Some football fans have short memories…

Port Vale manager Micky Adams.

Port Vale manager Micky Adams.

Football managers are a funny breed. Perhaps it’s the nature of a job where the casualty rate, for want of a better phrase, is so high.

Perhaps it’s the fact that they have to deal with big personalities in the changing room.

Perhaps it’s because they come under constant scrutiny from the media – and now fans in this digital age.

Or, perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above which makes them such unusual, fragile and frustrating creatures.

During the last 25 years I’ve met quite a few and I can honestly say that only a handful would be on my Christmas card list.

Many have huge egos and seemingly low self-esteem. Some are just plain rude – wandering into rooms and talking over people. Others simply can’t take criticism and are prickly to the point that they are an interviewer’s nightmare.

A handful of those I’ve had dealings with, however, are proper gentlemen who always had time for the Press and supporters alike.

Former Stoke City manager Lou Macari falls into this bracket – as does, of course, Vale legend John Rudge.

No matter what was going on at their respective clubs they always treated people with respect and in return earned the admiration of media professionals and supporters alike.

Joe Royle is another. I remember one wet night at Vale Park in the early 90s when his Oldham side had just beaten Rudgie’s lads.

As a cub reporter I was covering the game for the national and local press and – having filed one of my match reports – saw, to my horror, the Oldham team bus pulling away.

Needing quotes from Joe, I ran after it, flagged the vehicle down and the driver opened up the door.

He didn’t look too friendly, to be honest, but I asked if the manager was able to spare me two minutes.

‘Come up lad, you’ll catch your death of cold out there,’ said Royle – his head appearing at the top of the steps.

He sat me down, gave me a coffee and made the bus driver wait for five minutes while I conducted my interview.

This was such a rare, kind gesture by a football manager that it has stuck with me for more than 20 years.

My team may have been beaten that night but Joe Royle was gracious in victory and it’s remarkable how that can dilute a fan’s disappointment.

Football managers will always divide opinions – in the same way the word ‘fickle’ will always be inextricably linked with the words ‘football fans’.

Managers can go from hero to zero, and vice versa, in an incredibly short space of time.

For example, turn the clock back a couple of months and you’d struggle to find many Stoke City fans brave enough to leap to the defence of Mark Hughes.

Many were calling for him to be sacked, some were doing the ‘I told you so’ routine and bemoaning the departure of Tony Pulis.

But chairman Peter Coates – not known for his lack of conviction – wasn’t to be swayed.

I spoke to him after Stoke had beaten Aston Villa at the Brit just a few days before Christmas and asked him how Mark Hughes was doing.

‘Oh he’ll be fine,’ said the chairman, sagely. ‘These things take time.’

He was right, of course, and as I write this column the Stoke manager’s stock has never been higher among Potters fans who can now see exactly what he’s trying to do with his players – many of whom had previously been square pegs put into round holes.

As for the supporters, let’s just say that some of my Stoke City fan friends who were calling for Mark Hughes’s head on social media in December and January have changed their tune and are now denying they ever held such views.

Over at Vale Park, however, the reverse has happened. Micky Adams – who led Vale from administration to promotion in a remarkable season last year is suddenly being portrayed as the devil incarnate in some quarters.

Despite what many observers would consider to be a decent first season in a higher league – with Vale sitting mid-table – his future is uncertain.

After being on the receiving end of what he termed ‘disgusting abuse’ from a small group of supporters on Tuesday night following a calamitous away defeat at Bristol City, Adams said he was considering his future at the club.

This has sparked a huge reaction from fans – with many pleading for the manager to stay on at Vale and others saying they aren’t bothered if he leaves or even urging him to go.

After paying their money to travel an awful long way – only to watch their team put in an embarrassing performance – it’s easy to understand the anger of Vale supporters who made the trip.

The truth is Micky is a canny operator and knows exactly how to play the fans and the media.

