Stoke City

Stoke City

In this series of articles, Steve McGhee takes a look at some of the programmes issued covering matches between Derby and those who, back in 1888, along with the Rams, were founder members of the Football League.

1937/38 Derby County v Stoke City

Just three weeks after knocking the Rams out of the FA Cup in a 3rd round tie at the Baseball Ground, the Potters were back, this time on league duty in a Wednesday afternoon fixture. Just four days earlier, Manchester City had walloped the Rams 7-1 at the BBG, so this game saw manager George Jobey make several changes to the side. Out went goalkeeper Henry Wright, replaced by long-serving Jack Kirby, Charlie Napier was replaced at inside-left by Verdun Jones in one of only two appearances the latter made for Derby and, most significantly for a creaking defence, Jack Barker returned at centre-half having been out with injury since September. The man he replaced, “Ike” Keen, would never play for the club again after the Man City debacle. Left back Jack Howe would have been anticipating a tough afternoon – his opponent was none other than 22 year old Stanley Matthews.

So, a lot for the home club to prove and the programme editorial was admirably forthright in conceding that the 1-7 defeat was not just “disappointing” but that “the lads made so many mistakes that the opposition found it easy to place the ball in the net”. The reserves, having lost at Maine Road the same day, didn’t escape criticism either. “Disorganised” was the one-word description of their performance!

For the match, Derby issued their standard 16 page programme. As well as the aforementioned criticism, the editorial “Here And There” column mentioned that Stoke had gone out of the FA Cup in the 4th round to Bradford and looked at other issues affecting the First Division. “Matters Of The Moment” is a mixture of stories from around the league including the rather startling observation that Charlton Athletic’s ground, though having a capacity of over 75,000 at the time, only had seating accommodation for 2,000 spectators. Those of you old enough to recall the massive bank of terracing at the old Valley (which I will feature in a future article on Derby press photos) will realise this was part of the reason why! Advertising includes the “New Hillman 14” on sale at Pickfords in Duffield Road for the princely sum of £248, Conrad Veidt’s “Under the Red Robe” playing at the Coliseum cinema on London Road and The Milk Bar, 37 Green Lane, tempting the departing spectator to visit for their speciality dishes of “hot dogs and sausage & mash”.

The match itself saw Derby rectify matters with a 4-1 victory, goals from Dai Astley, Sammy Crooks and a brace from Dally Duncan. With the match taking place on a Wednesday afternoon and having just suffered a heavy defeat, the club were probably expecting a below-average attendance so the reported figure of 9,601 would have been no surprise to Club secretary Mr Moore.

1942/43 Derby County v Stoke City

The final qualifying round of the Wartime League Cup saw Derby and Stoke meet over two legs. The first leg had finished in a 4-0 win for the Potters so, as the points were awarded for the aggregate score, and Derby needed one point to ensure qualification to the next round, they had a bit of work to do here. They could afford to lose and still qualify – depending upon other results. A four page programme was issued for the match and page 2 (thankfully) summarised in concise fashion how the tournament’s qualifying rounds operated. The League’s top 32 clubs entered and draws were made on a regional basis each Saturday night. The Rams had already played Mansfield, Forest, Notts County and Chesterfield and had won 4 of their 8 games including a 10-0 home win over Mansfield.

There was also an admission from the club that “night work and illness” had contributed to the 0-4 defeat the week earlier and the club struggled to such an extent that one unnamed player had had to give up some leave from his military duties and travel up by train from Bournemouth to take a vacant spot in the team. We forget how hard it really was to keep organised football going in those war years. Page 3 of the programme has team line-ups, Derby having no fewer than 7 guest players including Corkhill from Cardiff, Beattie from Preston and Burgess from Spurs. Stoke included both Frank Soo and Harry Brigham who had also featured for Stoke in the first match in this article.

On the day, it was Stoke who triumphed, 1-0; however Derby did still qualify for the next round where they would eventually be drawn to face Notts County.

1953/54 Stoke City v Derby County

Season 1952/53 saw both Derby and Stoke relegated to the Second Division. Both clubs started off life in the lower tier quite positively with a win and a draw and were scheduled to meet at the Victoria Ground on Monday, August 24th, with a 6.30 kick-off.

Stoke issued a 12 page programme for the game, costing 3d. The editorial, penned by ‘Argus’, is rather downbeat, warning supporters that life in the lower league would be tough and “there would be no primrose path to success”. Quite detailed pen-pictures of the Derby players are contained within pages 4 and 5 with the team line-ups on the centre pages surrounded by an almost full quota of advertising. “Stray Shots” on page 7 includes a mention of Stoke’s interest in Clyde forward Jock Buchanan but who would, ultimately, sign for Derby instead. On the next page, all of the home club’s professionals are listed with their height, weight and birthplace. With no fewer than 39 players on their staff, competition for places must have been intense!

The match itself ended in a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 23,689 with Albert Mays and Jimmy Dunn on target for the Rams. A point of interest; in the Stoke lineup that day were two players – Frank Bowyer (who had guested for the Rams during the war years) and John McCue – who had played in the aforementioned Wartime Cup fixture 11 years earlier. McCue’s nickname was “Chopper” – it was a hard sport back then!

1954/55 Derby County v Stoke City

Other than the disastrous 2007/08 Premier League campaign, it would be hard to pinpoint a more depressing season in the club’s history than 1954/55. Although it had started well, with two wins in the opening three games, a terrible run of just 1 win in 19 games from December onwards had, by the time Stoke visited on April 16th, left the Rams virtually certain to be relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history. With just three games remaining and six points adrift of 20th placed Plymouth with an inferior goal average, anything other than victory that day would result in relegation being confirmed. For Stoke, it was an equally important fixture – they lay 5th in the table and, with games in hand, were well placed to finish in one of the two promotion places. Rams manager Jack Barker made numerous changes from the team that lost 0-3 at Swansea five days earlier, but must have informed the programme editor as the line-up printed matches that which took the field.

The standard 16 page programme issued includes the usual features but there is absolutely no mention of how important a match this was to Derby County. It might as well have been an end-of-season mid-table fixture. The same is the case with the Derby programme a year later when Boston won 6-1 at the Baseball Ground in the FA Cup. There is no mention of that game in any subsequent programme. To me, in each instance, it raises questions about exactly why the club would take such a stance. As it transpired, the Rams would have been relegated regardless of the result (Plymouth having beaten Ipswich 2-0) but Stoke won the game 1-0 anyway. The gate of 12,574 suggested the public didn’t have much faith in a “great escape” at any rate.

As regards the teams on the day, the Stoke side still included Messrs Bowyer and “Chopper” McCue – but this game also saw the very last appearance in a Rams shirt for the sole remaining member of the 1946 Cup-winning side still at the club. A sad way for Reg Harrison to conclude his time at the club – but, of course, he’d be back with Boston United the next season…

1962/63 Stoke City v Derby County

24 years after he’d starred for Stoke twice in three weeks at the Baseball Ground, a now 46 year old Stanley Matthews was the star of a Stoke team that, despite its reliance on numerous “veteran” players, would win the Second Division that season and also see Matthews win “Footballer of the Year”. Derby were early visitors to Stoke that season and, three games in, both clubs were still looking for their first league victory. The two clubs had already drawn 1-1 at the Baseball Ground a week earlier in front of what would turn out to be the highest home crowd of the season. This game finished 3-3 in front of 19,133, Bill Curry with a brace and Barry Hutchinson on target for the Rams.

Once again, Stoke issued a 12 page programme for the game though the front cover featured no details of the game, an irritating characteristic of many clubs’ issues in the early 60s. Reading is limited but there is an informative article by a former referee on “players’ equipment” in which he gives his views on players wearing items such as gold rings, chains round their necks, plaster casts and…berets! He had refereed a match in Cuba where a player refused to remove his black beret (the days of the Cuban revolution?) and the referee had to back down. Page 8 has the new Creda Starlight oven for sale at just 38 guineas. Boasting “infinitely variable controls” and a “thermostatic oven”, the kitchens of Stoke-on-Trent must have been the best equipped in the nation!

1971/72 Stoke City v Derby County (Texaco Cup)

The early 1970s saw the first tentative steps taken towards forging a more direct link, through competition sponsorship, between football and business. The Texaco Cup, sponsored by the petroleum corporation, was an invitation-only tournament involving clubs from England, Scotland and Ireland who had narrowly missed out on European qualification. Having eliminated Dundee United in the first round, the Rams were drawn against a Stoke side who had emerged victorious from their two-legged tie against Motherwell. The first leg at the Baseball Ground had resulted in a 3-2 win for Derby with goals from John O’Hare (2) and Kevin Hector.

The return leg at the Victoria Ground a fortnight later saw Stoke issue a standard 16 page programme (without the Texaco wraparound cover some clubs utilised) and very good value it was for the cover price of 6p. Advertising is minimal but home ‘keeper Gordon Banks features in two of them, endorsing the “Tiger” boys’ comic and Michelin Tyres (where he is pictured shaking hands with the Michelin Man!) as well as having his own line in “gloves, hats and shirts” at the Club Shop. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, Frank Wignall on target for the Rams in front of 23,461.

Having won the Watney Cup in 1970, the Rams were to add the Texaco Cup to the corporate collection – after eliminating Stoke, they beat Newcastle in the semi-final before defeating Airdrie over two legs in the Final.

This article was first printed in issue 10 of Derby County Memories (September 2015). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy copies of the magazine? See the About section for further details.