15
May
14

The Pride of the Midlands, The Cock of the North

The true story of this iconic football song and its Stoke City roots

by Rob Cocker

THIS IS a true story which I have contemplated writing for many, many years, to lay down the facts about a particular Stoke City song which was stolen by a club from the North West. Let’s just call them “The Shit”.

I have followed Stoke City home and away for over 50 years and the event I want to talk about took place on 19th November 1974.

Under the management of Tony Waddington, Stoke City had signed the mercurial Alan Hudson and in the 73/74 season we had finished 5th in the top division. In the following season The Potters again started exceptionally well and were considered, throughout the country, to be a top side playing attractive football.

Anyway, I digress; back to 19th November 1974. Stoke were playing away at Deepdale in a testimonial for the long-serving Preston goalkeeper Alan Kelly.

Big Vigs (Peter Viggers) volunteered to drive his Vauxhall Viva up a foggy M6 with myself, Skid (Kev Skidmore) and Sev (Steve Viggers) in attendance.

We got to Preston, parked up and the fog and visibility began to get even worse.

As was the norm at the time our loyal band of followers, about 30 strong in all, ventured into ‘their end’. I didn’t think it was a great idea but some of our ‘lads’ were up for it and they enjoyed fending off the various advances of those Preston fans who fancied their chances against us.

I vividly remember a Preston fan running at our group and delivering a sneaky kick at one of our lads. The Preston fan ran off, only to be pursued by one irate Stoke fan who chased him out of the terraced end and through the Paddock.

I was told that he escaped by clambering over the wall and onto the running track. By then though they’d both disappeared into the dense night-time fog.

As for the game, well you couldn’t see more than 30 yards up the pitch. I only remember that at the final whistle we ran onto the pitch to embrace our heroes and congratulate them for gaining a creditable draw, only to be told that we had won! Incredible.

If it had been a competitive league or cup game there is no way it would have been allowed to go ahead.

On our way back to the car we met Frank Johnson who had thumbed his way up to Preston and was now looking for a lift back to The Potteries. So Frank joined our merry band.

The fog was still a real ‘pea-souper’ as we slowly made our way back down the M6 towards Stoke.

On the way back it was suggested that Stoke needed a new song and we decided to have a go at creating one.

It didn’t help that that Big Vigs’ Vauxhall Viva spluttered to a halt near Thelwall, with the police arriving to see what the problem was. Fortunately though the car soon restarted and we were back on our merry way.

It certainly wasn’t easy thinking of a new song and heads were scratched. First of all we needed a catchy tune and we came up with the tune to the popular advert at the time for Bex Bissell cleaner.

Brilliant. All we needed now were the lyrics.

Slowly but surely our group; me, Big Vigs, Sev, Skid and Frank came up with the words as everyone chipped in. Eventually we had something and, to be honest, we thought it sounded great. We really thought it could be mega.

Now of course most of us ’owd uns’ will remember the song which goes;

Stoke are just one of those teams that you get now and then,

We often score six but we seldom score ten,

We beat ’em at home and we beat ’em away,

We’ll kill any bastards that get in our way.

We are the Pride of the Midlands, The Cock of the North,

We all hate Scousers and Cockneys of course,

We are the Champions without any doubt,

Cause when City score six you’ll score nowt!

Our next game was four days later, on Saturday 23rd November 1974, away at Wolves. The Potters were on a massive high after signing England keeper Peter Shilton for a world record fee for a goalkeeper and he was making his debut.

A mate of ours Dave Clarke (Wigan) who was a printer, ran off a large number of word sheets of our brand new song which were then distributed to the thousands of Stoke fans who had assembled on the South Bank at Molineux.

The game itself went on to finish 2-2 with Salmons and Robertson scoring our goals to help keep us right up there in the title hunt.

Ultimately of course our title challenge fell away, as we failed to win any of our final three games that season and we finished 5th for a second successive year.

After that Wolves game though our song really took off and was sung with gusto by Stokies, home and away, up and down the country.

What happened next is enough to make you want to vomit. I was watching a match on TV, involving The Shit, and was aghast to hear them singing our Stoke song.

When Stoke visited Old Trafford in 1975/76 – a game remembered for Alan Bloor’s late winner which effectively killed off their title challenge – they announced in their programme that OUR SONG was to be their Wembley FA Cup Final song. Incredible. What a nerve!

For me, the 1976 FA Cup Final was a joyous occasion, as The Shit lost 1-0 to 2nd Division Southampton with the winning goal being scored by, aptly, Bobby Stokes!

The song which they had the audacity to put out as their own was on the Decca Label and actually reached No. 50 in the UK Singles Charts!

It still makes my blood boil to hear their fans continuing to sing our song and claim it as their own, despite it having been penned by Stoke lads on their way back from a testimonial match at Preston in 1974.

So the next time people talk about ‘The Shit’ and their original songs just remember that one of their best known ones is actually a Stoke City song… and always will be!

This article first appeared in Issue 537 of The Oatcake

 

 

 

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