This has led to accusations from some quarters that he is simply ‘posturing’ as the season draws to a close ahead of contracts talks with Vale’s owner Norman Smurthwaite.

Personally, I think we Vale fans need to be careful what we wish for.

Micky and I have fallen out on a number of occasions but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what he’s done for the Vale.

As with any club, sometimes Vale supporters have short memories.

Lest we forget Micky Adams pulled together a squad on a shoe-string budget while the club was in administration and guided the team to promotion.

This season, Vale were ninth in January and handily placed for an unlikely play-offs push but the manager wasn’t allowed to bring in the players he wanted.

Since then Vale’s form has been patchy, to say the least – which has coincided with the chairman espousing his views that the club isn’t ready for Championship football – and a mid-table finish is now on the cards.

To be fair, I – and I think most Vale fans – would have taken a mid-table finish at the start of the season.

Forget Tuesday night. Forget the knee-jerk reactions. I think Micky Adams is doing a terrific job at Port Vale.

I personally would be sad to see the best manager since John Rudge leave.

But, let’s be clear: If he does leave at the end of the season it won’t simply be because of a row with a small minority of supporters this week.

He will leave because of the farcical contracts situation which have left him and some of the club’s key players in limbo. He will leave because his position has been undermined on several occasions by ill-timed and ill-advised comments from the chairman.

He will leave because he will be offered what I think he considers to be a ‘relegation’ budget to work with.

No manager, player or owner for that matter, is bigger than a football club.

But, as Tom Pope said yesterday, I hope Micky Adams does stay at Vale and I honestly think he deserves a bit more respect for what he has achieved.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

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If Banksy wants it here in the Potteries, statue should stay put

The Gordon Banks statue.

The Gordon Banks statue.

I was genuinely saddened this week to read about the possibility of our wonderful statue of World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks potentially being moved from Stoke-on-Trent to Leicester.

When I say ‘our’ statue, I know full well that it actually belongs to the Gordon Banks Monument Committee. which was started and funded by Irish author and Banks fan Don Mullan.

However, I say ‘our’ statue because I honestly feel the wonderful sculpture – crafted with the help of Stoke City fans by Potteries-born artist and friend of mine Andrew Edwards – belongs here in our city.

As I understand it, the statue was originally intended to be one of three likenesses of England’s greatest goalkeeper – echoing the sculptures of Sir Stanley Matthews CBE at the Britannia Stadium. Like Stan’s statue, they were intended to sit on a plinth at the home of Stoke City but, for whatever reasons, the other statues never materialised and neither did the plinth.

Having failed to reach an agreement with Stoke City, Mr Mullan has held talks with Banksy’s other club – Leicester City – about the possibility of it moving to the Foxes’ King Power Stadium.

Local newspaper the Leicester Mercury is backing this option, along with former Leicester City players, while The Sentinel is campaigning to keep Banksy’s statue in the Potteries.

As Mr Mullan rightly points out, it does seem ludicrous that the statue of one of the world’s best-ever goalkeepers isn’t taking pride of place at a football stadium.

Well, there’s one just off the D-Road, Don, and the team there plays in red and white.

That’s where the Gordon Banks statue was intended for and that’s where it should end up, in my humble opinion.

Over the last 15 years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Gordon Banks, who has attended many of the major awards ceremonies The Sentinel stages each year.

No matter who else is in the room, irrespective of whichever sporting VIPs are there to present the prizes – the biggest cheer of the night is always reserved for this giant of our national game.

If you sit and chat to Banksy, he is a lovely, warm and friendly bloke – always happy to reminisce, give his opinion on current teams and players, have his picture taken with awe-struck guests or sign autographs (I’ve got one in my office).

The people of the Potteries, not simply Stoke City fans, hold him in the highest regard which, I suppose, isn’t surprising when you think he has lived here for so long. How disappointing, then, that a venture which aimed to honour the brilliance of this Stoke City and England legend should result in an unseemly tug of war between the Potteries and Leicester.

