On Friday 19th February a true Stoke City legend hung up his boot for good. Having been missing for over a year through a nasty concussion injury sustained against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, Andy Wilkinson called it a day on his football career.
Loyalty is a trait that seems to have disappeared from the modern game. With astronomical wages and agents playing a huge part in a players’ transfers these days, it is extremely rare to see a player remain at one club throughout his career. Andy Wilkinson is an exception to this rule.
Staffordshire born and bred, Wilko arrived on the scene at the tender age of 16. His first team debut would come in the Football League trophy against Blackpool, but he would later sustain an injury that would side-line him for the majority of the following campaign.
Injuries have been a recurring issue for a man that loved a tackle. Flying into challenges like Wilko did is bound to end in injury sooner or later, and despite the fact his career unfortunately ended because of his heart on sleeve determination, I doubt Stoke fans and players alike would have him any other way.
I asked supporters to recall their favourite Wilko moments and they didn’t disappoint!
“Taking Ronaldo out the first season we were promoted, Ronaldo has bin complaining all game Wilko had kicked his heals.. So Wilko left 1 on him and got sent off… True legend!!”
These are moments that make a player a legend, putting his neck on the line (literally) is something that fans will warm to immediately, Wilko always played for the fans as he knew what it was like to be screaming on from the stands.
As one supporter put it, “The guy is a hero! Always put his body on the line, might not of bin the best player we had, but always wore his heart on his sleeve!” It is a young fans dream to lead his team out onto the hallow grass they apply their trade, and Wilko lived the dream. I just hope such a wonderful club such as Stoke City isn’t engulfed by the European transfer model many Premier League teams employ and continue to bring through emerging talents, and bringing young players dreams alive.
Wilko’s testimonial match will take place on Monday 16th May, with the man himself managing a tem sporting former Potters stars such as Rory Delap and James Beattie. The game will kick-off at 19:45, the club is on track to sell their target on 15,000 tickets for the match.