Greenhoff seeks new chapter in Stokelore – but he can't turn page

Blond who bombed down the wing endured four Cup semi-final defeats but believes the Potters can finally lift the trophy this time, writes Phil Shaw

Jimmy Greenhoff's sojourn as a Stoke City player ended after the top of a stand at the old Victoria Ground blew off in a storm, forcing the uninsured club to sell him. Now the man often hailed as the best uncapped English player is backing the Potteries side to raise the roof by beating West Ham United in today's FA Cup quarter-final and purge the frustrations of 40 years ago by lifting the trophy.

Stoke have never reached the final, though not for the want of trying during Greenhoff's era. "It's a wrong that needs to be put right," says the Yorkshireman, who eventually put four semi-final disappointments behind him by scoring Manchester United's winner against Liverpool in 1977. "When Stoke drew at home with Cardiff in the third round they were 66-1 in the betting. Though I'm not a gambler I thought, 'that's worth putting some money on'."

After winning the replay, Stoke saw off Wolves and Brighton at the first time of asking. If they defeat West Ham, whom Greenhoff helped them to beat in 1972 to reach Wembley for the first time, they will have won four consecutive FA Cup matches, which they have never managed in their 148-year history. The one-time idol of the Boothen End, now 64, admits he is "a pessimist" but is confident they will not only prevail today but take the Cup for the first time.

"As a player you get a feeling about these things," he says. "The fact that they lost 3-0 at West Ham last weekend doesn't mean a thing. We're having a bad time away from the Britannia but at home, with the atmosphere these fans generate, I can't see us losing. Ricardo Fuller can always be a match-winner, starting or coming off the bench. He's so unpredictable – probably murder to play up front with! Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant are excellent players, too. I'm biased because I like wingers and they're two of the best. Stoke play more football than people give them credit for."

Greenhoff's goals, work-rate, darting runs and blond thatch earned him a place in Stokelore after manager Tony Waddington paid Birmingham £100,000 to make him Stoke's record buy in 1969. "I was fortunate to have a great rapport with the crowd here. I still live in the area and know what Cup success would mean to people in North Staffordshire."

He knows because he has experienced the fervour that a Wembley triumph can fuel. Within three years of arriving he had a League Cup winner's medal to add to one he won with Leeds, Stoke overcoming a Chelsea team including Alan Hudson, with whom he later forged a stunning partnership. But those FA Cup semi-finals still "eat away" at him and a generation of fans.

The first came in 1971. Stoke led Arsenal 2-0 at Hillsborough when Greenhoff raced clear. "The ball bobbled as I shot, hit my shin and flew over the bar. Then they got a goal back and put us under pressure. Everyone was looking at the clock. Concentration went a bit. In injury time Arsenal got a corner that should've been a goal-kick and Peter Storey ended up equalising from a penalty. I don't have nightmares about my miss but it still gets to me when people talk about it."

People like his old colleague, warhorse centre-half Denis Smith. "He brings it up every time he does an after-dinner speech," says Greenhoff, feigning indignation. "I could retaliate by saying the defending wasn't good, but I don't."

Arsenal won the replay comfortably en route to their first Double, yet Stoke's opportunity for revenge came 12 months later. Their chances seemed to increase when Bob Wilson was injured and forward John Radford went in goal. "We'd have won if Wilson had stayed on because Radford pulled off a save from me even Gordon Banks might not have got."

In the replay at Goodison, Arsenal converted a penalty awarded after an innocuous aerial challenge and a goal that was "10 to 15 yards offside", Greenhoff says ruefully. "We were thinking: 'What's going on?' The linesman mistook someone on the track in a white coat for a defender. I'm not sure if he was selling programmes, peanuts or ice cream. What I do know is he wasn't a Stoke City footballer."

They were heady times for Waddington's amalgam of artists and assassins, as one of Greenhoff's allies in the former group, Terry Conroy, characterises Smith and Co. In the League Cup semi-final against West Ham that winter, Stoke lost the first leg 2-1 at home. As for the return, Greenhoff recalls: "I've never known such a deathly hush on a team coach going to a game. I sat next to Micky Bernard, who was normally the loudest. All he said, almost in a whisper, was: 'Oh Jim. I hope we win.'

"We were 1-0 up near the end of extra-time when they got a penalty. Geoff Hurst blasted it and Banksy palmed it over. I couldn't get my head round how immense the save was. We were all jumping on him. He was going mad, telling us to get organised for the corner."

Back at Hillsborough for the replay, Greenhoff came off with a groin injury as the gridlock again entered extra-time. "I couldn't bear to watch so I got in the bath. So I wouldn't hear the crowd, I put my hands over my ears and made a noise like a naughty kid. When the players finally came in, I didn't want to know the score, but I did, if you know what I mean."

It was 0-0 so the teams reconvened at Old Trafford, where an early injury to the Hammers' keeper Bobby Ferguson led to Bobby Moore taking over in goal while he underwent treatment. According to Greenhoff, it cost them the tie because Moore "could play the game for two men". The former England captain actually saved a penalty from Bernard. "Bobby went down like a sack of potatoes to parry it. If Ferguson had been on he'd have thrown his cap on the ball, but Micky scored the rebound and we won 3-2.

"Before the final, one newspaper did a survey of all the First Division captains. Only two out of 22 went for Stoke to beat Chelsea, and one of them was my old Leeds team-mate Billy Bremner, who hoped we'd do it 'for Jimmy'. It shows how the underdogs can win, just like Birmingham did against Arsenal. There's no reason why that can't be Stoke in the FA Cup."

Stoke City v West Ham United is on ITV1 today, kick-off 2pm

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone