STUART Cowden, the oldest surviving Stoke City footballer, has died just a few weeks short of his 91st birthday.
Stuart, who lived most of his life in Alsager, gave just one interview back in December 2011 after his family contacted The Sentinel.
Reluctantly accepting the honour of being the oldest known player still alive, following the deaths of Denis Herod and Bill Caton, he recalled a career that saw him play more than 50 times for Stoke during and just after the Second World War.
He proudly recalled sharing the Stoke dressing room with such household names as Stanley Matthews, Neil Franklin, Frank Mountford and Freddie Steele
“It was quite an honour to be sat in the dressing room with Franklin on one side of you and Matthews on the other.
“Stan was out of this world as a footballer. He would beat five players if he had to. His balance was tremendous, and his speed.
“He always used to do a lot of training sprints running backwards … it must have helped develop his speed.
“I always used to find Stan with a long ball from left wing-half to the right wing, and there would be a big cheer from the crowd.”
Stuart later went to work for Rolls Royce in Crewe and combined that with playing non-league football at Witton.
He loved that life so much that he even turned down an approach to go full-time with Fulham, remaining at Witton to make 374 appearances (the seventh-highest in their history) before a knee injury ended his career in the 1954/55 season.
Later in life, and after clocking up more than 50 years at Rolls Royce, he became a fireside fan of Stoke City.
He joked that modern-day players were too easily hurt and should be subjected to the famous old sponge like he once was.
“And the sponge wasn’t for your bad leg,” he added, “but to put down the back of your neck to get you back to your feet.”
The picture was taken back in March 2014 when Terry Conroy and John Ruggiero went to visit Stuart. John said, ” It was great to meet up with Stuart and chat about his Stoke City days and his life after football.”