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Club Connections – Stoke City

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Of course on Sunday, Manchester United face a tricky away game at Stoke, looking to keep up their 100% winning record in the Premier League. With that in mind it’s worth looking at 8 individuals who have both spent time at United and Stoke in their careers in the game.

Garth Crooks

Younger fans may only know former Spurs striker for his interviews and punditry on Match of the Day, but Crooks made his name for his home-town club Stoke in the 70’s who he scored 48 goals for in four seasons before Keith Burkinshaw brought him to London for £600k.

Garth enjoyed success at White Hart Lane, winning three major honours. He famously scored in the 1981 FA Cup final against Manchester City, becoming the second black player ever to score a goal in the final. In a short loan spell at United under Ron Atkinson he scored twice in seven appearances before ending his career with Charlton in 1990.

Ben Foster

A highly talented goalkeeper, Ben joined United from Stoke in 2005 after being spotted by Sir Alex Ferguson whilst out on loan at Wrexham. Upon signing he was sent out for two successful seasons at Watford before coming back to Old Trafford ahead of the 2007/08 season.

Sadly a mixture of injuries and Edwin Van der Sar’s longevity denied Foster the chance of establishing himself at United and he was sold to Birmingham City last summer where he won his third League cup. After suffering relegation to the Championship, Ben moved on loan to second-city rivals West Brom under Roy Hodgson and his aiming for better things this year.

Jimmy Greenhoff

Whilst being a classy but not prolific forward Jimmy is certainly remembered fondly by both United and Stoke fans. He was part of a Potters side, which included legendary England goalkeeper Gordon Banks that won the club’s last major honour, the 1972 League Cup.

He moved to Old Trafford in 1976 where he played alongside his brother Brian and famously scored United’s winner in the 1977 FA Cup final denying Liverpool a domestic treble when a Lou Macari shot deflected off him and into the net. Despite his useful goal scoring record he never played for England and remained one of the best player of his generation not to do so.

David Herd

Make no mistake about it, Herd who scored a staggering 145 goals for United is definitely one of the finest strikers to have ever played for the club. Joining after a prolific spell at Arsenal where he scored 107 goals in 180 appearances for £37k, he adapted to life at Old Trafford immediately.

He was a forward who had it all. He was able to run at players, hard to shake of the ball and he had a powerful shot which was surprisingly accurate. Sadly though despite winning 3 major honours under Sir Matt Busby, David cruelly missed out on United’s European Cup win over Benfica. He enjoyed two seasons at Stoke before retiring after a short stint abroad in Ireland.

Danny Higginbotham

Versatile defender Higginbotham started his career at Old Trafford but due to the competition at United was not able to break into the team and left after making only 7 appearances to join Derby for £2m. In a struggling team at Pride Park he impressed before joining Southampton in 2003.

Danny became a key member of ex-Red Gordon Strachan’s side at St Mary’s before joining Stoke in 2006. Two years later he rejoined the Potters under Tony Pulis after they won promotion to the Premier League, where he has continued to be a solid and reliable defender over the past three seasons, as the team have steadily grown to be a success in the top-flight.

Sammy Mcllroy

Northern Irishman Mcllroy was famously the last youth player signed by the late Sir Matt Busby. A tricky winger he was dubbed ‘The Next George Best’ after scoring on his debut at the age of 17, in a thrilling 3-3 derby draw with Manchester City at Maine Road in 1971.

Sammy took time to develop though after suffering injury in a car accident and was part United’s team that suffered relegation to the old second division in 1974.  But he recovered and became a first team regular, playing in three FA Cup Finals winning one in 1977. He joined Stoke in 1982 making 130 appearances in three and a half years before joining Manchester City.

Danny Pugh

Remember that Champions League game at Old Trafford when Diego Forlan finally scored his first United goal? Well midfielder Pugh made his debut off the bench in that game and very nearly scored 10 minutes after coming on with a powerful drive from outside of the area.

Danny joined Leeds United in exchange for Alan Smith in 2004 and his versatility in defence and midfield soon won over fans at Elland Road. Surprisingly though he was sold to Preston but after handful of games in his second season was snapped by Pulis at Stoke where he’s become very much a utility player, making more and more appearances off the bench.

Mickey Thomas

After making his name as a youngster in a talented Wrexham side, Thomas joined United in 1978 after being signed by Dave Sexton and despite not being the most reliable of wingers, his commitment and hunger helped win over supporters.

When Ron Atkinson replaced Sexton in the summer of 1981, he was sold to Everton as part of a a deal that saw John Gidman move the other way. After winning the old second division at Chelsea, Mickey moved to West Brom suffering relegation. He signed for Stoke in 1990 but after a season returned to Wrexham before a counterfeit scam ended his career in 1993.

By Adam Dennehey  @ADennehey87