Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.
“Can you hear them? Talking about us, telling lies – is that a surprise?”
So went the Fun Boy Three song back in 1983 and here in 2010 it’s an apt question for fans of Stoke City – given the unprecedented levels of scrutiny the club finds itself under as part of Football’s Top Flight.
This is especially so this season, when with only a handful of games played, there seem to be additional critics of our style of play joining the list of “usual suspects”. Step up Mark Hughes – soft-spoken Welshman, Manager of Fulham FC and a man not afraid to throw some weight around on the pitch in his playing days. Following Andy Wilkinson’s ill-timed tackle in the Carling Cup clash last week, Hughes was not shy in adding his name to a list of vocal critics that includes among others Arsene Wenger, Mick Dennis and our old favourite Adrian Durham of Talk Sport.
Granted, we live in a free country and anyone can say what they like, but with freedom comes responsibility – and that includes not selecting someone for enough criticism (rightly or wrongly) that they acquire a “reputation” that goes before them and potentially colouring the judgement of the public, fellow professionals and most importantly – match officials.
This drip-drip campaign of hate, combined with Arsene Wenger’s continued refusal to apologise for comments regarding the team as a whole and Ryan Shawcross in particular, has obviously irked Stoke Chairman Peter Coates enough for him to comment this week. In the local press he stated that he felt that referees were not giving Stoke “the rub of the green” because of continued stereotyping of the way Stoke plays – “We have a reputation for being a strong, physical team, but the media stereotypes teams.” Coates continues – “Arsene Wenger is always complaining and trying to influence officials, but the facts don’t bear him out.”, before citing some interesting statistics that reveal that the Potters and Gunners are not so far apart in the disciplinary tables. Indeed – Stoke are 14th, while Arsenal are 17th. Furthermore, Stoke have so far recived no red cards, while Arsene’s lily-white angels Laurent Koscielny and Alex Song have collected one a piece so far.
Oscar Wilde Once said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”. True enough, I suppose, as long as you are being talked about for the right reasons. It would be nice, for once, if the likes of Adrian Durham actually credited Stoke with a few positives from their two and a bit seasons in the Premier League. The usual criticisms of “The Longthrow”, “Physical style of play” as well as targetting of individual players such as Ryan Shawcross and Andy Wilkinson are getting tired and worn now. How about praising the club for being largely debt-free, British owned, encouraging players to get up and keep playing instead of feigning injury and diving for no reason? I could go on, but as we all know, commercial institutions like Talk Sport are cyncial and depend on “pushing buttons” with people to get phones ringing so their advertisement reps can wave the audience figures at clients.
It’s easy to say “Don’t listen to it” and “Don’t rise to it”, but as loyal fans of our club, many of us feel duty bound to defend it against perceived lies, fact-twisting and colouring of the truth – especially in the eyes and ears of the nation’s (and the world’s) other football fans – many of whom probably see Stoke City as a gatecrasher to the Premier League party, never mind being a top-flight regular back in the days when football was a different beast altogether.
At today’s press conference Tony Pulis was asked about how teams like Stoke & Blackburn are see through the media’s eyes. He responded saying ” Perception is massive – I don’t give a damn about what others say.” Well it is massive and as long as we are given a fair crack of the whip by officials involved in the game then it’s all well and good, but the evidence of recent games has not shown that. Matty Etherington’s honesty cost us a penalty at Newcastle, even though we went on to win the game, we could have and should have gone in at half time all level rather than a goal down. Let’s hope that officials see past the crap that is spouted about those Big Bad Boys called Stoke City and judge us on our merits.
If they don’t, then to quote another FunBoy Three song title – “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum”
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