Maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t so bad after all…

I’ve hesitated to go down this route but I’m afraid I can’t avoid it any longer: It’s time to talk big hair, shoulder pads and leg warmers.
As a dedicated follower of fashion, I dare say few people are as qualified as I to discuss the notorious clothing fads and hairstyles of my youth. I jest, of course.
Someone cruelly dubbed the Eighties ‘the decade that style forgot’. I prefer to think of it as ‘the decade that style disowned’.
Granted, there were a few positives – classic looks and new accessories which have gone on to stand the test of time.
I’m specifically thinking Ray-Ban sunglasses (à la Tom Cruise in Top Gun) and Calvin Klein underwear – as modelled by Michael J Fox in Back To The Future.
You see, prior to the Eighties no-one gave a monkeys who made the pants you were wearing but suddenly, almost overnight, people became ‘brand aware’.
At the same time, there was also an awful lot of: ‘I grabbed the first three garments I could find at the church jumble sale and threw them together. Good eh?’
Until the age of 11 (1983) all I cared about was going out to play footie with my mates and, frankly, I was happy to wear anything mum fished out of the wardrobe.
Then I hit high school and suddenly I started to notice girls and become envious of other lads in my class who were better looking/thinner and dressed cooler than me. Often all three.
I distinctly remember the day my friend Richard Murphy arrived at school sporting blond ‘streaks’ in his regulation brown hair.
I looked at him as if he had got off a spaceship.
I would like to point out that I never went for highlights in my hair but I was somewhat envious that Spud Murphy had engineered a talking point for the top tottie in my class.
I recall also being deeply jealous of Mark Duckworth who – in spite of having an horrific core flick in his fringe – was always wearing the latest ‘designer clothing’.
One such item was a blue and grey Nike cagoule. I hated him for owning that jacket – especially as when I asked mum for one I ended up with a similar, dark blue unbranded cagoule from Vale Market.
Then there was the fad for Pony trainers which came about because Channel Four became the first UK TV channel to screen American football which led to all the lads adopting a team. (LA Raiders, in case you were wondering)
Another lad in my class, Ashley Coates – a gifted left-footed footballer – had a pair of the aforementioned trainers and I was desperate to emulate him.
In the end I did get a pair – but in a bizarre white and fluorescent blue colour which made me a laughing stock at break times.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my mum, of course.
The only cool things I actually ever owned during my school days were a pair of Pepe Jeans (or Peps as we called them) which came with a must-have red plastic keyring and a pair of white Converse boots (or Cons) which seemed to last an eternity.
In my defence I don’t think I dressed outlandishly during my college years or towards the end of the decade.
This was a) because I didn’t dare and b) I’d have had my head kicked in up ’Anley had I turned up looking like Crockett or Tubbs from Miami Vice wearing a jacket with the sleeves rolled up.
I was basically a jeans and T-shirt kind of lad who shopped at Geordie Jeans, Stolen From Ivor and Next.
This was to be expected given my fondness for two types of music: ‘Hair metal’ (Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Poison etc.) and ‘Shoe-gazing’ (Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans etc.).
I also went through a phase of wearing jeans ripped at the knees in the style of Matt and Luke Goss from Bros. Didn’t we all?
I actually consider myself to have had a lucky escape because, had I been born five years earlier, my formative years would have collided with some of the Eighties’ most horrific fashion trends.
As it was I never wore parachute pants and my foppish hair only ever had the faintest touch of mousse to hold it in place.
I am also delighted to say that, unlike my friend Mark Williams, I never, ever had a mullet.
Similarly, my girlfriends were sensibly attired – no miniskirts, huge earrings, finger-less gloves, over-sized tops or leg warmers that I can recall.
They were also way too young for the Dynasty power-dressing look of shoulder pads – much to my relief.
However, they all sported beautiful 80s perms as modelled by the divine Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.
Come to think of it, maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t that bad after all…

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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.