For goodness’ sake, I reckon the cost of sorting this mess out is about the equivalent of your average Premier League player’s weekly wage.

The people I feel most sorry for here are sculptor Andy and Banksy himself – both of whom agree the statue ought to remain in Stoke-on-Trent.

That in itself is surely a pretty powerful argument.

Andy, the man who sculpted Sir Stan’s statue and the wonderful Staffordshire Saxon in the foyer at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, has made his feelings clear.

He points out that Stoke City fans, of which he is one, helped to craft the statue and that Banksy himself is now very much an ‘adopted-Stokie’.

Andy proposes a simple solution and one which would surely be acceptable to all parties – that of a second cast of the sculpture being made and this one being placed outside the home of Leicester City.

He’s even said he’ll work on the project for nothing.

But perhaps the last word should go to Banksy himself. He said: “When the statue was being made. I was told by the guy who was paying for it and people at Stoke City that it would be placed outside the ground. I don’t really know what’s happened since then. That is where I’d like it to be, as this is where I’m living.”

Who are we, then, to argue with the bloke who made THAT save? Now, how do I sign The Sentinel’s petition?

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

Why not try the theatre? You might just enjoy yourself

It would certainly make for interesting reading if the people of North Staffordshire were surveyed to ask them whether or not they go to the theatre on a regular basis.

I suspect the numbers who would answer ‘yes’ are pretty small. Maybe 10 per cent at best.

The truth is that, aside from the annual trip for a Christmas pantomime, most families don’t give much thought to watching live stage productions.

It’s simply not high on their list of priorities.

While tens of thousands flock to watch Premier League Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium once a fortnight and 5,000-plus visit Vale Park to see my lot play, local theatres are forced to eke out an existence.

This is a crying shame when you consider the wonderful venues we have here in the Potteries.

In The New Vic at Basford we have Europe’s first, purpose-built theatre-in-the-round putting on many home-cooked shows every year as well as top-drawer touring productions.

In Hanley we have no less than three superb auditoriums. The newly-refurbished Mitchell Youth Arts Centre, the magnificent Regent theatre and the grand old Victoria Hall.

Those of us with long memories may still wince at the city council’s Cultural Quarter overspend but no-one can say the project didn’t gift us two bloody great, very distinct city centre venues.

In addition, we shouldn’t forget the Queen’s Theatre in Burslem and equally fine Stoke-on-Trent Repertory Theatre on Leek Road.

All of the above put on superb live entertainment but, sadly, this is very often in front of half-empty houses.

Despite being privately-run businesses, many theatres rely heavily on local authority subsidies which – in the current climate – are harder to justify than ever before.

So why the apathy? Why aren’t more people choosing the theatre for a good night out?

Some people will doubtless blame the cost – although it’s certainly less expensive than tickets for a football match (depending where you sit) – and probably on a par with a trip to the cinema.

Others will blame the lack of variety and the quality of the shows on offer.

However, the reality is that if you look across all our local venues there is usually something to suit the taste (and pockets) of everyone.

If you ask me I reckon the reason that most people don’t go to the theatre is because a) they view it as the preserve of the middle classes or b) they’ve never experienced a live show. Or both.

Perhaps it’s the fault of schools. Or perhaps it’s our demographic.

I know some blokes who wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a theatre – preferring to sit in their local boozer or in front of the telly every night than stepping outside of their comfort zone to watch a stage performance.

The great tragedy of this is that they don’t know what they are missing and the theatres are missing them.

The great irony is that local drama schools are filled with bright-eyed, enthusiastic and multi-talented youngsters itching to perform in front of bigger audiences.

Many of them, along with a few contestants who are a little longer in the tooth, will be taking part in this year’s Stoke’s Top Talent competition which kicks off in less than two weeks’ time.

All of them, I know, would dearly love your support.

The show is called Stoke’s Top Talent but in truth the acts will come from all over The Sentinel’s patch – from Biddulph and Congleton to Newcastle, Leek, Stafford and Stone – as well as the Potteries.

