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Stoke City v Swindon Town – Reasons to be Cheerful or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

August 30th, 2012 No comments

It took a while to actually get around to this one as I hate losing especially against lower league opposition and it is a massive de motivator. Anyway here we go!

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Team selection – initially I thought TP had picked a strong side, a lot stronger than I initially thought it would be. Surely it would be a formality with the line up selected! How wrong could I have been

“Who Ya Gonna Call?” – Sun on the way to the Brit vs Swindon Town

The Weather – Watching footie at the Brit in my shirtsleeves at nearly 10pm, there won’t be many more days like that this season.

Talking of 10 – We only need 10 men – Well that was I note I made when Crouch equalised in extra time!

A decent away following – Swindon Town

A decent away following from Swindon.

Di Canio – great passion and desire, good moves, be great on Strictly Come Dancing!

Before they scored there was some nice one touch exchanges between Whitehead and Jones which resulted in a sweet volley but it was straight at the keeper.
Another couple of examples of easy on the eye football was when Jones should have done better with a Pennant cross a minute later. Also later in the game when Geoff Cameron decided to take the game to Swindon and carried the ball forward.

The Official Team Sheet Stoke City vs Swindon Town

Half Time seemed a bit surreal and it inspired me to tweet, “Dare I suggest that this is what u get when we rest super Johnnie Walters ūüôā woeful performance NO Desire.” At least he spiced it up a little when he came on with his endless chasing down.

Cameron was decent in patches.

A few players were found wanting and should become surplus to requirements – Sorensen, Shotton & Upson can be counted in that number. Get ’em moved on Tone!

Strange observation was that six of the seven goals were at the Boothen End!

Good physio work on the left back in extra time

Now I should be able to fill a page. Heavens Knows I’m Miserable Now

Sorensen looks off the boil, a poor kick and droppping the ball to gift the goal. He’s a good shot stopper as he proved to save Shotton’s blushes and again later in the game but I’d prefer a keeper that is a steady eddie and is consistent everywhere.

Misplaced passes
Again – where do I start? Shotton, Huth, Whitehead were just a few of the players that were guilty. We were made to look the league one side when Swindon showed how it should be done. Someone said he didn’t think Di Canio would pick some of our players in his side as they haven’t got the basic skill set he demands, I reckon he’s not far wrong.

Not wanting it
No desire in the side, It looked like Swindon had been in our dressing room and stolen all the bottles labelled “PASSION, DESIRE, COMMITMENT” ¬†They played with our passion and got a deserved result.

Sorro’s handling – The back four don’t seem as confident around him as they do Begovic.

Shotton defending the diagonal long ball. Sorensen redeemed it, then we concede a real cheap goal from the resulting corner.

Empty Seddon Stand

The atmosphere – AWFUL! Leave the Seddon open even if the crowd is a sparce one or price the tickets to fill the place!

A fiver a seat wouldn’t have gone amiss!

The Result

Jamie Ness debut – injury stricken midfielder gets an injury shock!


Team Line Ups

Stoke City
29 Sorensen
02 Cameron
04 Huth
12 Wilson
20 Upson
30 Shotton (Ness – 77′ )
07 Pennant
18 Whitehead
21 Kightly
09 Jones (Crouch – 77′ )
33 Jerome (Walters – 77′ )

Substitutes
27 Nash
17 Shawcross
28 Wilkinson
14 Ness
24 Delap
19 Walters
25 Crouch

Swindon Town
01 Foderingham
03 McEveley (Thompson – 98′ )
04 Flint
05 Devera
06 Navarro
10 Ritchie
12 McCormack Booked
18 Miller
09 Collins
16 Williams
23 De Vita (Ferry – 73′ )
Substitutes
30 Bedwell
15 Thompson
32 Smith
07 Rooney
08 Ferry
13 Risser
20 Storey

 

It was a game of two halves and a bit more!
First half we were woeful, second half we improved, the bit more was more of the same with Swindon deservedly getting through to the next round.

Stoke City – Characteristic tenacity, a new boss and a worrying trend

August 27th, 2012 No comments

To use a football cliche, our draw with Arsenal brought the reward of a ‘hard earned point’.¬† We rarely looked likely to trouble the Arsenal goal, similarly, our opponents were stifled by our characteristic tenacity.¬†There were several phases of the game during which our midfield¬† struggled to handle Arsenal’s movement but our back four were focused and played with discipline.¬† The one worrying aspect of our defensive play is how often we lunge into tackles.¬† At Reading Dean Whitehead saw red for two unnecessary challenges.¬† On Sunday Huth and Wilkinson steamed into tackles and, as well as receiving cautions, gave away free kicks in very dangerous territory.¬† Wilkinson stayed on his feet, had he slid in his may well have been a straight red.¬† As a team we are physical but that needn’t equate to recklessness.


