Founded in 1863, Stoke City Football Club is regarded as the second oldest professional football club in the world, after Notts County. Records indicate that former pupils of the Charterhouse School formed the Club while working as apprentices at the North Staffordshire Railway in Stoke.
In their earliest days, they were known as the Stoke Ramblers and their kit consisted of black and blue jerseys with white knickerbockers. Home fixtures were played at the Victoria Cricket Ground until 1875, when they moved to nearby Sweetings Field. In those days, crowds of 200~250 cheered the team on against the likes of Wednesbury Old Boys and West Bromwich Strollers.
When the Staffs FA was formed in 1877, Stoke City entered the competition and won their first trophy—the County Cup—which they successfully defended the following year. Having proven themselves to be area’s leading team, they merged with the Stoke Victoria Cricket Club in 1878 and moved to the Athletic Club ground, which became known as the Victoria Ground and would be the Club’s home for the next 119 years. They also adopted a new nickname about that time—The Potters, referring to the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent.
In 1881, Stoke City adopted the red-and-white striped shirt still used for home matches today. Four years later, the Club turned professional and when the Football League was inaugurated in 1888, the Potteries became one of the 12 original members along with Preston North End, Aston Villa, Wolves, Blackburn, Bolton, West Brom, Accrington, Everton, Burnley, Derby and Notts County.
The first two seasons did not go well for Stoke. In 1890-91, they found themselves booted from the League they had helped start and relegated to the Football Alliance. As it turned out, they were more than a match for the competition there and won the Alliance title. That assured their return to the Football League when it expanded to 14 teams in 1891-92.
Stoke City is a bit rare among today’s older top-tier football clubs. Their early history is not nearly as full of trophies as that of, say, Aston Villa or West Brom. Despite making it to the semi-finals in 1898-99, they have never won an FA Cup. They had a bit of success in the Southern League and the Birmingham & District League around 1910, but there have never been any Football League championships to brag of and much of their past was spent battling for promotion to the top flight.
Among Stoke’s successes in the lower ranks were a Division Three (North) title in 1926-27 and a Division Two championship in 1932-33. On either side of World War II, the Potters managed fourth-place finishes on the Division One table (1935-36 and 1946-47), but they found it difficult to retain membership among the ranks of the elite and slipped back to Division Two after the 1951-52 season.
It was not until 1960-61 under the leadership of manager Tony Waddington that Stoke really began to surge. By 1962-63, they had won the Second Division title for a second time. In 1963-64, they would finish runners-up for the League Cup. Under Waddington, the team continued to improve until they at last captured their first major piece of silverware, beating favourites Chelsea by a score of 2–1 in the final of the League Cup at Wembley Stadium in 1972.
A brief relegation to the Second Division in 1977 was followed by a return to the top flight for the 1978-79 season. By then, Waddington was gone, however, and the drive for excellence could not be maintained. Downward the Club spiraled till they discovered themselves in the 15th position of Division Three at the end of the 1990-91 season.
Reorganization of the Football League in the early 1990s may have given the Potters just the motivation they needed. First they won the Football League trophy in 1991-92 while topping the table of the new Division Two (old Division Three). Then, they captured the Champions League title in 1992-93, capping the greatest run in team history with advancement to the Premiership for 1993-94.
Since then, Stoke has struggled to secure a regular spot in the Premier League, but they keep coming up whenever knocked back. By finishing second in the Champions League in 2007-08, City latched on to the top tier once again and they have held tight through the current season. In fact, they were the runners-up in the 2010-11 FA Cup, narrowly losing to Manchester City 1-0 after 74 minutes of scoreless play.
Handicappers are well aware that Stoke rarely win more than two games in a row. Typically occupying the middle of the table in recent years, they are not good bets for either relegation or a top-four finish. When they win, it tends to be by small margins. Their losses, on the other hand, can be something of an embarrassment. Keep in mind, though, that a wager on Stoke City as a spoiler can be quite profitable and don’t ever count them out completely.