Through the competition, which offers cash prizes and a pantomime contract, they will get to appear on stage at the Victoria Hall and possibly The Regent theatre where the heats and grand final will take place.

Among the 170-plus acts taking part in the auditions will be bands, singers, musicians, dancers, impersonators, magicians and comedians.

The competition is championed by our own stage star Jonny Wilkes who gives up his time for free to work with the contestants and compere the show.

Stoke’s Top Talent is the reason that teenage dancer Aaron Corden, from Abbey Hulton, is now living the dream of working towards a career in musical theatre.

Self-taught from watching videos of Michael Jackson on the internet, he once carried a bench from Northwood Park to The Regent theatre to provide a prop for his act.

Having performed as a dancer for none other than Take That and the Black Eyed Peas over the last 18 months, he is now one of the top students at a prestigious performing arts school in Cambridge.

But a week on Saturday Aaron will be back at the Victoria Hall where his journey began, to watch this year’s hopefuls as they try to impress the judges.

Why don’t you join him and a very partisan crowd for the auditions?

It is a free-of-charge family day out and gives people who have perhaps never seen inside the place which recently played host to made-in-Stoke-on-Trent rock god Slash the chance to look around.

As someone who’s been lucky enough to appear in panto at The Regent and be a judge for Stoke’s Top Talent, I can assure you that you’ll be in for a treat.

*The auditions for Stoke’s Top Talent are free to watch and take place at the Victoria Hall in Hanley from 10am on Saturday, July 28 – with the call-backs the following Saturday, August 4.

The closing date for entries for Stoke’s Top Talent is Friday, July 20, and anyone interested in entering can download the application form by logging on to: http://www.stokestoptalent.com

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

Why we should appreciate winter and the occasional snow fall

Who would drive a gritting lorry, eh? What a thankless, anti-social task.

Other than bankers and traffic wardens, these poor souls must be the most unpopular people in the country.

Well, for about two days a year that is. The two days a year that everyone loses perspective.

Yes, the Great British penchant for moaning about the weather returned with a vengeance this weekend.

A heavy (but predicted) snow-storm hit North Staffordshire and South Cheshire around Saturday teatime – bringing gridlock to parts of our road network.

The Met Office had issued severe weather warnings but still many reacted with incredulity – as if a new Ice Age had sneaked up on them.

Motorists sat in queues of traffic for hours on end as blizzard conditions enveloped them.

The A50, the A34 and the D-Road came to a standstill as football traffic leaving the Britannia Stadium drove into a whiteout.

Where were the gritters, people wondered? (As if it would have made any difference).

The question they should have been asking, of course, is: Why are we so woefully inept at coping with a bit of snow now and again?

Why do we fail to fit winter tyres to our cars? Why do we act like it’s the end of the world when we see a few snowflakes?

In the wake of Saturday night’s snow storm, the local authorities will doubtless cop a load of flak for not preparing our roads properly.

Indeed, I await the inevitable backlash via The Sentinel’s letters pages about the inconvenience of it all.

To be fair, we’ve had the mildest winter since Adam was a lad – weeks and weeks and weeks of overcast skies and rain.

Personally, I’d rather have a covering of the white stuff any day.

The truth is, I’ve been waiting for about two months for some snow and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

I suspect, however, this puts me in a very small minority.

The problem is that, as a nation, we simply haven’t a clue how to act when we do have the odd flurry.

What’s more, sadly, most people have absolutely no appreciation of winter.

They sit in their centrally-heated homes, watching summer holiday adverts on the telly and looking balefully out of the windows as if the very pavement has suddenly become a death-trap and the roads a total no-go zone.

I’m pretty sure that when Sammy Cahn wrote Let It Snow back in 1945, this attitude wasn’t what he was trying to evoke.

Yes, I know it’s no fun stuck in a traffic jam. We’ve all been there. Yes, you have to be careful not to trip, drive slowly, wrap up warm, allow a little more time for journeys and travel prepared.

