With his flaming ginger hair, and wing wizardry, Irishman Terry Conroy is one of the most iconic Stoke City players ever. Known affectionately by fans as 'White Legs' he was the scorer and supplier of 2 of the most important goals in Potters history
When Terry Conroy headed Stoke City's first goal in the 1972 league cup final against Chelsea - he achieved a dream he'd had as a young boy.
"My aspiration as a kid was to become a professional footballer, play in England, play for my country and score the winning goal at Wembley," he said. "I got the last part wrong because I scored the first goal at Wembley but I made the winner though!"
It was a typically mazy run and cross by Conroy which resulted in the winner by George Eastham that day - using his dribbling ability that bamboozled many full backs down the years at the Victoria Ground. It was skills he'd learned from an early age growing up in Dublin.
"You played in the street. It was 14 or 16 a-side and obviously you played in a small area. So when people say how did you develop your dribbling - it was basically when you got the ball you got tackled by someone, and as soon as you got by him you were tackled by another. So you were constantly thinking about possession and keeping the ball."
Meeting Tony Waddington
Conroy joined the Potters from the Irish club, Glentoran F.C. for 10 thousand pounds in March 1967, but if it hadn't been for a spell of bad weather he could've been heading to London.
"Fulham had made an offer but had to get parental permission for me to sign because I was under 21. I said to my dad I wanted to get the cup replay (for Glentoran) out of the way before signing, but when I got to Belfast for the match it was snowed off. I then had to catch the train home to Dublin, and told Fulham I would decide in the next 24 hours, but I was still undecided."
Terry Conroy in action vs Spurs
That was when Stoke made their move - Manager Tony Waddington shared that train ride back to Dublin with him.
"He'd seen the headlines in the paper 'Conroy signs for Fulham' - which I hadn't, they just assumed because a fee had been agreed. Tony Waddington took 2 minutes to start convincing me that Stoke was the greatest place on earth. It was an illegal tap-up!"
"When the secretary of Glentoran phoned the next day to tell me there'd been another offer - from Stoke - I had to pretend I didn't know! But the rest is history - Waddo convinced me Stoke was the place for me, and I've never regretted the decision."
He went on to make 333 Cup and League appearances for Stoke, scoring 66 goals. He was also capped by the Republic of Ireland 26 times, but it's 1972 that is the highlight of his career.
"Before 72, it was always a question thrown at the club that we've never won anything. We answered so many questions, to beat Chelsea in the final and put all that to bed," he says.
"We were the underdogs and you'd presume that all week (before the final) we'd be talking tactics and team selection, but we didn't have one meeting until the kick off - That's how relaxed the manager was. We went out with the attitude that we could beat anyone, because of the confidence TW gave us - he was a great man manager."
Conroy left the Victoria Ground for the Hong Kong club Bulova on a free transfer in 1979. He returned to England in 1980 to play for Crewe Alexandra, scoring five goals in 37 League appearances.
He now works in the commercial department at Stoke City, and is the UK welfare officer for all Irish players who play in England and Scotland. His role is to look after youngsters who come over and take academy scholarships.
"I know what it's like. I came to Stoke at 20 - I was in digs for 2 years and was very homesick. If I wanted to ring home I had to go out and find a phone box, make sure I had the right change. All those issues I had years ago - youngsters don't have those problems now because of mobile phones and the internet but it can still be difficult. I'm there to help them and make sure they settle in and enjoy their football."
last updated: 18/08/2009 at 16:52