, I wish I had have stayed for another year, but that is history now, and I don’t suppose I can have too many regrets about my playing career.”