Top Potters: 'I told Huddy he was the best Stoke City player I'd ever seen ... he replied ''Yeah, I know'''
STOKE City are 150 years old this year, so what better way to mark the occasion than by recalling their finest players?
DAVID GOULD, a lifelong Stokie now living near Manchester, 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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Valid until: Saturday, June 08 2013
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DAVID Gould's love affair with Stoke City could easily have been over before it had even started.
His introduction to the mighty Potters was a 1-0 defeat by Leicester City at the Victoria Ground when barely in his teens.
The 42-year-old recalls: "It was a Christmas fixture during the 1983/84 season. My memory of the match is the way a young Gary Lineker kept speeding past the Stoke defenders.
"I eventually asked my dad whether they were all injured, to which he replied: 'No, they're always like this'.
"Despite this inauspicious start – Stoke lost 1-0 to an Alan Smith goal – I've remained hooked ever since.
"I'm now living in the heart of enemy territory near Manchester, where I work as a university lecturer.
"But I am a season-ticket holder at Stoke, proudly following the Potters from Block 19 of the Boothen End."
PETER FOX (477 apps 1978-93)
I remember there was talk of Foxy being worthy of a place in the England squad in his 80s heyday.
That might have been pushing it a bit (although if Gary Bailey could make it, why not?), but he was one of the few players who stood out when I started watching the Potters.
A great club servant, he loyally stayed with us as we slid down the League and got some reward when we won the Autoglass Trophy at Wembley in 1992.
JOHN BUTLER (268 apps 1988-95)
Also a member of the victorious team of 1992 and, of course, the Division Three title-winning side the year after.
John was one of those ultra-reliable players who never seemed to stand out unless he was injured or suspended ... which was when you noticed the job he did for the team.
Signed as a replacement for Arsenal-bound Lee Dixon, his seven seasons of solid service just gets him the nod ahead of his predecessor.
His almost-legendary pudding-bowl haircut also played a part in my choice.
DANNY HIGGINBOTHAM (128 apps 2006-07 & 2008-13)
Another good honest professional, Higgy never let us down during his two stints at the Britannia Stadium.
He was player of the season in 2006/07 – and then promptly left for Sunderland.
We can forgive him that, though, as he saw sense a year later and came back to God's country.
Scored from a thunderous free-kick against West Ham to help take us to the FA Cup semi-final in 2011, but was then cruelly denied his chance to play at Wembley (twice, as it turned out) by injury.
RYAN SHAWCROSS (231 apps 2007-present)
Probably Tony Pulis's best-ever signing, Ryan was plucked from the obscurity of Man United reserves and promptly announcing himself to the wider world by scoring the winning goal on his debut at Cardiff City.
He went on to add a further six goals in our 2007-08 promotion campaign and has since become team captain and an integral part of the Stoke side.
A strong, uncompromising, yet fair defender, whose distribution has improved over the years to the extent that he won the first of hopefully many England caps last November. Ryan is a credit to the club and to himself.
ABDOULAYE FAYE (84 apps 2008-11)
Shawcross' partner and mentor in our first Premier season, Abdoulaye was immaculate during that campaign.
The perfect mix of muscle and finesse, I can remember the gasps of disbelief from the Boothen End as he gave the ball away in a game towards the end of 2008-09, probably because it was the first mistake he'd made that season. No doubt he only did it for a bit of a laugh.
An instant hero with the fans, his legendary status was confirmed at the end of that season when he reportedly went, erm, let's say, 'celebrating' in London with some of the more raucous elements of the Stoke support after the final match against Arsenal. They're probably still recovering.
ALAN HUDSON (162 apps 1974-76 & 1984-85)
I saw Huddy when he came back to Stoke towards the end of his career in the mid-80s and inspired a poor side to stage a Lazarus-like revival in the second half of the 1983-84 season, avoiding the drop on the final day.
As I'd only been watching Stoke for six months, I thought every campaign would end like this.
Alan Hudson remains the best player I've ever seen in a Stoke shirt, something I told him when I met him in a curry house a couple of years ago. His response? "Yeah, I know!"
Huddy, I can't fault you and I can only shake my head in wonder at what you must have been like in your mid-70s glory days.
RORY DELAP (208 apps 2006-13)
Rory gets into my team on the basis that he'd be the perfect foil for Hudson, doing the fetching and carrying for him in midfield, while also helping to break up the opposition's moves and shielding the back four.
