PETER COATES has highlighted the importance of Stoke City taking their 150th anniversary celebrations into the community after attending the official launch of a special exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
The Club's Chairman was joined by City stars past and present for an occasion which underlined the fact that great emphasis is being placed on the strong links with the local communities in celebrating this prestigious landmark in their history.
The Potters feature prominently in the museum trail telling the story of the beautiful game, an exhibition which will run for seven months.
It acknowledges that City are marking 150 years since their formation at a time when the Football Association are celebrating the same milestone.
"We feel very privileged to be here and we are very proud to be celebrating our 150th anniversary in the same year as the FA," commented Mr Coates.
"This exhibition is a fascinating way of telling the story of how the game of football has developed over the past 150 years and our part in all that.
"There is nothing fancy about the way in which we are celebrating our anniversary; we want it to reflect the Club's strong links with the community.
"Whether they are regular visitors to the Britannia Stadium or not, the people of Stoke-on-Trent will get a lot of enjoyment out of this impressive exhibition."
As well as the presence of current City stars Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shotton, the launch night of the museum trail was attended by a number of legendary figures, most notably Gordon Banks, Jimmy Greenhoff, Terry Conroy and Denis Smith.
"It's a good selling point for the area that some famous players have come here, played for the Club and then decided to remain local," added Mr Coates.
The Football Trail at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery features memorabilia relating to Stoke City, The Football Association and Staffordshire FA.
Pride of place went to a solid bronze statue of Banks holding aloft the Jules Rimet Trophy after England's World Cup triumph at Wembley in 1966.
Visitors will be able to learn more about the social historical context of football in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and how fashion has changed in the game. Exhibits include old programmes and match tickets, posters and silverware from Staffordshire FA.
The shirt and tracksuit worn by central defender Smith in the Club's 1972 League Cup Final victory against Chelsea has also been put on display and the trail incorporates the dedicated Sir Stanley Matthews exhibition at the museum.
Also on display is the Loving Cup, presented in August 1937 by the then Stoke City President, Sir Francis Joseph, to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the May 12, 1937.
Cups were presented to the 22 English First Division Clubs that finished the 1936-37 season and to the two clubs that were promoted into the division to start the 1937-38 season.
The cups were also presented to the Scottish Football Association on the occasion of Britain v Rest of Europe match, at Hampden Park and also to Glasgow Rangers as a tribute to their generosity when they came to Stoke to play a match in support of the Holditch Colliery Disaster Fund.
At Stoke City, the custom of drinking a toast from the three-handled Loving Cup is still carried out at the first home match of the New Year.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, culture and sport, said: "Football is the most popular sport in the city and both of our professional clubs have a long and proud history.
"Stoke City are now an established Premier League team celebrating their 150th anniversary this year and Port Vale are chasing promotion from League Two, so it's an exciting time for both of our professional clubs.
"I think all football fans will really enjoy this exhibition."