Stoke City: Lifelong fan picks 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?
So thanks then to Alan Stokes from Cheadle for getting in touch with The Sentinel.
The 66-year-old has been following City since the 1950s and still attends games at the Britannia Stadium.
He's picked his favourite Stoke City XI of the players he's watched, and we'd love our readers to do the same.
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Tell us how long you have been following the Potters, name your best Stoke City team, and explain your pick in no more than 250 words. 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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IT was the celebration of Stoke's 150th birthday – and recalling the club's 100th anniversary – that prompted Alan Stokes to reminisce about all the great players he had seen wearing the famed red and white stripes.
He said: "I was at Stoke City's 100 year anniversary game in 1963 when Stoke played Real Madrid.
"I was brought up watching black and white footage of great Real Madrid players such as Puskas and Di Stefano, so to see Real come to Stoke was fantastic.
"This year's anniversary set me thinking about all the players who have appeared for Stoke, and I tried to pick a team from the many great players who have represented us since then.
"The team I have picked would take some beating, and maybe they could even teach the modern-day Barcelona a thing or two. That said, I'm sure Tony Pulis could improve the Barca defence."
GORDON BANKS (246 apps 1967-72)
LEE DIXON (88 apps 1986-88)
DENIS SMITH (482 apps 1968-82)
STEVE BOULD (211 apps 1981-88)
MIKE PEJIC (336 apps 1969-77)
Alan's view: "There's no question about Gordon Banks. He picks himself. People talk about Tony Pulis being defensive, but Tony Waddington got his defence right first and couldn't have had a better keeper.
"At right-back Jackie Marsh was Mr Reliable. But he was an out and out defender whereas Lee Dixon was better going forward.
"It was a difficult choice in central defence because I believe our current pairing of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth are like clones of Denis Smith and Alan Bloor.
"Like Shawcross, Smith was a taller player who got stuck in and took no prisoners while Huth, like Bloor, is the solid one behind him. Steve Bould just gets into my team. I know he had his best days after leaving us for Arsenal, but what a great home-grown youngster.
"At left-back, Mike Pejic gets in my team, although he followed some very good left-backs like Tony Allen and Johnny McCue."
TERRY CONROY (333 apps 1967-79)
ALAN HUDSON (162 apps 1974-76 & 1984-85)
ERIC SKEELS (592 apps 1960-76)
MICKEY THOMAS (120 apps 1982-84 & 1990-91)
Alan's view: "People might be surprised that there is no Stanley Matthews in my team, but I only saw him in his second spell at Stoke.
"He was the catalyst for Stoke's revival when he returned to the club. "However, he didn't play all that many games after his first full season back, so instead my spot on the right wing goes to Terry Conroy. He was a great player who created so many goals with his crosses for John Ritchie.
"Alan Hudson was one of Tony Waddington's best signings, a joy to watch and someone who would get into any of the top-flight teams now. I saw his Stoke debut against Liverpool and he ran the show.
"Alongside Huddy I want a midfielder who would do the donkey work and allow the other players to play. I've gone for Eric Skeels, a real unsung hero who would never let the team down.
"Mickey Thomas was a real terrier up and down the left. A very good crosser or the ball who scored some good goals too. He stands out in that position."
JIMMY GREENHOFF (338 apps 1969-76)
JOHN RITCHIE (343 apps 1963-66 & 1969-74)
Alan's view: "We've had star names like Geoff Hurst, but he was getting towards the end of his career when he came to Stoke.
"John Ritchie was a brilliant target man, he was absolutely tremendous in the air.
"He would hold the ball up and lay it off to Jimmy Greenhoff who was tremendous on the floor.
"Greenhoff's control was tremendous and he would make super runs off Ritchie. They formed a partnership which would get into any Stoke team."
PETER SHILTON (120 apps 1974-77)
RYAN SHAWCROSS (223 apps 2007 to present)
HOWARD KENDALL (91 apps 1977-79)
MARK STEIN (134 apps 1991-93 & 1996-97)
Alan's view: "Peter Shilton is probably England's second best keeper after Banks, while Ryan Shawcross can become a real Stoke favourite if he stays for the next five years of his contract.
"Howard Kendall was an old-fashioned attacking wing-half who scored some good goals and gave us a good couple of years.
"As for Mark Stein, he was a real live-wire after Lou Macari snapped him up."
Alan's view: "Waddo gets the job for me, ahead of two other very good managers in Lou Macari and Tony Pulis.
"However, I do think times have changed and Stoke aren't able to play on the level playing field that they could when Tony Waddington in charge.
"Clubs used to share gate receipts which meant money was distributed more evenly and most players were paid the same.
"The Bosman ruling has also made it more difficult for all but the biggest clubs. Nowadays Stoke couldn't sign a Gordon Banks or Alan Hudson. Only the richest clubs could afford them."