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Stoke City notebook as Port Vale stalwart moves to bet365 St

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Stoke City news from the bet365 Stadium as familiar face causes double takes

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There was a series of double takes in the Stoke press corps at the bet365 Stadium as Port Vale stalwart Steve Speed walked into the media room kitted out in his Stoke City tracksuit and a big smile. It was, as one fella with a foot in the Vale camp suggested, like seeing Mark Stein turning up in a Vale top.

Groundsman Speed was a revered figure across the city for 43 years, working against the odds for much of that time, before his departure was confirmed in September. He remained coy about what his next chapter would involve, except to be clear that he wasnt retiring. He has now taken up a role at Stoke, where he will find a fellow workaholic in head groundsman Andy Jackson.

Speed had to think outside the box at times because of his budget in Burslem -Mike Baggaley recently recounted the story of the sheepand there wasthe tractor episode in January- and he was named club hero in 2015, nominated for a City of Stoke-on-Trent service to sport award in 2020 and was given the EFL long service award in 2021.

READ MORE:Port Vale fans have their say on Steve Speed

READ MORE:Port Vales brilliant tribute to Steve Speed

He was always reluctant to be in any headlines - but what he did was often particularly headline-worthy so, apologies for putting you in the spotlight again, Speedie. It will be a significantly different gig at Stoke and their Clayton Wood training complex, where state of the art pitches are maintained almost like bowling greens.

Jackson. who has worked for Stoke since 1995, has long been lauded too and has always been innovative to try to make sure the club is renowned for its playing surface.

Weve got a good group of staff here and we dont want to give the players any excuses,he told StokeonTrentLive last yearupon receipt of a commendation from the EFL. We do a lot of things differently than a lot of other clubs. Were looking at the environment going forward, things are changing in the world.

We dont ever apply chemicals to our pitches or pesticides or nematicides. Thats a big thing in our industry. In Europe, chemicals are banned in places like Denmark and Germany. Theyre not banned here yet but weve been doing this for five years behind the scenes quietly. It has a massive knock on effect to what we do.

Weve just purchased our first electric mower and were trying to do everything we can to help the environment.

We do a lot of research and we use a lot of various sugars and seaweeds on the pitches, and we use organic fertilisers. We source these products from North America, South Africa but we also try to keep business as local as we can and we source machinery from a company just inside Cheshire and actually built in Ashbourne.

Alex Neil now has more wins as Stoke manager (five) than he has against them (four) - although he still has more wins as an away manager at the bet365 Stadium than in the home dug out.

Neils record against the Potters was quite impressive - eight games, four wins, two draws and two defeats, 12 goals scored and eight conceded - particularly because his sides were probably the underdogs in most of those encounters. He won three out of his four visits to the Potteries, twice with Preston and once with Sunderland.

He has now won two out of his first seven home games as Stoke boss and you could sense he knew getting that second, last night against Luton, was very important.

I think from our point of view the result was much more important than the performance,he said in his post-match press conference.Im sick to death of coming in and saying how well weve played when weve not won.

Nathan Jones has lost four out of five games against Stoke since he returned to Luton, including one at the bet365, where his overall record is now four wins in 20 attempts, including three in 17 as home manager.

There will be another familiar face in the opposition dug-out this evening as Stoke start their Staffordshire Senior Cup campaign at Ryan Shottons Hanley Town (7.30pm).

It is a quick return to action for the under-21s, who won 4-0 against Derby County on Monday night. That match saw 17-year-old strike pair Emre Tezgel and Nathan Lowe line up together at that level for the first time - and Tezgel scored twice and Lowe got another. IT was good to see Gabriel Adebamo back in action too after a year out with injury.

Tickets for the game at Potteries Park are 8 adults, 5 concessions and under-12s are free. Cash and card payment is available on the gate.

Three years on from the Oakwell party

It was on this day in 2019 thatMichael ONeilltook charge of Stoke for the first time, inspiring a 4-2 win at Barnsley.

That was a good day and a very noisy away end, with 3,000 fans singing from first whistle until last about whiskey and Guinness and, at one point,doing the conga.

It is easy to forget just what a mess ONeill was inheriting. Stoke hadnt scored three times in the previous 88 games, for example. They hadnt scored four for 156.

He said at the time: Im very fortunate to get the opportunity at a great club with, as you saw today, fantastic support. I believe we have a really good set of players for this level of football and we just have to guide the team up the league and into a level of comfort and then go from there.

There is only one player from that Stoke starting XI still at the club, Sam Clucas, while Nick Powell and Tyrese Campbell were on the bench. Jacob Brown was in the Barnsley side.

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