The love of my life - by Ron Hughes

Sporting Stories writes: This entertaining short story was recounted by Ron to his daughter Jan Garner. Ron has dementia, but still has wonderful memories of growing up in Hanley and of his life-long love affair with Stoke City.   It's a great read alongside Viv Cotton's story, with her memories of the same era.  And many thanks to Paine Proffitt for permission to reproduce two of his wonderful paintings below - see more of his work here

 

We lived in Ward Street and played where Northwood Stadium now is. We played every Sunday and met on Margaret Street at Barker's Pub and travelled all over the place including the area along Leek Road called 'The Steps' and Hanley Park. We called ourselves ‘The Ward Street Wanderers'.

As kids, all the boys loved football and we often walked from Northwood to Shelton, Leek Road or wherever else there were a group of like-minded lads.

We all supported both Stoke City & Port Vale, going to all the games. To watch the Vale we used to go through the Church yard, move a piece of tin and get in through the men’s toilets.

When we went to Stoke’s Victoria Ground we always walked through Hanley Park. I loved watching Denis Herrod and Neil Franklyn who was a great centre half and who never had to be spoken to by the ref for fouling! He went abroad for more money, but it didn’t work out. I also remember that the right back was a school teacher called John McCue. In those days the players usually ended up covered in mud and sometimes you could not tell who was who!

I delivered coal in a wheelbarrow every Saturday morning to earn the money to get into the Boothen End with my brother and our mates.

Once I reached 14 I worked in the Pots and we often played football and cricket at lunchtime, and we played against other departments and firms after work.

In the 60s and 70s, we usually went to Rhyl in the Potter’s fortnight*, where we stayed at Sunny Vale Holiday Camp (an old army barracks). Most evening before tea lots of us dads and the kids would set up a footie game with jumpers for goal posts. We still all played in our day clothes and shoes – I’ve never had a pair of trainers or football boots, but I had a pair of pumps in the 1950s when I went on holiday to the Isle of Man.

I’ve always loved football and at age 84 I’m still a season ticket holder for Stoke and also love to listen to matches on the radio or watch them on the TV.

* Potters Fortnight – the last week of June and the first week of July was a two-week holiday when all the Stoke-on-Trent factories shut down and the City emptied.