 
Geoff Cameron made an encouraging start to his Stoke City career. He broke Arsenal’s midfield play up well and made simple passes to maintain possession.¬† Again it was Michael Kightly who looked our most potent attacking threat.¬† Kightly also threaded a defence unlocking ball¬† through for Jon Walters… a rare delight from a Stoke player!

So, two games gone and two points earned.  A solid if unspectacular start to our season.  Meanwhile Arsenal will be painfully aware that the season has barely begun and they are already seven points behind the leaders.

The next league game is at Wigan.  In all fairness it’s a game we should set out to win.   The away form must improve and Saturday will be a good way to send the message out that we are no longer a soft touch on our travels.  It’d be a relief if we have some new personnel in time for that game.

Last week Football Federation Australia appointed ex rugby league supremo David Gallop as their new CEO. Gallop is an established respected sports administrator having held the same role as head of the National Rugby League.  The move has been generally well received.  While it does seem to be a good appointment the whole spectre of administration of football in Australia continues to be draining.

On arrival here in 1996 I was looking forward to acquainting myself with the Australian game.¬† The main TV show which covered local football issues was an hour long magazine programme on a channel called SBS on Monday nights.¬† The first time I watched, most of the show was taken up with a radical discussion regarding an internal issue in the corridors of power.¬† Over 16 years later the ongoing internal wrangling in football’s corridors of power continue to cast a dark shadow over our game.¬†¬† The game here won’t fulfill it’s rich potential until headlines are made by players instead of administrators.¬† I hasten to add that I, along with all football supporters, wish David Gallop every success in his new role.


It’s disturbing to see the pre season here in Australia¬† tarnished by crowd violence. In Australia some youngsters have a sickening infatuation with the whole culture of football related thuggery.¬† I overheard some talking excitedly about trouble at a game and asked them why they were so fascinated by people bashing each other peoples heads in‚Ķ… they didn’t¬†know.¬† As a teenager, many of my contemporaries regarded becoming involved in fighting almost as a natural progression…. as if it was a rite of passage.¬† I specifically remember, even as a nine year old, standing in Glebe Street watching Millwall and Stoke‚Äôs hooligans fighting and being confused that so many people felt the need to smash people‚Äôs faces in over what was, essentially, wanting a different team to win a game of football.¬† Violence at football has resulted in lives damaged, people even killed.¬† It has given police the excuse (but not justification) to treat supporters as second class citizens.¬† There is nothing positive about football violence.

Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid have made a shaky start to the season.¬† A defeat and a draw are not what was expected at the Bernabeu.¬† While they were crowned champions last season, Mourinho was appointed to bring the European Cup to Madrid.¬† The semi final exit to Bayern Munich hangs in the air.¬† If form doesn’t improve quickly the managers position may be called into question.¬† What could save¬†him could be the huge question of who could possibly replace him.¬† At Real Madrid¬† style and panache are as important to the culture of the club as their illustrious historical trophy haul.¬†¬† In choosing Mourinho they¬† effectively made a U turn.¬† Mourinho‚Äôs brilliance is motivation and tactical manoeuvring.¬† His teams, as successful as they are, haven‚Äôt always played exhilarating thrilling football.¬† The pragmatism and attention to detail being the cornerstones of his glittering career.¬† Real Madrid is known to be a notorious¬† managerial graveyard.¬† If the internal politics become too much and he walks away he‚Äôll be able to do so with reputation intact and will still be able to pick up a job at another¬† European powerhouse.¬† When he was appointed the Galactico was the manager.¬†¬†He ¬†was the one that couldn’t possibly fail….. and nobody is more aware of that than Mourinho himself.¬† That Jose isn‚Äôt stupid!

 

Stoke City v Arsenal – Reasons to be Cheerful or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

August 26th, 2012 No comments

Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 New Badge Hoarding

Intentons are that just a few of my thoughts from every game I attend this season will be published as a blog.
These will take the form of positive and negative thoughts and observations, Reasons to be cheerful, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.

Not sure how long I’ll keep it up for but as The Ramones once said Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

Reasons To Be Cheerful

KIGHTLY very comfortable on the ball, could be the start of a fresh Pulis approach for potters football. It was great to see the ball bought down and possession retained during the midfield melees.

CAMERON again comfortable with the ball, seemed unusual for Pulis to trust a newbie in such an important game but his presence paid off. Some nice touches, not 100% certain that he was the best player on the pitch but can’t think of many more players that could have took the man of the match award.

LAME SUBSTITUTIONS
To be honest, most premier league teams would love the ability to have Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott being impact substitutions. Wenger launched all three and they were about effective as an ashtray on a motorbike.

