Loud and Proud in The Bear Pit

I went to my first Stoke match sometime back on the 1970’s, I don’t have vivid memories of it like some report to have, in fact I don’t have many memories of my time as a child going to games at all. Some stick out like Blyth Spartans and Ajax, I also remember watching George Best when we played Man Utd. And every time he lost the ball the crowd would chant “Georgie’s lost his handbag”.

As soon as I was old enough (about 14 I think) I bought a Junior (juvenile) season ticket for The Paddock. If I was lucky i’d get to the front and see pretty much everything. I always stood as close to the Boothen End as I could and eventually as I grew older and more confident (and was less troubled disobeying my parents) my season ticket moved me to the Boothen End.

Even in those days, I would go home hoarse from shouting and chanting throughout the match. I don’t think that Loud and Proud was coined until the 1990’s or maybe even later, it was definitely a Britannia Stadium thing as far as I was concerned, but all of us who stood in the Boothen End in the Victoria Ground were Loud and Proud. 

Family, Military Service and other events took me away from Stoke in 1980 and I was forced to stay away until fairly recently. I missed most of the dark times, there wasn’t the access to football on TV but in recent years I returned, bringing my son and grandson, first to the DPD Stand and later to the Boothen End.

It didn’t matter where we sat, it was loud, very loud. In fact, often it was louder when we were losing than when we were winning. We had a crowd that kept the boys running until they had nothing left in their legs. I imagine that it was an awful place to come to, not just because Shawcross, Huth, Whelan and Wilko would beat the crap out of you on the pitch but because the crowd would beat the crap out of you verbally and mentally as well.

It was fun, Delilah was sung with passion, Go’arn Stoke rang around the whole ground not just the Boothen End. If there had been a roof it would have been raised! Does anybody else remembers these times and others like them?

I drive to Stoke now, and I am sat in my seat waiting for the opposition to start singing “is this the library”. We’ll be with you and Delilah are both played at the start of the match but not many join in. We scored on Saturday (twice) and there was a ripple of Delilah from the South Stand, very little from the Boothen End. There seems to be no fire in the belly of Stoke supporters, in fact, the loudest noise I’ve heard for the past few games have been boos.

The term is “supporter”, I support Stoke City. I have done all my life. I may not have been to every game, but I want to encourage the lads on the pitch, I want them to do well, to play well, to entertain me, but my part in that is to SUPPORT them. I don’t know where this idea came from that as supporters we should boo them and that somehow will drive them on to do better.

I had a job once back in the very early 1990’s. My manager changed and the new one was a complete c**k. He made everyone feels as small as possible, he denigrated everything anyone ever did and smashed every ounce of goodwill from the team. I hated going to work. He got nothing from me beyond what I had to give and even that was poor quality. The support at Stoke is that manager.

There are times when supporters should speak out and we have had that time in the past under a previous period of Coates ownership, but we are not there now. We are 13thin a table of 48. We have 23 points from 18 games, we only managed 33 points all season last year. Yes, we only have five wins, but we only managed 7 all season and there are still 28 games left.

Look, I am not stupid, it’s not the amazing come back we were all promised. We haven’t seen any return of Stokealona, but I don’t now drive the 100+ miles each way expecting to lose. Things have improved, maybe not as much as we had all hoped, but they have improved. We need to improve as well. We need to stop booing James McClean and stop booing the manager and we need to stop Booing the team altogether. We all need to come together as one as the song says, “We’ll be with you every step along the way” not just when it pleases us or you’re doing well.

If you want to see fantastic football week in week out, then I suggest that you go up the road to Manchester. The £300 you pay for your season ticket might cover a game or two.

If you can’t cope with the frustration of supporting Stoke City FC then go elsewhere, it ain’t gonna change. It’s been the same for fifty years. They are and have always been the most frustrating and unpredictable thing in my life, however if we can be loud, I believe, that they will, at times, make us proud. 

We need that Bear Pit back. We need to be supporters.

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