Stoke City in the 1990s – review of Neil James’ new book

Stoke And I: The Nineties

When I was told I would be writing a review of a brand new book by an esteemed writer about one of Stoke’s great decade I naturally thought they were talking about my new book! [Esteemed writer?! Uh? – Ed]

But thankfully this is Trouserdog’s new book about the fall and rise and fall and…er, a bit of a rise, of Stoke in the 1990s (the clue really is in the name.)

Curiously, TD has decided to write the book under his pseudonym, Neil James, probably because “J” is nearer the start of the alphabet than “T”, so the book will be higher on the bookshelf. (Yeah, & higher than “L”; I’m on to you!!)

Any good?

Oh, it’s typically brilliant. He cleverly weaves his own story of growing up on the Boothen terraces with the unfolding story of The Macari era, The Autoglass era, The Brit era, & The Icelandic Takeov-era. Let’s just say it was a time full of “era”s.

The Backdrop?

He covers relegation to the Third (where “Even Tony Ellis would look good, we thought”), outwitting Stockport (Overson & Cranson “dealing with the unique threat of half-footballer-half-lamppost Kevin Francis”), and protestors storming of the Warrington Suite (“As I sit in front of Coates in 2018 in his bet365 office…I decide to keep the story about me being restrained by a steward attempting to force entry to the Warrington Suite to myself”).

Embarrassing Moments?

None whatsoever. Apart from Back-Flipping like Peter Beagrie (oh, we’ve all done that), forcing the whole family to watch Stoke on Ceefax for 90 minutes (yep, that too), and searching hedges & bushes for…er…specialist ’memorabilia’ (nope, you’re on your own there, mate).

More Embarrassing Moments?

What, more embarrassing than crawling through bushes?!? Yep, but you’ll just have to read the book. Sooth to say, the toss-up between studying ‘Readers Wives go Hardcore – The Annual’ and playing the dungeons-&-dragons game ‘Hero Quest’ as the best alternative to watching Stoke is intriguing.

Favourite line?

In talking about trying to track down John Butler for an interview, Neil says “…he was the first one to leave Stoke – the first of the gang to die. Not literally, thank goodness, but he joined Wigan Athletic on a free transfer, which is pretty much the same thing.”

Other famous lines?

His favourite football computer game “Sensible Soccer” was fully editable: “Teams of Mass Murderers took on a side of TV’s Neighbours characters…How could anyone fail to appreciate the sight of Harrold Bishop slide tackling Adolf Hitler?!”

Verdict?

A major work, and a vital read for all those who trod the steps of Stoke’s 90’s adventures. “Steps” as in up-hill-struggle. It will be the definitive read of that era. It is enhanced by new and revealing interviews with Macari and Coates.

Price?

£35. No, it isn’t, it’s £16.99, or £12 on Amazon. Hardback. You’ll find it in all good bookshops (hidden behind copies of my book), and under Benches & Hedges everywhere…

Gudjon?

Ok, it actually only touches on the Icelandic takeover, as that’s “Another story for another decade”. What does that tell us? That there’s GOT to be a sequel: Stoke & I: The Noughties !! Although how much noughtier you get than the Readers’ Wives Annual, I’ll never know.

David Lee
(Author of the almost-as-good book “PREMIER! Stoke’s 10 Years In The Premier League”)