Stoke City: 'How Jimmy Greenhoff never played for England I will never know'
STOKE City are 150 years old this year, so what better way to mark the occasion than by recalling their finest players?
JOHN HILDITCH, the one-time top-level match official from Weston Coyney, today selects his favourite line-up from the Potters stars he has seen play over the years.
We'd love you to do the same. Just tell us how long you have been following the Potters, name your best Stoke City team and manager, and then give the reasons for 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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JOHN Hilditch has seen the game from the closest quarters possible as a referee and linesman.
But his true love was always watching Stoke City from the stands.
"Yes, I've been watching Stoke City as a referee and a fan since the 1960/61 season," says John.
"I have been greedy and opted for the current option of naming seven subs because it would be a shame not to utilise certain good players.
"As for the starting 11, you will see they were all managed at one time or another by the same man.
"And I believe my 11 would be both entertaining and competitive."
GORDON BANKS (246 apps 1967-72)
THERE'S no need to say more than he was the best ever.
CALVIN PALMER (196 apps 1963-68)
AT right-back I considered Jackie Marsh, the super attacking John Butler and the very reliable Lee Dixon, a much better player than pundit.
But Calvin wins my vote because he was strong, fast and a good defender after being converted by Tony Waddington from a very good half-back. He was also a very good talker and leader.
MIKE PEJIC (336 apps 1969-77)
TONY Allen would no doubt challenge Pejic for the left-back slot, but I never saw enough of Tony in his prime.
Mike is actually a very quiet man, but what a hard player. He took no prisoners, but he could also play. He was very fast going forward and could score the odd goal or two.
DENIS SMITH (482 apps 1968-82)
MR Stoke. Like Banksy, enough said. Except to say that had Denis played for another club maybe England would have called. Brian Clough was a great admirer.
ALAN DODD (416 apps 1969-82)
I'D have him alongside Smith in central defence and again, if with another club, maybe England would have called.
He was one of the best footballing central defenders around and easily on a par with Roy McFarland (if not better).
TERRY CONROY (333 apps 1967-79)
NO other contestant on the right (even with his dodgy knees). He could offer a number of options on both wings, and when Waddo pushed him inside he was successful there too.
PETER DOBING (372 apps 1963-72)
HE'D be my captain because he played his best football for the club when made skipper. He mixed silky skills with a disguised steel, and scored some very good goals – for example, one from his hat-trick in a 3-2 home win over Leeds when he left Jackie Charlton in his wake before firing home an angled shot.
ALAN HUDSON (162 apps 1974-76 & 1984-85)
CLASS. What a wonderful player. In my time as a Stoke fan, he's the best footballer I've seen in the famous red and white stripes. Imagine how he would play on today's billiard table pitches?
Look on YouTube and find a Stoke game on Derby's mud-heap of a pitch and watch out for a sublime flick that led to a Geoff Salmons cross for a Jimmy Greenhoff volley. Magic.
JOHN MAHONEY (329 apps 1967-77)
I CONSIDERED Micky Bernard and Eric Skeels, but John just had that extra something which allowed him to harass opponents into giving the ball away, to free it for play-maker Hudson.
He also offered Huddy defensive protection with his phenomenal work rate.
JOHN RITCHIE (343 apps 1963-66 & 1969-74)
ONE of the best centre-forwards I have seen in any generation, especially after his return from Sheffield Wednesday.
A great header of the ball, he also had a good shot for a big man and could play a bit too.
What a wonderful image of his goal celebration at the Hillsborough semi-final in 1971.
JIMMY GREENHOFF (338 apps 1969-76)
GOD! My favourite player of all time, His volleying was the best I have ever seen. Please look on YouTube to witness one at Birmingham in 1974. How this guy never played for England I will never know. Jimmy's on-field connection with Huddy was telepathic. See Jimmy's goal at www.youtube.com/watch? feature=player_detailpage &v=X5EGhogdwxo
JOHN FARMER (185 apps 1965-76)
MOST people seemed to have chosen Peter Shilton, but I believe he never played that well at Stoke. My choice was actually between Farmer and Peter Fox, but Farmer gets it because I remember him during his settled period being strong, commanding and a good shot stopper.
LEE SANDFORD (324 apps 1989-96)
HE would offer solid and dependable cover for both the full-backs and centre-halves. A very good player who could have played at a higher level.
ERIC SKEELS (592 apps 1960-76)
THE options Eric would offer are obvious with his versatility. Denis Law apparently said he was the player he least liked playing against because he gave him nothing.
PETER HOEKSTRA (78 apps 2001-04)
HERE I thought of Mark Chamberlain and Geoff Salmons, but Hoekstra's skilful wing play won the day.
MARK STEIN (134 apps 1991-93 & 1996-97)
WHAT an option to have on the bench, either feeding off Ritchie or allowing flowing ground play with Greenhoff.
DENNIS VIOLLET (207 apps 1962-67)
VERSATILE – a deadly goalscorer who could also do a job in midfield. A very talented player.
PAUL BRACEWELL (141 apps 1980-83)
OBVIOUSLY Paul's best period was at Everton, but at his best what an option as midfield cover.
TONY WADDINGTON (1960-77)
ALTHOUGH Tony Pulis and Lou Macari must be considered, I choose Tony because the team I have picked are all his players.
I believe that with his footballing principles and with the players chosen, he could offer entertaining and competitive football.