|1906 action at the Victoria Ground|
Originally coming into existence in 1863 and going by the name of Stoke Ramblers, the 1st documented match for the club that was to become Stoke City, took place 5 years later in October 1868 at the Victoria Cricket ground against EW May XV.
In this early period they continued to play at this venue until, due to the onset of rising attendances, they were forced to move to Sweetings Field in 1875.
Three years later the club merged with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club to become Stoke Football Club. This involved moving to the Athletic Club Ground which soon became known as the Victoria Ground. Here they stayed for 119 years. In August 1885 the club turned professional.
Stoke FC were one of the original 12 members of the Football League when it was set up in 1888, but struggled in the first two seasons finishing in last place on both occasions.
They became owners of the Victoria Ground in 1919 and, following the construction of the Butler Street Stand, the capacity of the ground rose to 50,000. In 1928, three years after Stoke-on-Trent gained city status, the club changed its name to Stoke City FC.
The 1930’s saw the debut of the club’s most celebrated player. Stanley Matthews, who grew up locally in Hanley, initially was an apprentice who made his full debut in March 1932 in a match against Bury aged 17.
By the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Matthews was a regular England international and had established himself as the premier player of his generation.
After hostilities ceased, in 1946-47 Stoke City FC mounted a title challenge and needed a victory in the final match against Sheffield United to prevail. A 2-1 defeat meant the title went to Liverpool and a now 32 year old Matthews also left, opting to join Blackpool.
Other famous players to have graced the turf at the Victoria Ground include former England goalkeeping greats, Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton.
This photo shows the site of the Victoria Ground the home of Stoke City for 119 years awaiting development (Mar 06). On the horizon, centre picture can be seen one of the stands at the Britannia Stadium, the clubs present ground.
The Britannia Stadium
1997-98 saw Stoke City FC leave the Victoria Ground after 119 years to the newly built Britannia Stadium.
Chic Bates was appointed manager for the first season at the new stadium but did not last long, only to be replaced by Sky Sports analyst, Chris Kamara. He did not improve the club’s fortunes and also departed 4 months later.
At the start of the 1999-2000 season, Gary Megson (later to manage West Bromwich Albion and Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League) was appointed. He left 4 months later when Stoke City were taken over by Stoke Holding, an Icelandic Consortium who purchased a 66% stake in the club for £6.6m.
The new owners decided upon the appointment of fellow countryman Gudjon Thordarson, who guided them to success in the Auto Windscreens Trophy and promotion to the 1st Division of the Football League in 2001-02. Thordarson had, in fact been initially the main player in getting the consortium together.
The Britannia Stadium (external)
Hooliganism and Stadium Noise
On a more sombre note, Stoke City have had problems over the years with soccer violence and football hooliganism.
In 2003, the BBC described the club as having one of the most active and organised hooligan firms in English football (known as the Naughty Forty). Their traditional foes being the locally based Port Vale (in nearby Burslem), Wolverhampton Wanderers and latterly, West Bromwich Albion.
Research made by TV company, Sky in a recent season uncovered Stoke City fans as the loudest in the Premier League averaging 101.8 decibels.
A panorama of the Britannia Stadium (taken in 2005)