Nigel Johnson reflects on a remarkable broadcasting career…
IF SOMEONE had said to me in the summer of 1969 when I made my first broadcast on BBC Radio Stoke from Newcastle & Hartshill cricket ground that I would be with the station in 2017 I would have said ‘Bunters’. How things turn out!
I have been very fortunate over the years to run my teaching career alongside broadcasting. My first football match was Stoke City away at West Brom on August 26, 1970. It was an evening game and West Brom won 5-2. Stoke didn’t deserve to be defeated by that margin. They had a strong side that featured Gordon Banks in goal, John Marsh, Mike Pejic, Alan Bloor, Mickey Bernard, Terry Conroy, Jimmy Greenhoff, John Ritchie and Peter Dobing.
Although the late John Abberley covered the League Cup Final in 1972 I bought a ticket and watched from the stands. What an afternoon that was as Peter Dobing lifted the trophy aloft after the final whistle. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
The Potters should have featured in the 1971 and 1972 FA Cup Finals but Arsenal denied them in contentious circumstances. However, in future years further success followed at Wembley in the Autoglass Trophy and Auto Windscreens Shield competitions.
It has been a wonderful experience to cover the Potters over the years and being given the opportunity to watch some gifted players. In my broadcasting era I must mention Gordon Banks who was the finest goalkeeper in the world prior to his tragic car accident. George Eastham, who scored Stoke’s winner in the 1972 League Cup Final, was a superb inside forward. He could dribble his way out of a packed telephone box. Peter Dobing was another brilliant inside forward on his day. John Ritchie, Mark Stein and Mike Sheron were strikers who found the net from all sorts of angles.
Lee Dixon and Steve Bould made their impressions at the Victoria Ground before moving on to Arsenal and Alan Hudson was like a ballet dancer on grass.
One of the many characters to wear the red and white stripes was George Berry. He came from the Wolves and slotted into the Victoria Ground like a glove. He gave of his all every time he came out to perform.
The Potters have had sound pairing at centre back over the years. Smith and Bloor, Dodd and O’Callaghan, Cranson and Overson, Shawcross and Huth and now Shawcross is pairing up with Zouma and Martins Indi.
Stoke have had numerous flair player who could operate in attacking areas. Terry Conroy, Jimmy Robertson, Garth Crooks, Mark Chamberlain, Jimmy Greenhoff, Peter Hoekstra, Peter Thorne, Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Peter Crouch. The list is endless.
Over the years I have interviewed many managers. Tony Waddington was the first followed by Bill Asprey, Mick Mills, Alan Ball, Lou Macari, Joe Jordan, Gary Megson, Chic Bates, Alan Durban, Chris Kamara, Brian Little, Gudjon Thordarson, Johan Boskamp, Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes.
Memories flood into my mind. One of the best was promotion to the Premier League in 2008. Also, the FA Cup Final and the Europa League in 2011. The Potters are in the top flight and long may they remain at the top table. Manchester United at home will be my 2,000th game behind the microphone. I do hope that there will be a few more.