Lou Macari: Trophy bid can lead to unforgettable memories
IT may not get the coverage in the Far East or South East Asia, but there is a tournament starting tonight which can still provide managers, players and supporters with one of the best days of their lives.
It may be tongue in cheek that Stoke fans sing, "the Autoglass Trophy, we've won it two times" when they come up against the giants of the European Cup and Champions League.
But that Football League Trophy, variously known over the years as the Leyland DAF Cup, LDV Vans Trophy and now the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, has given myself, the Potters and Port Vale some great times.
They are not expecting a bumper crowd at Vale Park when League One leaders Tranmere Rovers roll into town for a 7.15pm kick-off, but you can bet Vale boss Micky Adams will be taking the game mighty seriously.
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Birmingham City were struggling financially just like Vale when I became manager in February 1991 and it's fair to say this competition saved the club from going under.
They were 11th in the division with no chance of doing anything and I took the job with no contract on the proviso that if we got success I would be in a good position to get a decent contract come the summer.
The club hadn't been to Wembley in something like 35 years and the run in that cup, beating Tranmere 3-2 in the final, was fantastic for the coffers, the players and the supporters.
At the start of the season there are seven trophies up for grabs for Football League clubs and if you can get your hands on any one of them then you've had a good year.
From that team Vince Overson, Nigel Gleghorn, Simon Sturridge, Ian Clarkson and John Gayle all came to play for me at Stoke, and Phil Robinson followed the same path in the late 1990s. Some great characters.
The chairman thanked me for giving him the best day of his life, but the promise he made never materialised, which is why I walked out of the door and soon ended up at the Victoria Ground.
We ended up at Wembley again, with big Vince as captain leading the winning team up those famous old stairs for the second year in a row after Mark Stein had scored the winner to beat Stockport County 1-0.
I will never forget the incredible noise made by the Stokies on that sunny day and we were able to end the season on a high even after Stockport had knocked us out in the play-off semi-finals just three days earlier. A club who had not tasted success in a while was back on the up, although Vale supporters will be keen to remind anyone they beat us on the way to taking the trophy in 1992/93, seeing off poor old Stockport again in the final.
Stoke went and won it again at Wembley in 2000 after slipping back into the third tier, followed by Vale 12 months later at the Millennium Stadium.
There will be some young Vale fans who have never tasted a really good cup run so they should get down to the ground tonight and hope they are there for the start of something which could turn out to be quite special.
People might call it "the Mickey Mouse Cup" but 99.99 per cent of players will never get the chance to play at Wembley during their careers and for those lads on the pitch tonight this is their best opportunity.
If they can get Vale there this season after everything that has gone on behind the scenes at the club, they will be forever heroes in Burslem.