Sunday 7 January 21, a minute before the call from Birmingham to chat with Paul for another episode of My Life My Music and I pulled out 1984 for today as it was a very memorable time and part of not only my career but life itself, before I go into the show with Paul I include our lead-up into what the show will be about, beginning with Paul’s first reply: Superb Al, I’ll have a good read of that later…just been listening to hits from ’84…..14 Number 1s starting with Pipes of Peace in January and I’m guessing that’s what you brought into that Stoke team…..Peace Organization and quality not seen since 1976…The second coming had arrived!
Stoke City 1983/84 season was the Mission Impossible start to 1984 when for the second time I joined the Potters when they were in the bottom four only this time they were 13 points adrift at the bottom and from their I began thinking that I was the Red Adair of the Potteries.
The 1983/84 was Stoke City’s 77th season in the Football League and the 51st in the First Division. Manager Richie Barker (After hearing what he did we’d have been better with Ronnie Barker) decided to change tactics prior to the start of the season as Stoke played well i the previous season playing good football. He changed to the long ball style of play and whilst It worked with other sides in the Division it didn’t with Stoke and results were poor. Barker was sacked and assistant manager Bill Asprey took over and he brought back club legend Alan Hudson which sparked a revival which ended with a 4-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on the last day of the season seeing Stoke stay up by two points.
We spoke about songs that related to our remarkable feat like Phil Collins’s – and my friendship and his wellbeing, hopefully he’s getting better – Against All Odds. Hello Is It Me Your Looking For by Lionel Richie which very much relates after my stint in 1975, actually signing twice for this club in the bottom four and hep leading them out of danger.
We talked of Tears For Fears who were around that time with Everybody Wants to Rule the World two young men I thought would become as big as the likes of Elton, Rod and Phil himself – although they, to me, were more like a follow-on from the Beatles, called The Fab Four although there was only really thee of them, John, George and Paul. As John replied when asked about Ringo: “Is he the best drummer in the world?” “He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.”
Then we spoke of how Unchained Melody came about, with Paul’s great piece of homework and researching, a hauntingly brilliant song which really came life in the movie Ghost almost as if written for that particular smash hit. I was, like millions of others, a massive fan of The Righteous Brothers and this song followed me wherever I went and if there was a Juke Box that was my Number one choice
We talked of the trip I put together to celebrate our Mission Impossible, which ended up Mission Completed to Tampa Bay, Florida, where are younger players changed the name of our hotel from The Hall of Fame to The Hall of Shame, as I said to Paul I don’t think this part of the world, including Clearwater was ready for these kids from the Potteries.
Fantastic memories on top of a fantastic achievement which if done today, players would be flying off to Vegas with wads in their pockets and being hailed as heroes, but with a back street club like Stoke City it was only the folk in this once great, vibrant City that knew the the full extent of such a feat they had witnessed. .
Once again it was all down to the man who never got full credit to the marvelous things he did for Stoke City, Mr. Tony Waddington, who was the man behind my ‘month’s loan’ which by winning three out of those four matches clinched not only survival but a new three year contract
Strangely enough some people boast about winning trophies and medals those who go through their careers not touching the lower echelons of our game, but there were no such trophies or medals for racking up more points than eventual champions Liverpool – who we beat on Easter Monday – along the way to escape the impossible.
This was, apart from escaping and cheating death in 1997/98 was my greatest ever achievement in a lifetime of some very high and low moments and events, and that includes my performance against the West Germans in the March of 1975. Who says it’s no fun down at the bottom? Not me, that time was the kind of fun that money cant buy!