After a brief experiment at the beginning of the 20th century with red and blue in the ‘Southern League’, Stoke City have been straight up red & white stripe fanatics. That is, except for one year in 1983/84. That was the year when they opted for a difficult to describe main section of red pinstripes with full colour sleeves. The effect is pinkish, and frankly looks odd.
Stoke City, Umbro, 1983/4 (as modelled by Mark Chamberlain)
But that doesn’t mean the Umbro shirt can not be admired. What can also be admired was manager Ritchie Barker’s foresight in the summer of 1983 to turn what had been a reasonably successful passing side into a completely unsuccessful long ball team. Barker had been on some sort of summer camp at Lilleshall where they had persuaded him to change Stoke’s style, and despite protestations from the players, Barker pushed ahead with the change. The results were disastrous.
It took Barker’s sacking to turn round Stoke’s fortunes. Club hero Alan Hudson returned from a stint abroad (including a spell at Cleveland Force) to help former assistant Bill Asprey save the Potters, and Stoke started to play some more conventional floor-based stuff.
But Stoke still needed a result going into the final day of the season to avoid the drop. In the end, they won comfortably, a brace of penalties from top scorer Paul Maguire helping them to a 4-0 win over already relegated Wolves.
Let us return, though, to that heady summer of 1983, when Ritchie Barker’s mind was full of thoughts like ‘big number 9’, ‘big number 10’, and ‘big number 11’. Ritchie’s vision of how the game should be played was ahead of its time, as although the 1980s was a great time for long ball enthusiasts, it is only now that it has truly found its heartland in the Midlands. And so to Barker we dedicate this clip of the Stoke lads showing the boys from West Ham that it doesn’t matter how it goes in, as long as it has spent a lot of time in the air beforehand.
You might note, by the way, that one of those goals is scored by Mark Chamberlain, father of Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-etc. The original Chambo had joined Stoke from hated rivals Port Vale. Asked if he had burned any bridges by leaving Vale, Chamberlain replied, “No not really. Mind you, I wouldn’t. I don’t really have any mates”.
Which is definitely strange. After all, in the photo above you can see Chambo modelling the kit itself above. He certainly seems friendly enough, and I for one wouldn’t have minded taking him out for a pint.
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