When I was growing up in the eighties most of the kids where I was from wanted to be like a professional footballer. The old man turned me into an exile from day one so I was surrounded by kids in the north east who wanted to be Bryan Robson, then later on in the south kids would want to be Glenn Hoddle, kids everywhere wanted to be Kenny Dalglish. Me? I wanted to be Stan McEwan.
My cousin who was brought up alongside me at Boothferry in the post 1983 rise up the divisions was a mark for Pete Skipper. You couldn’t blame him, Skip was the consummate pro, his defending was all about timing, courage and incredible reading of the game. Skip dying so young was a bitter pill for all of us who watched that era because beyond being a brilliant player, and servant and local boy made good, he was just a great person too. In truth now when I reconsider it with grown up eyes, Skip probably was the reason Stan could play with freedom from the back and was able to look for all intents and purposes like a midfielder in the Ronald Koeman mold.
I always think all great partnerships at the back came from players combining to have the right skills as a pair and this sums the two up, they were really different. Skip was the last line, the slide tackles, the crunching headers, but Stan was bringing the ball out with his feet, diags from the back, calmness and of course those absolute chicken zingers he had in his boots.
I’m not sure the first time I saw a Stan penalty, these days the keepers would take one like him during a shoot-out, basically absolutely crack it down the middle and dare anyone to get in the way. Around the time we went up in 84-85 there would be a buzz around the ground should we get awarded one. This was a time before the internet and when the opposition wouldn’t know what you’d do to every last detail and to be fair if the keeper knew what was coming he’d probably dive out the way. I’m not sure how many penalties he hit the went in off the underside of the bar, but it was more than one.
I put up a tweet earlier in the week with a picture of Stan the Man and was surprised by just how many fans responded, all veterans of that era and all buzzing with memories of the great man. He just had a bit of a mystique about him, I guess now you’d call him a cult hero. Little wonder we went up twice and finished 6th in the first season at level 2, the team was full of cult heroes, from Skip, to Tony Norman, to Psycho Billy and Billy Askew, this team of offcuts and bargain buys were something special full stop.
After arriving for something insanely cheap (15 grand?) he left quietly in 1988 for Wigan and bopped through a couple of clubs to the non-league. In truth the sheer brilliance of Richard Jobson meant that something had to give and Skip himself was moved on to Oldham not that much later. It would be years and years until we’d see a partnership worthy of the two, probably by the mid two thousands when we saw Leon Cort and Damian Delaney was the first time you felt half as safe as you did with Skip and Stanley.
They said kids in the USA in the nineties were obsessed with Basketball because of Jordan which led to the phrase “Be like Mike”, well on much smaller scale in a very specific area of East Yorkshire, men and boys alike wanted to “Be like Stanley”, and who could blame them?