PROGRESSION

Was Begovic playing the ball short to the back four real progression or just a tactic to draw Arsenal out from their own half while we lumped it forward? It seemed awkward at times and we nearly got caught short when there was an awkward short back pass. The jury is out on this currently!

THE WEATHER

The heat of the sun on the walk on home will be all but a distant memory in a couple of months. It’s a rare occasion when the sun shines on Ice Station Britannia so let’s hold the memory of that warmth for now.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
I would have involved Delap and the monster longthrow at some point. Okay I accept that he’s seen better days and is a squad player now but that the Longthrow has always been Arsenal’s weakness at the Brit and we never really had a quality low trajectory throw that tested their dodgy defence out.

Arsene wearing an invisible straight jacket. We love his histrionics as he bounces up the touchline trying to take off, flapping his duvet, but today he held back and seemed to have his hands tied back as if he’d been Christian Grey’s latest conquest (a reference for the ladies! 50 shades of grey)

Progression

I know it was a reason to be cheerful or is it? We had a year known as the binary season – Most games ended 1-0, 0-0, 0r 0-1. Is this season a return to that style? Not the most entertaining but at least the consistency meant you could make a few quid at the bookies!

Rumour Mill
Asmir off to Chelsea with Daniel Sturridge being loaned to Stoke.

Song of the Day
“Robin Van Persie – He Would Have Scored That”

Most Mentioned non Stoke City Player

Michael Owen who sat on the Goals on Sunday Settee

Michael Owen Joins Goals On Sunday

Michael Owen Joins Goals On Sunday


Line ups
Stoke City:

Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Pennant, Cameron, Whelan, Kightly, Walters, Crouch.

Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Jones, Upson, Delap, Shotton, Jerome.

Arsenal:

Mannone, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Podolski, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Gervinho, Giroud.

Subs: Martinez, Santos, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin

 

Enjoy a few snaps from the day below

 

Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 The Stewards have delivered Arsene’s Flak Jacket


Car Park, Bike and Arsene Wenger Mask

 

Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 Programme Back

 

Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 Pitch view pre match

 

 

And…..THEY’RE OFF!!!!!!!

August 21st, 2012 No comments

Welcome back into my life football. My friend, my strength, my infatuation and, of course, my eternal frustration!  Weekends are  inconsequential without you football my darling.   The big kick off symbolises a  return to midnight (or 1am) kick offs before retiring to bed usually accompanied by liberal doses of fatigue and deflation.   It’s August, time to start all over again.

Every game has it’s own story.¬† The story behind our 1-1 draw at Reading is a tale of Stoke City’s two dropped points.¬† The match started with a familiar look as we defended deeply and struggled to impose ourselves on the game.¬† For all Reading’s possession they rarely threatened to unlock us and as the first half wore on we were increasingly comfortable.¬† After half an hour we started to carry the game forward and we quickly found the ultimate reward.¬† The ball dropped in the box to Michael Kightly who tried a shot.¬† Fortuitously, Reading keeper Federeci completely misjudged the scuffed effort and the ball bobbled guiltily into the net.¬† Fortunate or not it was great to be ahead away from home and fantastic that Kightly could mark his debut with a goal.¬† For over an hour it seemed likely to be the winning goal.¬† Until the 89th minute we defended our lead in comfort and controlled the game.¬† We put pressure on Reading and while we didn’t create much we still looked more likely to add a second goal than Reading were to equalise.¬† Then came that fateful 89th minute.¬† We were caught out at the back and Dean Whitehead’s lunge resulted in the penalty that provided Reading their escape route to retrieve an unlikely draw.¬† As a result we got one point from a match we should have won comfortably.¬† The very simple lesson to be learnt is that if you fail to finish games off whilst on top in them you’ll be vulnerable to sucker punches.¬†¬† Reflecting on the entire game we really have nobody to blame but ourselves for those two dropped points.¬† And that is the story of Reading v Stoke City.

As an aside it was pleasing to see Robert Huth start the game and compete as vigorously as ever. ¬† Less than a fortnight ago our very own Berlin Wall was in hospital with a serious illness.¬† It’s just so frustrating that we couldn’t mark his rapid¬†recovery with a clean sheet and three points.

Our next challenge arrives in the shape of Arsenal.¬† Last season’s game was marred by tasteless chants regarding the Shawcross Ramsey incident.¬† That incident occured two and a half years ago. It’d be a refreshing change if everybody dropped the vitriol so that terrible moment can be well and truly ¬†confined to history.¬†¬† There are some aspects of football that are truly awful and that was¬† horrible for all concerned.¬†¬† It’d be a refreshing change if everybody just let it go and concentrate on supporting their team.¬† Please, no more.

