In the grand scheme of things Villa away was a point gained. It’s a relief to get our first away point of 2011, but for much of the first half we were poised to take all three. For twenty minutes after Jonesy put us ahead we were in complete control of the game. With the home crowd getting restless Villa looked edgy and frustrated. However, at this level one slight error can prove costly, and so it proved. From a basic cross from the right Shawcross allowed Bent to get across him and put them back into the game. Bent’s glancing header was skillful and perfectly placed but from Ryan’s perspective it was avoidable and sloppy. Defenders have to attack crossed balls. From that point we never looked like winning. In the second half there were plenty of chances to hit them on the break but our distribution was so poor we just gave the ball back to them. With our midfield reluctant to support forwards it was clear we just wanted a draw to end the diabolical away form. We contained them comfortably though. Apart from gathering crosses, Begovic had little to trouble him in the second half. So all in all not a bad afternoon’s work from Stoke City.
The decent afternoons work was succeeded by a tremendous evening’s work at home to Wolves. We dominated the game from start to finish and got the three points we richly deserved. This excellent performance has almost confirmed our presence in the Premier League for the fourth consecutive seasona marvellous achievement from Tony Pulis and his players. This was Jermaine Pennant’s finest performance in a Stoke shirt. His goal was the icing on a delicious football cake. The one obvious heartbreaking aspect of the game was Etherington’s injury. It’s awful that a player so important to us seems likely to miss such a momentous conclusion to a season he’s enhanced with some glittering football. We just have to hope his condition isn’t as bad as it first looked. It’s a tough game sometimes.
Gareth Bale has received the PFA’s player of the year award. In itself an unremarkable little fact. One question that has to be asked is why does the voting have to take place so early in the season? The awards are dished out before the seasons climax when there is plenty of time for players to impose themselves on a season’s story. The PFA awards remain the games most prestigious. Acclaim from fellow professionals remains a great accolade. But to maintain credibility the timing of the ceremony and the voting procedure needs a revamp.
A principle of football is that possession is 9/10 of the law. So watching games recently it’s flabbergasting to see teams give away priceless possession by conceding so many unnecessary free kicks. Players in their own half, and going nowhere in particular, get carelessly shoved or ankles clipped. It’s utterly baffling that professionals can make these brainless decisions with such monotonous regularity. The principle is TCUP…. Thinking Correctly Under Pressure. Some players need to learn how to make the right decisions during a game.
Brisbane Roar forward Kosta Barbarouseshas reportedly been on trial with a high-profile Italian club. Whether Barbarouses gets a contract in Italy or not it’s indicative of the respect the reigning Australian champions command. It’s beyond doubt that coach Ange Postecoglou would love to keep the team together. There are some cold hard truths of football life to contend with though. If one of the players gets the chance to play overseas could he really afford to refuse that opportunity? Similarly, would it be right of the club to hold the player back? How the club addresses these issues will be instrumental in building on current success… or fading back into mediocrity. Good luck Ange.
Arsenal are about to end their sixth consecutive season without a trophy. The defeat at Bolton confirmed what millions of football followers throughout the world had realised months ago. That for all their skill and style they still lack that priceless winner mentality that makes some teams, well, winners. For the first time the question marks over the manager’s position could hold some validity. Two weeks ago Arsene Wenger stated his belief that second was good enough. It’s hard to believe that an American entrepeneur who spent millions acquiring a football club agreeing that second isgood enough. Stan Kroenke could make his first major decision a ruthless statement of intent.
During a trip to England in 1999, I was asked if I’d make a special visit if we were to reach an FA Cup final. Coming at the end of the calamitous Brian Little fiasco, this was akin to him asking me to bear his children! My response to this glorious hypothetical piece of dreaming was to promise my fanciful inquisitor that if Stoke got to the FA Cup Final, I’d pay for him and his family to travel to Australia and watch it here with me. This was of course, the safest promise in history. Not only would we never ever get to an FA Cup Final, no way would he drag himself and his family to the other side of the planet when he’d prefer be at Wembley watching Stoke. As we know the preposterous notion has become a reality. May 14th will be a huge moment in the lives of all Stoke City fans. It will be the conclusion of the first phase of major investment into Manchester City. As such it’s entirely conceivable that they will appear in another showpiece under the vast arch in the next few years. We don’t have that comfort. For Stoke City 148 years of yearning and dreaming will come to fruition. We’d love it to be the first of many but there is also the possibility that this occasion won’t return in our lifetime. On May 14th we can be heroes… just for one day.