Let me take you back to April 2011. Stoke City vs Bolton Wanderers. FA Cup semi-final. Wembley Stadium. Got it?
The single best day in every single Stoke City fans life. A 5-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. A team put out to defend by master tactician Tony Pulis, that ended up scoring 5 well worked goals. The first by Matthew Etherington, the second by the Berlin wall, Robert Huth, the third by the acrobat that is Kenwyne Jones, the fourth and fifth super Jon Walters, his first assisted by Andy Wilkinson and the second a brilliant finish from outside the Trotters area. A great day to say the least, sun shining and goals flowing, a flawless day that led Stoke City to their first FA cup Final in their history.
The FA Cup Final 2011. 14th May 2011. Manchester City vs Stoke City. Unfortunately Stoke City lost 1-0 after a smart Yaya Toure goal. A spirited performance none the less and a monumentous occasion for not only the Potters fans but for local lad Andy Wilkinson.
Andy Wilkinson, 30 years old, born in Stone, Stoke on Trent. Stoke City supporter and now Stoke City legend. I can’t put into words how much of a big role model he is to any young footballers, not just in Stoke and not just in England. To any young football fan dreaming of playing for their local club.
Wilkinson made his first team debut for his boyhood club against Blackpool on 16th October 2001 before going on to make 192 appearances (to date) for the Potters. He unfortunately scored no goals for the Potters despite constant willing from the fans and his two stand out chances. One against Portsmouth in the FA Cup and one against Bolton in the famous semi final mentioned above. ‘If Wilko scores we’re on the pitch’ is a chant showing the willing the fans had for Wilkinson to score. They were practically finishing any chance he had for him. A local boy playing for his local club. A passionate player if there ever was such a thing. He’d fly into tackles like his life depended on it, he’d put his body on the line for his club. Live and die by it intact. Even now he would despite his contract being 1 week from expiration.
I know all Stoke fans will join me in wishing Andy Wilkinson all the best for the future. Thanking him for his service to the club. His absolute desire to get the club to its highest heights which is where it is now. Despite not being a prominent figure in the Mark Hughes reign, he was still always in the Potters’ fans hearts. He will be when he’s left and for a long time at that
Its now Oliver Shenton’s turn to step into Wilkinson’s boots. Another local lad trying to break into the first team.
Thank you Wilko!
Photos courtesy of Google Images and providers.