Then, of course, there's his throws, which helped to define Stoke in the first couple of seasons after our promotion to the Premier League.
But Rory, left, at his peak was also an underrated defensive midfielder who did a lot of unglamorous work for his team-mates.
He's also a massive Oasis fan, apparently, which is always a good thing.
MARK CHAMBERLAIN (125 apps 1982-85)
Chambo at his peak was better than his more famous contemporary John Barnes – faster, a more skilful dribbler and probably less grumpy.
Chambo was electric out on the right wing for a few seasons in the mid-80s, with an audible buzz going around the Victoria Ground whenever he received the ball as we anticipated the public humiliation of another left-back.
A shame he never really fulfilled his potential, because I've always imagined that watching him must have been what watching Sir Stan was like.
PETER BEAGRIE (61 apps 1988-89)
And on the other wing we have Peter Beagrie, who arrived at the Vic not long after Chamberlain had left.
Another entertaining, mazy dribbler, who could send full-backs spinning – in fact he was so good at it that he often beat the same man twice, just for fun.
This may or may not have been a good thing for the team, but it was certainly exciting to watch for the fans, and one goal in particular, against Bournemouth I think, stands out.
Beagrie ran from inside his own half, beating half the opposition team (or maybe just the same player five times) and then planting a rocket into the top corner of the goal.
This was duly followed by his trademark back-flip in celebration. A great entertainer.
MARK STEIN, pictured right (123 apps 1991-93 & 1997)
Spotted by Lou Macari playing for Oxford reserves, he was a revelation when he donned the red-and-white stripes, being transformed into a goal machine.
Admittedly, his goals for us were all scored in either the second or third tier, but the fact he was pure class was proved when he eventually went to Chelsea and scored for a Premiership record of seven matches in a row.
The best natural finisher I have ever seen in a Stoke shirt.
RICARDO FULLER (208 apps 2006-12)
Ricardo scored the best goal I have ever seen from a Stoke player against Birmingham in a night match in 2010.
He picked up the ball inside his own half, meandered off towards the right wing, then decided to turn inside, dribble past a couple of bemused defenders and crack a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.
There were many more wonder-goals from the Jamaican maverick during his six years in the Potteries, but for some reason that one sticks in my mind the most.
THOMAS SORENSEN (119 apps 2008-present)
Although he does drop the occasional clanger, Tommy can be relied on to make a few saves in every match.
STEVE BOULD (211 apps 1981-88)
When I saw Steve Bould playing for the Potters both of us had full heads of hair.
He remains one of the best defenders I've seen while watching Stoke and, despite his continuing association with Arsenal, I'd like to think he remains a Potter at heart.
He's undoubtedly the finest footballer to come from Blurton.
VINCE OVERSON (139 apps 1991-95)
Back straight, chest puffed-out, legs like tree trunks – there you have Big Vince Overson.
A leader of men, he was the natural choice as captain of Lou Macari's all-conquering team of the early 1990s – the most enjoyable five years I've had watching Stoke.
NIGEL GLEGHORN (93 apps 1992-96)
A versatile, reliable midfielder possessing an unbelievable work-rate coupled with a decent goal return.
TONY KELLY (44 apps 1986-87)
Not exactly known for exerting himself (unless the chippy was about to close), Tony 'Zico' Kelly was nevertheless one of the most skilful players I've seen in a Stoke shirt after brightening up many a dull afternoon in the late 80s with his precision passing and deadly free-kicks.
WAYNE BIGGINS (158 apps 1989-92 & 1994)
'Bertie' was Steino's partner-in-crime and acted as the perfect foil for his more dynamic partner, chipping in with his share of goals and somehow always retaining that sun tan.
PETER THORNE (159 apps 1997-2001)
My favourite-ever Stoke player. I've had to let my head rule my heart and put him on the bench since most of his City goals were scored in the Third Division.
An 'old-fashioned' centre-forward, he scored goals galore in a succession of otherwise desperate Stoke sides in the dark, dark days around the turn of the century.
LOU MACARI (1991-93 & 1994-97)
Here I've let my heart rule my head because objectively Tony Pulis has now done more for Stoke City than Macari.
I have respect for TP, but Lou created a Stoke side that was fantastic to watch by playing fast, attacking football.
We'll never know, but I wonder what style Stoke would be playing today if Super Lou was in charge.