But, by the same token, a snowfall shouldn’t equate to the end of civilisation as we know it.

It’s certainly not an excuse to raid the emergency store of Fray Bentos corned beef.

You see, I’m convinced that it’s only in the UK that we view winter with such fear and loathing. Other nations undoubtedly scoff at our nesh-ness (my word) and laugh at the way in which everything grinds to a halt with a covering of snow.

Why can’t we learn to love winter? I don’t know how anyone can fail to wake up and not appreciate the sun-kissed majesty of a crisp frost.

Have we all forgotten what it’s like to be children? Have we forgotten that snow equals fun?

Have we forgotten listening to Radio Stoke while crossing our fingers and hoping to hear that our school has been closed because the boiler’s packed in?

Are our hearts so hard that we are untouched by the gift of a fresh blanket of snow which makes any tired old street look like a picture postcard?

I actually travel to Scotland annually to seek out the white stuff. What’s more, when I took my kids to Lapland last year to meet Father Christmas, a huge part of the attraction for all of us was proper, deep snow.

People moan incessantly about the cold over here, but the truth is, we don’t know we’re born.

When I was in Finnish Lapland, just inside the Arctic Circle, the temperature dropped to as low as minus 26 degrees celsius.

To be honest, nobody noticed how cold it was until we got back to the hotel. We were too busy sledging, driving snowmobiles, building snowmen and pelting each other with snowballs.

I remember looking out of the lodge windows at the pine trees and the moon-lit snow and thinking that there couldn’t be a more beautiful sight.

What a shame we don’t appreciate it round our neck of the woods…

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel

Council has definitely favoured Stoke City above Port Vale

The Britannia Stadium: Home of Stoke City FC.

The Britannia Stadium: Home of Stoke City FC.

Very shortly the Audit Commission will give its verdict on whether or not the deal which enabled Stoke City to acquire sole ownership of the Britannia Stadium was properly handled by the city council.

It follows claims that councillors were misled over the exact details of the £5 million sale.

The inference is, of course, that the sale of the city’s 36 per cent stake in the stadium may not have gone through at all had elected members been made aware of the exact details.

At this point I should declare my interest in this matter. I’m a Port Vale fan, a season ticket holder, a (very minor) shareholder and a Vale columnist for this newspaper.

For years now I have observed as the city council has displayed what I believe has been an astonishing bias in favour of the club whose players wear red and white in comparison to Burslem’s finest.

Now, as my club teeters on the brink of a financial and footballing abyss, I’d like to point out the obvious.

Yes… I can almost hear the jeers. I’m waiting for the emails and the letters from Outraged of Heron Cross, Sarky from Trentham and Smug of Blurton.

It’s a good bet that the word ‘jealous’ appears in this correspondence. Fair enough – it’s a free country.

Whatever people might think, I’m not anti-Stoke City. I’d like to see both clubs doing well. I appreciate full well the importance of the Potters being in the Premier League – for the club and its supporters, for the profile of the city and even for the company I work for.

However, that shouldn’t mean the city’s other professional football team is treated like a poor relation by the local authority.

We know Stoke City has more supporters than Port Vale. Thus, simple mathematics dictates that there are going to be more Potters fans among the powers-that-be at the Civic Centre (Town Hall as was) than there are Vale fans.

Could this, then, help to explain some of the following?

During the season 89/90 (Vale’s first season back in the old Second Division – now the Championship) the Burslem club’s relationship with the city council hit rock bottom.

The authority forced the closure of Vale market which had been generating around £120,000 a year for the club. Cheers.

In the early 90s the idea of building a ‘community stadium’ was first mooted. The concept was championed by the then city council leader Ted Smith, a no-nonsense politician and staunch Potters fan who brokered a deal between the authority, Stoke City and St. Modwen.

