Stoke City: 'Franklin was so good he hardly ever got his shorts dirty'
STOKE City are 150 years old this year, and what better way to mark the occasion than by recalling their finest players?
Today, 82-year-old season-ticket holder John Kirkman selects his favourite Stoke 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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Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
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JOHN Kirkman attended his first Stoke City game as a six-year-old in 1937 when his dad took him along to see the Potters take on Arsenal.
"I haven't really liked Arsenal ever since!" he confesses.
"Especially after those two FA Cup semi-finals in the 1970s."
John, from Swynnerton, watched that first game from the Boothen paddock of the Victoria Ground, but these days is a season-ticket holder in the Q-Railing Stand.
John's squad includes players who have represented the Potters in eight different decades.
GORDON BANKS (246 apps 1967-72)
The obvious choice. Banks was the best goalkeeper in the world while he was at Stoke; getting him showed just what an ambitious manager Tony Waddington was.
I think you judge a goalkeeper not on their saves, but their mistakes. Banks very rarely made any mistakes.
LEE DIXON (88 apps 1986-88)
Dixon wasn't at Stoke long before he moved on to Arsenal. However, during his time with us, Dixon was a class act.
He gets in my team at right-back ahead of Jackie Marsh and a defender from the 1940s, Billy Mould.
NEIL FRANKLIN (162 apps 1946-50)
He was coolness personified. He was very good on the ball and read the game so well, he hardly ever got his shorts dirty.
It was just a pity he went to South America and ruined a fantastic career.
I saw him play for England against Scotland at Villa Park in 1945. He was one of three Stoke players in the England team that day, along with Stan Matthews and Frank Soo.
DENIS SMITH (482 apps 1968-82)
We have had some very good centre-halves, but Smith was Stoke through and through.
An absolutely fearless defender who collected so many injuries for the cause. It didn't bother him, in fact he seemed to play better when he had a cut over his eyebrow.
He would have to change his game a little in the modern game though, otherwise he'd have two yellow cards after half an hour.
MIKE PEJIC (336 apps 1969-1977)
There's some competition for this place with Tony Allen and John McCue, but Pejic gets in my team.
He was a very committed player who could also get forward. He would make life very difficult for his opponent.
I remember him pulling Dennis Tueart's shirt in a game against Manchester City. Tueart got so fed up he took his shirt off and threw it at Pejic, so Pejic threw Tueart's shirt into the crowd!
SIR STANLEY MATTHEWS (355 apps 1932-47 & 1961-65)
He has to be in there. I was just too young to remember him at his best for Stoke in his first spell the mid-1930s.
Matthews had incredible pace over the first few yards. He would shimmy and be gone before the full-back knew where he was.
ALAN HUDSON (162 apps 1974-76 & 1984-85)
Hudson was so good on the ball; defenders could play it short to him and they knew he wouldn't lose it.
He is just what the current Stoke midfield could do with. I suppose if he had a fault it was that he didn't score enough goals for a top-flight midfielder.
FRANK MOUNTFORD (425 apps 1946-57)
We need to balance this team with a defensive midfielder. Mountford was a hard man who later went on to become coach at Stoke.
He was born in Yorkshire, but grew up in the Potteries. I remember playing cricket against him when he played for a works team in Milton.
TERRY CONROY (333 apps 1967-79)
A damn good winger who was very fiery and scored a lot of goals. Bill Shankly once described Conroy as being 'all skill and guts'.
Conroy wasn't a very big player, but he was afraid of no-one. He gave Stoke great service.
JIMMY GREENHOFF (338 apps 1969-76)
Greenhoff had a superb understanding with Alan Hudson. It was almost telepathic the way Greenhoff would make the perfect run and Hudson could read it and play him in.
Greenhoff scored some great goals and was a fantastic volleyer of the ball; one of the best I have seen.
FREDDIE STEELE (251 apps 1934-49)
A fantastic player and a great goalscorer. Unfortunately for him, the war came along in the best years of his career.
Steele was a tremendous header of the ball, even though he wasn't a particularly big man. He was also brilliant with both feet.
PETER SHILTON (120 apps 1974-77)
Not a bad substitute keeper. Mind you, Asmir Begovic could be pushing him for that place.
ROBERT HUTH (154 apps 2009 – present)
A very solid and reliable player, just what I want to cover my central defenders. He's the most recent player in my squad, but if I had a couple more subs Ricardo Fuller would also be there.
TONY ALLEN (473 apps 1957-69)
Another local lad. An excellent left-back who could also play on the right and was picked for England.
JOHN RITCHIE (343 apps 1963-66 & 1969-74)
The complete centre-forward. Very good in the air, held the ball up well, good pace and scored goals. What more could you want?
MARK CHAMBERLAIN (125 apps 1982-85)
A fantastic player when he first joined us from Port Vale. Terrific pace and always seemed able to get to the byline and pull the ball back. A wonderful talent, but I think injuries took their toll on him after he left Stoke.
TONY WADDINGTON (1960-77)
Built a very good side, first by bringing older players to the club, including bringing back Stanley Matthews.
He also signed some excellent players, such as Terry Conroy and John Ritchie, for peanuts. He had a great eye for a player.
TOMORROW: Denis Smith picks his best Stoke City XI.