It's always fun to go to one of the best football stadium bars in the country, DELILAH's BAR at the Britannia Stadium on Stanley Matthews Way at Stoke City.
Nothing much to do with Tom Jones actually. Nobody is sure, but they think that in the 70's Potters fans were not allowed to sing football songs at an away pub, so somebody sang Delilah and the rest, as they say, is history. www.stokecity.com
I was a guest of Jeff Connell who does the bill board advertising at the Britannia, and he and his wife Liz and son Sheldon, a Stoke ball boy picked me up at Stoke Station as I waited by the statue of Josiah Wedgewood across the road. The bar was already humming 2 hours before kick-off put we got comfy seats to watch Arsenal v Leeds United, the early match on TV, and I quenched my thirst with some cider.
What a match it was! FA Cup 3rd Round. After a few years in Division 1, Leeds are hoping for a quick return to The EPL from The Championship. They took the lead from a PK by Robert Snodgrass early in the second half in front of 9,000 of their travelling fans, until Gunners skipper Cesc Fabregas levelled the score from spot at the other end of The Emirates right at the end. 1-1 Really a WIN, WIN for Leeds with a full house of near 40,000 at Elland Road a week on Tuesday and more TV money. The girly boys from North London will not fancy a cold winter's night in West Yorkshire.
Anyway, Stoke City v Cardiff City was on the menu as we took our seats in the strangely named Q-Railings Stand. There were over 18,000 fans in a 24,000 capacity stadium with reduced prices as low as £5.00 for seniors and youth. Both put out weakened teams and it was the Welsh visitors that got on the scoreboard first from Chopra in the 8th minute. The Turkish international Tuncay equalised just before half time and that was it.
The highlight of the visit was to meet Jean Gough again, Sir Stanley Matthew's daughter in the Stanley Matthews Suite. Jeff had got all the memorabilia and made presentation cases for Stan's trophies, programmes, posters, jerseys, England caps, medals and more. I never get tired of looking at the items. Stan returned from Blackpool to play for City again in 1961 when Stoke were getting 8,000 in the Second Division, and at his first match on his return 35,000 showed up. He played his last match in the top tier at age 50 years and three months. www.ssmf.co.uk Stan Matthews Foundation.
He continued playing in the Maltese League and was even on the line-up for a European Cup tie at age 58!!! He passed away at age 85 in 2000, the day that England played Argentina at Wembley Stadium. Another legend, Gorden Banks has a statue unveiled by Pele a few years ago. The most magnificent statue anywhere is outside, three statues of Stan wearing his Stoke City uniform as a young man, then Blackpool,and then England. The hairs styles, uniforms and even the boots are accurate for the times.
In the evening we attended a birthday party in the club's Tony Worthington Suite. As I left, a fox ran in front of me. Foxes have dug holes in the pitch and two were actually shot on the grass in recent seasons.