To be fair, Vale were approached about the possibility of ground-sharing with Stoke at the proposed venue in Sideway. Which was a bit like asking Stoke fans if they fancied leaving the Victoria Ground to share a new stadium with the Vale in Middleport.

Needless to say, Vale stayed put and Stoke City received millions of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money (and, against the odds, European grant aid) to build a new ground which never realised its grand vision of becoming a community stadium. (Hosting a few pop concerts just doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid).

In June 2007 Stoke City was able to purchase the city council’s 36 per cent stake in the Britannia Stadium for £5 million.

Whether or not this represents value for money for the city’s taxpayers is open to debate. (I suspect the pre-credit crunch valuation of the site would have meant the stake was worth more).

However, the phased payments which city councillor Mike Barnes and other colleagues have taken issue with equate to an interest-free loan to the Premier League club.

In stark contrast, League Two Port Vale has been paying up to six per cent interest on the £2.25 million loan it secured from the same authority.

At the same time Vale Park, at the council’s behest, has become a genuine community venue in the way the Britannia Stadium never was.

But while the Vale has had to finance its own community programmes, £500,000 of the £5 million Stoke City is paying to become sole owner of the Britannia Stadium will actually be ploughed into community schemes… at the home of the Potters.

Does this all sound fair to you?

I could go on. There are many more examples. But, in summing up, I reckon that, irrespective of the result of the Audit Commission’s investigation, it is a fact that the bias towards Stoke City within the city council is every bit as real today as it was when Ted Smith and his Labour cabal ruled the roost.

And, should the unthinkable happen to Port Vale, then I believe that through their actions elected members and officers, both past and present, will certainly have contributed to the club’s demise.

The night my rock heroes reigned at The Brit

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora at The Britannia Stadium in August 2000.

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora at The Britannia Stadium in August 2000.

While thirty-odd thousand people were enjoying Toploader’s first song, yours truly was waiting patiently back-stage.

I was watching Richie Sambora, who had arrived only minutes earlier in a blacked-out V-reg Mercedes, meeting members of the Bon Jovi fan club.

As he headed back inside the stadium a bloke heckled him: “Richie, I’ve got a guitar here that we’re raffling off for a children’s hospice charity. Will you sign it for us?”

“Sure, man,” the big guy responded in a kind of Joey-from-Friends accent, shaking the fella’s hand and squeezing past the mean-looking guards in yellow T-shirts.

Seconds later, I too was whisked through the kind of security I imagine surrounds the SAS head-quarters in Hereford for a face to face interview with Jovi’s lead guitarist.

Wearing a white T-shirt, brown combat trousers and boots, he stood up as I entered the tiny hospitality suite and extended his hand.

“Sc’use the leftover food,” he said, motioning to a half-eaten bowl of pasta. “Take a seat. You want anything?”

At this point, my worst fear was that I was about to discover that one of my idols was a self-obsessed idiot with an ego bigger than his bank balance.

But, though tall and tanned like you’d expect for a multi-millionaire musician, Richie Sambora was, mercifully, a hell of a nice guy.

Down-to-earth, attentive, and witty – he made the interview a breeze and went out of his way to ensure I was given enough time as a frantic American PR woman hovered over us.

No, he doesn’t get nervous before gigs, he assured me. Neither does he or any of the band drink before or during a show.

“Not like the good old days man,” he smiles, sipping a pint of what looked distinctly like lager.

Gone are the girls, girls, girls, days of the Slippery and New Jersey tours.

“Most of us are married now and Jon and Dave have kids,” explains Richie. “Hell, we had a great time before Aids and all those social ills. Then you get money, of course, and you realise you can get sued,” he laughs.

The Crush tour differs from previous monstrous Bon Jovi journeys because it is paced differently, accord-ing to Richie.

“We leave more time free these days to keep our own sanity,” he says.

So is he amazed the band is still filling stadiums across the globe 14 years after the album that first rocketed them to stardom?