The London Olympics contained many special moments.¬† For many football supporters the most poignant moment was Sepp Blatter being roundly booed before the womens gold medal match.¬† Despite the¬† hostility Sepp generates he clings on to his prestigious role like grim death.¬† Only last week his bruised battered organisation announced further investigations into the activities of disgraced ex official¬† Mohamed bin Hammam.¬† This is merely shooting fish in a barrel hoping it’ll deflect from other more relevant discrepancies. For the good of the game Blatter and his sycophantic cronies should be dragged from the trough and replaced as soon as possible.

As the cliche states it’s early days for Brendan Rogers at Liverpool.¬† Even bearing that in mind few could argue that the 0-3 defeat at WBA was an horrendous start to his reign. While at Swansea, many were impressed by his teams style of play and the confidence they showed in their first top glight season.¬† To receive similar plaudits at Anfield he’ll need some resilience to accompany panache.¬† At The Hawthorns his team waved the white flag as soon as the ref waved the red card.¬† It looks as if some of their players are too comfortable.¬† A huge clearout is required.¬† It’ll be a long painful process but the powers that be must be¬† prepared to give the manager time fulfill his vision.

 

Reflecting on brilliance, low key preparation and a get well soon.

August 9th, 2012 No comments

The greatest team ever?  There is no doubt that Spain are the outstanding team of the modern era.  The graceful dismantling of Italy leaves no doubt over the current status of this remarkable football team.  The statistical bombardment we received during Euro 2012 became tiresome.  However, one unmistakable piece of data is that Spain have achieved something no European nation has done before in winning three consecutive tournaments.

A recurring point of discussion throughout the tournament was Vincente del Bosque’s decision to¬† pick his team without a recognised forward.¬† Surprising though it was, it hardy merited the incredulous responses it generated.¬† Several years ago Carlos Alberto Parreira predicted that in the future football teams would be deployed without strikers.¬† His words resulted in raised eyebrows. It suggested a dull defensive future where rigid shape would exceed invention.¬† In reality, if Spain’s dazzling display of kaleidoscopic movement is a template, we may have a lot to look forward to.¬† And Parreira’s words will be proved to be prophetic.

The participation of Team GB in the Olympic football tournament finally arrived…. and left. For Britain it’s been a phenomenally successful Olympic Games.¬† For all the achievements of the British sporting fraternity nothing has united the nation as the football did….. when GB were knocked out¬† on penalties the Welsh Scottish and Northern Irish learned how it feels to be English!¬† The whole air surrounding British participation was laced with negativity. After several years of discussing whether it undermines the individual status of the home nations,¬† it was eventually decided to field a team.¬† Again, after much¬† discussion and media speculation Stuart Pearce was appointed head coach and hurriedly assembled a team.¬† Did anything arise from GB’s involvement that would encourage the populace to demand involvement in future Olmpic football tournaments?¬† Probably not.¬† London hosting meant clubs were preared to allow players to miss a significant part of pre-season, it’s hard to imagine them being so compliant in the future.¬† Combine that with the political implications of a GB team.¬† Could it lead to¬† FIFA demanding a united Britain team?¬† In short there would be too many obstacles and not a great deal to gain.¬† So that’s the end of that.

As far as Stoke City are concerned this could be the most low key build up to a football season ever. The signing of Michael Kightly has livened things up slightly but it’s hard to remember a pre season so devoid of activity.¬† Peter Coates has made public his understandable instruction that to bring players in we must reduce the wage bill.¬† For too long we have had players clogging up the squad who are clearly not going to take part in league matches.¬† We are approaching our fifth consecutive season in the top flight.¬† To put it bluntly, it’s time to cut out the deadwood.

One thing that is clear is that if we start the coming season as we finished the last one we could find ourselves in serious trouble.¬† In 2012 we have only won four league games.¬† Throughout last season the quality of our play deteriorated.¬† Our attacking play constantly lacked any ¬†fluidity and we rarely played well for an entire 90 minutes.¬† Any team with a competent defence can handle our forward play.¬† A series of balls hit long, usually to Peter Crouch, who may or may not flick a header onto a teammate.¬† The teammate in question is double marked and stifled.¬† Our midfield rarely pushes forward quickly enough to effectively support the attack so within seconds the ball comes straight back at us and we are under pressure again.¬† We aren’t creative enough we aren’t positive enough.¬† We‚Äôll always be eternally grateful to Tony Pulis for taking us to the Premier League and keeping us here but things have got to change.¬† In 2012/13 can we have a Stoke City with a precise cohesive attacking plan that approaching games with a fresh philosophy please?¬† This road has become dark.¬† A brighter route is required ¬†or we could pay¬†the ultimate¬†heavy price.

It was alarming to hear that Robert Huth  is in hospital with suspected meningitis.  We have to hope he makes a full recovery and is back to playing as soon as possible.  Good luck Rob.