Stoke

Most modern-day English football grounds relocated from industrial town centres to city-limit trading estates are surrounded by fast-food chains and faceless retail outfits. Stoke City may have moved in 1997 from the Victoria Ground after 119 years, but look around the bet365 Stadium, stuck out by a windswept junction of A-roads way south of town, and you’ll find Stanley Matthews Way, Gordon Banks Drive and George Eastham Avenue.

Welcome to Stoke/Peterjon Cresswell

This club, the second-oldest professional one in England, reached its 150th anniversary in 2013 with a trophy cabinet that contained one League Cup (1972), a Watney Cup, five Bass Charity Vases and sundry Staffordshire Senior Cups from the pre-Matthews era. Yet Stoke are a club of such resounding tradition and illustrious names that it somehow hardly matters – unless you happen to be a Stoke fan, of course.

Stoke-on-Trent, in fact, is not really a town at all, but a string of separate communities that developed with pottery, canals and coal mining. With Stoke-upon-Trent as the centre, these became Stoke-on-Trent in 1910, bestowed city status in 1925 – so Stoke Ramblers became Stoke City in 1928. Stoke-upon-Trent assumed this central role, not Hanley or Burslem, because that’s where the railway station was.

Burslem, in fact, is where you’ll find Port Vale FC – there is no place in the modern-day atlas called Port Vale. The world’s most famous Valiant, singer Robbie Williams, will have celebrated the club’s promotion to Division One in 2013.

Welcome to Stoke/Peterjon Cresswell

Representing separate communities when their clubs were founded, Stoke and Port Vale have played the Potteries derby since 1887. The two did not meet in the league until 1920, and further encounters took place in short bursts as each ascended or descended the four divisions. From 1957, no derbies were played until 1989, by which time this area of North Staffordshire had a serious hooligan problem. Geographically, Port Vale fans come from north of Stoke-on-Trent, Stoke’s from south of town, which is where the Victoria Ground was, near the Trent.

The last derby was in 2002. Sir Stanley Matthews himself, born in Hanley near Burslem, grew up a Port Vale fan. It was his father who accepted an offer of £1 a week from long-term Stoke manager Tom Mather for his son to start as a 15-year-old office boy. Matthews went on to play for Stoke until after his 50th birthday and lived long enough to open the new Britannia Stadium. His ashes are buried beneath the centre-circle. During his entire career, he only scored once against Port Vale: his very first goal for Stoke, as a teenager, in 1933.

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Stoke

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Stoke City/bet365 Stadium: 52.988264, -2.175464
Stoke station: 53.008793, -2.181988
Stoke bus station: 53.022386, -2.174714
Holiday Inn Express Stoke-On-Trent: 52.989493, -2.171275
North Stafford Hotel: 53.008395, -2.180205
Quality Hotel Stoke City Centre: 53.025748, -2.179932
Best Western Stoke-on-Trent Moat House: 53.026583, -2.195830
The Liquor Vaults: 53.004469, -2.186331
The Wheatsheaf: 53.004064, -2.185284
The White Star: 53.003863, -2.184230
The Glebe: 53.004867, -2.180915
Port Vale/Vale Park: 53.049837, -2.192642
Holy Inadequate: 53.020367, -2.200331
Greyhound Inn: 53.000516, -2.196880
George Hotel: 53.044912, -2.195864
Victoria Guest House: 53.059633, -2.215331
Premier Inn Stoke-on-Trent (Hanley): 53.024887, -2.185719
The Albion: 53.024035, -2.174554
The Auctioneer: 53.025381, -2.175365
The Beehive: 53.003621, -2.192016
Ye Olde Bull & Bush: 53.005145, -2.187159
Georgia Browns: 53.004606, -2.186443
Kenwood Guest House: 53.014550, -2.184403
Plough Motel: 52.994760, -2.184584
The Market Tavern: 53.025171, -2.174989
The Reginald Mitchell: 53.025475, -2.174472
The Terrace: 53.010144, -2.175319

Bearings

Four airports – Manchester, East Midlands, Birmingham and Liverpool – are all within 40-55 miles (64-88km) of Stoke-on-Trent. The only one with an easy, direct train link to Stoke-on-Trent (hourly, 1hr 15min) is Birmingham, with Birmingham International station accessible from the terminal by a free Air-Rail Link monorail. East Midlands currently has no shuttle to the nearest station of East Midlands Parkway. National Express coaches only has a direct service from Manchester Airport (1hr), and indirect from Liverpool and Birmingham.