“Sure,” he says. “Every day. But then I look back at the amount of touring we’ve done and what goes into making our records and I can understand it a little better.

“For example, we write about 60 songs for a record and then choose 13 or 14 for the final cut. The rest don’t make it but we’re then able to choose quality for the fans. It just goes to prove there’s no substitute for hard work, my friend.”

So why is it that Bon Jovi are still together making records when so many of their peers have gone to the wall?

“Oh man,” he says. “If I had the answer to that one then you and I could bottle it and sell it and we’d make a million dollars. I do think, however, that it has something to do with where we came from, where we grew up.

“We’ll never forget that. Jon said the other day that this band is way past ever splitting up. We’ve grown up together man. We’re real close friends who just get together when we want to make a record. Simple as that.”

Richie then went on to say that he thought the band would be back in the UK on tour again next year.

At that point frantic American PR woman insists my time is up.

“You coming up to the bar?” says Richie, referring to the on-stage bar for VIP guests.

“Am I?” I ask PR woman.

Before she can answer Richie stands up and says: “You make sure he comes on stage with us.”

So she did.

Moments later and Jon Bon Jovi was climbing on to the aforementioned bar mid-way through One Wild Night and giving me a high-five. Of course, the concert cameras zoomed in on the action and for the 60 seconds JBJ was up there my pasty, ecstatic face was plastered all over the giant TV screen.

Needless to say I was on a high when I melted back into the crowd 15 minutes later.

The boys were at their brash, polished best last night. Launching straight into Livin’ On A Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name.

Nothing like starting as you mean to go on is there?

The set was a mixture of old and new. An irresistible cocktail of Jovi anthems and ballads, spiced up with enough material from the new album to keep it fresh and exciting.

Who am I trying to kid? They could have got up there and played Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and I’d have hailed it a masterpiece.

In my opinion Bon Jovi are one of the world’s top acts.

They can play and sing live with the best of ’em. And they give two-and-a-half hours of sheer value for money.

You can’t help but marvel at Richie’s mastery of whichever guitar he picks up. Keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres are the background troopers who never put a foot wrong.

And then there’s Jon. He only has to curl his lip and the crowd goes nuts. Covering more ground than a Premiership referee and sweating like a stuck pig, he always delivers the goods. And by the way – have you noticed how he never ages?

Bon Jovi were superb last night. How do I know?

Because a colleague who shall remain nameless went to the show with the serious intention of hating every last minute of it.

In the small hours of this morning, he admitted clapping his hands and singing along to Bad Medicine and, through gritted teeth, said he’d enjoyed himself. Not that he’d ever admit it, of course. As he said, he has a reputation to think of…

That’s why if you look up the dictionary definition of smug today, you’ll find my name next to it.

And so, Jon Bon Jovi and his cohorts continue to fill stadiums the world over – much to the annoyance of trendies who wouldn’t know a good band if they fell over one.

Last night’s gig at the Britannia was my 15th Bon Jovi concert – made all the more special because my wife was in the audience for the first time. Not because she was a fan you understand – until last night that is.

To see them in my home town was great but more importantly, surely a portent of things to come.

You see, it’s one thing for us to host whimsical events such as the Summer In The City with all their teeny-bopper appeal, but attracting the likes of Bon Jovi to the Potteries is undoubtedly a coup which should put the stadium on the touring map for top bands who play live rather than mime through their sets.

Bon Jovi are far from everyone’s cup of char. But like ’em or loathe ’em, they’re a quality act with 16 years of touring and album sales in excess of 60 million under their belts.

And anyone who thinks they simply faded away and took their bad haircuts with them after the success of Slippery When Wet needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

For while fine bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses were pressing the self-destruct button in the early 90s, the four original members of the New Jersey Syndicate have continued to reinvent themselves and still manage to cling on to and even broaden their fan base.

A mickey-taking colleague told me the other day that he had heard metal was making a comeback.

I just smiled ruefully, because Jovi fans like myself know it never really went away.