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OFFICIAL club website of stoke city

1980-1989 Five Managers, Five Chairmen


THE Eighties were momentous with the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough and the war against hooliganism. By the middle of the decade attendances were in retreat everywhere.

The Government campaigned for identity cards for supporters as a means of tackling the symptoms of soccer violence rather than treating the cause. City were not immune from the national trend. Despite regaining First Division status, average home crowds dwindled from 20,000 in 1980 to 10,700 in 1985. The remaining ties with the glory days of the early 70's were severed when Denis Smith, Jackie Marsh and Terry Conroy departed.

New stars such as Garth Crooks, Adrian Heath, Paul Bracewell and Lee Chapman rolled off the youth conveyor belt. But they, too, were gone by the time relegation knocked at the door again in 1983/84. Durban, after consolidating First Division status, left to join Sunderland in the summer of 1981. His successor Richie Barker took charge, signed Mickey Thomas from Brighton and winger Mark Chamberlain from Port Vale, and moulded a hugely entertaining side for 1982/83.

Unsuccessful changes in tactics led to Barker's dismissal the following season and new boss Bill Asprey worked some of his own magic in the transfer market by bringing back Alan Hudson from Arsenal and inspiring a revival in the second-half of the season culminating in a relegation escape on the final day.

The next season, though, was a bitter struggle. Asprey left in April with relegation already inevitable and former Ipswich and England full-back Mick Mills was appointed player-manager for 1985/86. Mills first task was to consolidate with a young squad and little money to spend. He did, finishing mid-table with occasional highlights such as a 6-2 defeat of Leeds at the Victoria Ground.

The team climbed as high as 4th the next season - thrashing Leeds at home again, this time 7-2 - after a poor start but fell away again at the end to finish eighth. A run to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, culminating in home defeat by eventual winners Coventry before a crowd of 31,000, showed the potential support that was still there. Success, alas, eluded Mills and after a mid-table finish again the next term and a poor start to 1989/90 after spending £1,000,000 on new players, he was sacked in November 1989.

His successor, Alan Ball, became the fifth manager in ten years, coincidentally equalling the Club's chairmen in the same period. Tom Degg, Percy Axon, Frank Edwards, Sandy Clubb and finally Peter Coates all occupied the chair. As the 90's dawned stability was needed all round.