Stoke-based City Cabs 2000 (01782 844 4444) charge £45-£65 for transfers to/from each of the four.

Stoke-on-Trent train station is in the centre of Stoke-upon-Trent. The bus station is in Hanley, further north. Information on local buses can be found online. There’s a taxi rank to your left as you exit Stoke-on-Trent station.

Holiday Inn Express Stoke-On-Trent/Peterjon Cresswell

Bed

Visit Stoke has a hotel directory and booking service.

Facing the bet365 Stadium, its lobby bar handy pre- and post-match, the Holiday Inn Express Stoke-On-Trent serves business travellers to Trentham Lakes, families heading for Alton Towers and, of course, football fans. WiFi, power showers and 32-inch flat-screen TVs facilitate everyone’s stay. The other nearby option, the Plough Motel on Campbell Road 15 minutes from the ground, closed in 2018 and is still awaiting new owners.

A five-minute walk from Vale Park, the George Hotel on Swan Square in the heart of Burslem dates back to the 17th century when it was an inn. Now a 42-room mid-range hotel, it has its own bar and restaurant. Also in Port Vale territory, just north of Vale Park in Tunstall, the Victoria Guest House is a lovely find, an affordable and well kept B&B set in an old pub run by welcoming couple Mandy and Mick. Bus No.3 connects with Burslem and Hanley from the nearby roundabout.

North Stafford Hotel/Peterjon Cresswell

Right opposite Stoke-on-Trent station, the North Stafford Hotel is also conveniently located. Within a short walk, near Hanley Park, the Kenwood Guesthouse (14 Stoke Road, 01782 765 787) provides modest but comfortable lodgings.

In Hanley, Quality Hotel Stoke on Trent is an old railway hotel with a pool and sauna, near the bus station an easy hop from Stoke station. A couple of hundred yards along Etruria Road, the Premier Inn Stoke-on-Trent (Hanley) is the most centrally located of the two in the area.

Slightly further out, but surrounded by the green of Etruria, Best Western Stoke-on-Trent Moat House is a modern four-star with a spa and equally decent restaurant.

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Welcome to Stoke/Peterjon Cresswell

Beer

Traditional pubs cluster around the centre of Stoke-upon-Trent, a short walk from the station. The best place to watch the game is the Liquor Vaults, formerly The Talbot (119 Church Street), a corner pub set in an age-old building, where pool games are observed by a framed image of Bobby Moore and a Matthews-era Stoke line-up. Old regulars knowledgeably comment on the match action. Alongside, Georgia Browns appeals to a younger crowd, with drinks deals and DJs. Nearby, The Wheatsheaf dates back 200 years, and also shows matches, as does Ye Olde Bull and Bush.

Credible candidate for best pub in town, The White Star is the main town-centre outlet for Burslem’s White Star brewery, decoratively themed after the shipping company associated with the Titanic disaster. Although it focuses on quality ales rather than screen action, it was one of 92 pubs visited by Scott McLachlan as part of his 92-ground trek to raise £92,000 for research into prostate cancer, Walk the 92.

The White Star/Peterjon Cresswell

The other candidate is The Glebe, a grand pub that predates the Victorian era, faithfully renovated by the Joules brewery. It’s halfway between the station and town centre. Inside, it’s a work of art.

On the other side of Stoke station, near Staffordshire University, The Terrace offers TV sport, pool and a beer garden. For a more rustic experience, The Beehive sits atop Honeywall, a steep stroll from Church Street but provides local ales and buses to the ground on match days.

Pubs in the centre of Burslem are all suitable for Port Vale, pre- or post-match.

The Terrace/Peterjon Cresswell

Between Burslem and Stoke-on-Trent, the award-winning Holy Inadequate is worth the trek out to Etruria for its discerning range of ales and friendly welcome.

Venturing further out, the Greyhound Inn, Penkhull, is a classic pub of the roaring-fire, home-cooked food type, with regularly rotating cask ales. Once a yeoman’s house in the 1500s, it’s about a mile west of Stoke-on-Trent station.

The main hub of pubs and bars is around the shopping centre in Hanley. Here you can see games at The Auctioneer and the Market Tavern, while The Reginald Mitchell offers the usual Wetherspoons deals. Nearby, The Albion dates back to 1902.


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