Stoke City: Denis Smith selects his top Potters
Stoke City are 150 years old this year, and what better way to mark the occasion than by recalling their finest players?
Today, Stoke City legend Denis Smith selects his favourite City line-up from the players he has watched.
We'd love our readers to do the same. Tell us how long you have been following the Potters, name your best Stoke City team and explain your choices.
The best response will win a framed and signed poster of Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross, plus a signed copy of a fabulous pictorial of the Potters entitled Stoke City: A Nostalgic Look at a Century Of The Club.
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DENIS Smith loves Stoke City so much, he played for the reserve team on the day of his wedding.
The Stoke legend played 482 games for the Potters from 1968 to 1982, a dream come true for a player who grew up supporting the club.
The 65-year-old, from Meir, has been following City ever since his dad took him to his first match in the junior pen of the Boothen End in the mid-1950s.
He's thought long and hard about which players to include in his all-time Stoke City XI, and agonised over which players to leave out.
GORDON BANKS (246 apps 1967-72)
There's only one possible player for this position. Gordon was the world's number one and he did everything well, be that shot stopping, coming for crosses when necessary or distribution.
His positioning was brilliant too. In fact, if he had to dive he used to get upset because he thought he was in the wrong position!
JOHN McCUE (542 apps 1956-60)
We have some good candidates here with Jackie Marsh and Lee Dixon. But, with apologies to Jackie, I've looked beyond my team-mates from that 1970s side.
Lee Dixon doesn't quite make it because he wasn't at Stoke all that long.
So my place goes to John McCue. I loved watching him as a kid, especially the way he tackled. He didn't hold back.
NEIL FRANKLIN (162 apps 1946-50)
I'm including him on the basis I did see him play – albeit in a charity game. I'm swayed by my dad's views and he told me what a fantastic player Franklin was.
In fact my dad would say to me 'you're good son, but not as good as Neil Franklin'.
I told Peter Coates this once and he agreed!
ROBERT HUTH (154 apps 2009 – present)
It's a toss up whether to choose Huth or Ryan Shawcross, both excellent players.
In the end I've gone for Huth only because he and the ball-playing Franklin might work better as a partnership.
We're spoiled for choice because I've had to leave out Steve Bould.
Steve started as a centre-forward, but I converted him to a centre-half when I was coaching on an end-of-season youth team trip.
I just felt he was better facing the play and had all the attributes to be a defender.
TONY ALLEN (473 apps 1957-69)
Again, I've tried to keep away from the 1970s team so Mike Pejic misses out.
Tony Allen was a fine player. Whereas Pej was a great tackler, Tony was brilliant at intercepting the ball.
His use of the ball was very good and he could also play centre-half as well as full-back.
He was picked for England and that didn't happen unless you were a good player.
SIR STANLEY MATTHEWS (355 apps 1932-47 & 1961-65)
I was on the terraces when Sir Stan started his second spell for Stoke. He was brilliant at 46, so I can only imagine how good he must have been when he was younger.
I remember Stan's comeback game when more than 30,000 turned up against Huddersfield. The Terriers' Ray Wilson was the England left-back, but he didn't go near Matthews, pictured below, that day.
If he'd fouled him he would have got lynched!
ALAN HUDSON (162 apps 1974-76 & 1984-85)
I've tried to keep away from the 1970s team, but I just can't leave this bloke out.
He was different class on the ball, in fact he didn't pass the ball he just loaned it out.
He was also a tremendous athlete, which rarely gets mentioned. Players like myself or Jackie Marsh could run, but Huddy was unbelievable.
I had a few disagreements with him, but the kid could play, and entertain too.
FRANK BOWYER (436 apps 1948-60)
He had a fantastic left foot and could switch play, get crosses or shots in, the lot.
He was one of those players you would watch pinging balls about and think 'wow!'.
TIM COLEMAN (126 apps 1953-58)
Normally I would pick my old team-mate Terry Conroy, but Tim Coleman scored seven goals against Lincoln City in 1957.
This made a great impression on me at the time as a young lad following Stoke. Seven goals from the wing? What an achievement!
JIMMY GREENHOFF (338 apps 1969-76)
I want to pick Freddie Steele for my dad, who told me how great he was.
But of the players I saw, I have a huge problem choosing two from Jimmy Greenhoff, John Ritchie and Dennis Viollet.
Jimmy gets the nod for me, a tremendous player. Leaving him out would kill me.
DENNIS VIOLLET (207 apps 1962-67)
'Tricky' was a brilliant player and I loved watching him when I was growing up.
His touch and movement were so smooth they were like velvet.
As I had a reputation as a tough defender, people might be surprised that I've leaned so much towards flair players.
But I loved watching the skill of players like Dennis Viollet.
ROGER JONES (112 apps 1977-79)
I am sure a lot of people will go for Peter Shilton, but Roger Jones was a super keeper.
The players really took to him and he was excellent for us in our 1978/79 promotion season. Myself and Mike Doyle got a lot of credit at the back, but perhaps a lot of that praise should have gone to Roger.
He later played for me at York City and coached for me at Sunderland.
ERIC SKEELS (592 apps 1960-1976)
He could play anywhere. With him on the bench, we wouldn't need any other substitutes.
JOHN RITCHIE (343 apps 1963-66 & 1969-74)
We need a goalscorer on the bench and I'm still agonising about having to leave him out of my starting XI.
HOWARD KENDALL (91 apps 1977-79)
He could do the lot in midfield. So good that I'm having to leave Jimmy McIlroy out of my squad.
GEORGE EASTHAM (239 apps 1966-1973)
He could find space in a telephone box. If ever you were in trouble, you'd know George would help you out by being available for a nice easy pass.
A real craftsman and, when I went into coaching, it was his technique that I tried to teach.
TONY WADDINGTON (1960-77)
When I became a manager he was the man I went to for advice.
He told me: 'If you want to be a good manager, sign good players. If you want to be a great manager, sign great players'.
There will be more greatest Stoke City teams next week.