The draw at Blackpool was another well earned away point. For all their spirit and energy it isn’t hard to see why Blackpool’s situation is so bleak. Pressing and pegging us back during the first half was positive for them but precious little was created . In fact, at half time Jonesy’s miss led to Stoke rueing a missed opportunity. That miss hasn’t received the media coverage you might expect. It’s a good job for Jonesy’s own sake we (probably) have enough points to see us safe. The second half saw us on the front foot a bit more. We generally had the better of the game and Whelan had two excellent long distance efforts. Despite the more enterprising second half the draw was still the fair result. It’d be good for football if Blackpool can stay up…. but I still wish we’d beaten them! Such are the passions of football.
There can be little doubt that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world right now. The shimmy and run to seal Barcelona’s win against Real Madrid was incredible. Of course, the style of the goal led to comparisons with Diego Maradona. One factor which prevents Messi from being considered an all time great is his disappointing showing in last years World Cup. Despite what some of UEFA’s sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the pinnacle of world football. Back in the 1960’s Australia had a runner named Ron Clarke. Clarke was a masterful runner who broke many world records. The blemish on his record is that his best Olympic performance was a mere bronze in 1964. In short he was an expert in racing against the clock but struggled to beat other runners. Clarke can’t really be considered an all time great because he didn’t perform at his best at the highest level. Similarly, if Messiis to be placed in the same bracket as Zidane, Pele and Maradona he needs to confirm his status by displaying his genius in Brazil in 2014. Some fireworks in this years Copa America would also be welcome!
The ongoing media spat between Jose Mourinho and Barcelona continues to weave it’s undignified trail into the worlds media. What should have been one of the seasons real showpieces last week was undermined by childish bickering. It’s increasingly difficult to imagine the special one working at the Bernebau next season. When, by a stroke of luck, the Catalan Globetrotters finally lost a league game Real Madrid lost too, rendering Real Sociedad’s historic victory a tiny blot on the magnificence of Barcelona’s season. Jose will however leave reputation intact. Real Madrid are known for being difficult employers. Mourinho’s failings will be overlooked as soon as he starts to seek a new employer. Overlooked as they may be, we’ll just have to imagine a feasible explanation for the overly negative approach in that first leg.
As dominant as Barcelona have been Porto are the most dominant domestic side in Europe. Wrapping up the title with five league games remaining they stay on course to end the season unbeaten. A brilliant achievement that can’t be matched elsewhere in Europe…. even by the Catalan megagiants.
My ultimate football mercy dash commences on Thursday May 5th. May 14th is the occasion many of the most optimistic Stokies never actually believed would happen. As a kid FA Cup Final day was one of the most eagerly awaited dates of the Joe year. The night before the game I was usually too excited to sleep. The lush green turf underneath those regal twin towers looked like paradise. When my red and white mind seized control of my red and white heart I was rudely woken by the realisation that even when we have had great teams we failed to reach English football’s grandest showpiece. This in itself brings into sharper focus what is happening. No previous player has ever played in an FA Cup final while representing Stoke City. Gordon Banks, Stan, Alan Hudson, Freddie Steele, none of them adorned our sacred stripes in this game. When I board the plane for the UK, it won’t isn’t just to see a football match, nor is it self indulgent laddish wackiness. This is a piece of history we can be proud to be associated with…. a pilgrimage. We doff our collective cap to shared heritage. Thousands of football fans never get the chance to see their team in an a cup final. Others experience it so regularly they have been de-sensitised and a day at Wembley Stadium is like getting on a bus or buying a bottle of milk . On May 14th we’ll know how special it is to be involved. And, despite being novices to this level of grandeur, we have every right to be there. Let’s make history together.