The international break arrives at the right time for Stoke City. Two weeks to take stock and for the new players to train together and prepare for the challenges ahead. The performance at Chelsea had some positive points. We got some much needed luck when Lampard wasted his penalty. After going behind we stayed strong together and the floodgate remained locked. Whelan’s long shot was nearly one of the goals of the season. It’s disappointing that after grafting so hard to stay in the game we clumsily gifted them the decisive penalty, it’s hard enough going to Stamford Bridge without helping them out. Jonesy and Walters looks as if they could become real stars for us. Walters has shown quick feet in the box and can give our attacking play an extra dimension. Only three games played but an encouraging start for him. Overall on Saturday we showed resilience and if we continue as we have in the last game and a half we will soon get some points on the board. But with two home games to come we really do have the chance to get points on the board…. and that chance mustn’t be wasted.
It occured to me the other day that Tony Pulis has spent more time managing Stoke than anyone since the great Tony Waddington. In November it’ll be eight years since his first dugout appearance at Walsall. We are a much different club than we were then. I, like many thousands of Stokies, love being in the Premier League. Long may we stay at football’s top table.
It’s amusing that after Manchester City’s masterful dismantling of Liverpool, they came down to earth with a reality induced bang against Sunderland. Wasting first half dominance and succumbing to a late late penalty is the kind of thing the Man Citeh of old would have done. The Tevez open goal miss was astounding! The ruthless winning mentality Mancini needs to instill is a quality money can’t buy…. however much you might have. Overturning a culture of hard luck stories and glorious failure is his biggest challenge. If he could spend a few million on some resilience and the knowledge his side could turn an even game into a winning one he’d do it in a shot.
Talking of big money takeovers, are QPR finally starting to justify the vast sums of money the club has at it’s disposal? For a while the only difference the high profile gold encrusted owners had made was Naomi Campbell in the directors boxes and extortionately high ticket prices. Elsewhere at Loftus Road, their late comeback at Derby suggests Neil Warnock may have instilled some of that resilience into his players. He might have to lend some to Mancini!
Barcelona have carried on where they left off last season. The effortless win over Racing Santander was as every bit as easy as the 3-0 scoreline suggests. Racing Santander held out for three lengthy minutes until Messi put his side ahead. It was game over from that stage. At 0-2 down they missed a penalty but they rarely looked capable of troubling Barcelona for sustained periods. The self proclaimed ‘Special one’ will be only too aware that the season has barely started and already his new team are two points behind their nemesis. Barcelona only lost once all last season so Mourinho won’t be allowed many more mishaps.
On Friday Brisbane Roar beat Wellington in a patient measured performance. Three games seven points and no goals conceded. Things are looking good. Another pleasing thing about the game here is that two players who dived at the weekend have been suspended by the FFA. (Football Federation of Australia) It’s a common sense measure that appropriately punishes cheats. It would be good to think other administrative bodies in the game could adopt the same rule for diving and implement it as swiftly and effectively as it has been here. Is that really such a pipe dream?
As a football fanatic and shameless football propogandist I can only look on with feint amused detachment at the Pakistan cricket match fixing scandal. I take no great pleasure in seeing a sport facing this scale of corruption (even a sport that isn’t football) but the pompous sanctimonious way in which the media swoon with mock horror at any level of inappropriate behaviour when it’s football related….and often refer to nurses wages in the process, is as melodramatic as it is empty. The way rugby is seen as a beacon of righteousness is especially nauseating. There have been times when a footballer has shown dissent on the pitch and some have shook their head and mentioned that it wouldn’t happen in rugby. This overlooks the ‘bloodgate’ scandal of last year. Or Lawrence Dallaglio’s drug scandal of 1999. Or the accusations of inappropriate behaviour made towards England’s team in New Zealand. I can’t and wouldn’t ever pretend football is a game of moral purity. But in the future it would be pleasing if we are spared the head shaking and the pretending to be shocked to the core from the press the next time a footballer’s ethical mishap is exposed.