Archive for April, 2013

Ware,Williams,Relief, Sycophantic to Sydney, Suarez stupidity

April 23rd, 2013 No comments

The loss of Paul Ware is terrible on so many levels. Being honest, Warey was never a Hudson or Greenhoff, but we had a player we could identify with. A player who gave us the 100% we demand and played his part when we had some success. I , like many Stokies, will always cherish the moment at Peterborough when his free kick sent us to Wembley. That moment alone is enough to secure our affection forever. Many people don’t, and will never relate that…. which, quite frankly, is their loss. RIP Paul Ware.

At Queens Park Rangers on Saturday Stoke City finally registered the victory we’ve needed for so long.  We gained three thoroughly deserved points against a home side destined for relegation.  From the moment Peter Crouch gave us the lead shortly before half time the result rarely looked in any doubt.  Our approach to the game was a refreshing change.  It demonstrated that if a team goes all out to win  and commits men forward to support the forwards, you have a chance of winning a game of football!  We now go into the final four games of the season six points ahead of the relegation zone.   Even taking into account our horrendous start to 2013 we can be forgiven for feeling a sixth consecutive Premier League campaign is in touching distance.  After the trauma of recent months many of us will be relieved to see the back of this season and take stock.  Everyone involved must do all they can to ensure a long sparse period like the one we’ve suffered isn’t repeated. The powers that be at Stoke City will have some big decisions to make in the close season.

The A-League season reached it’s climax with Central Coast Mariners crowned champions for the first time.  In the Grand Final Central Coast deservedly beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0. Despite losing the final Western Sydney can be justifiably proud of their first season…. their vociferous support has added much needed noise and colour to the Australian sporting landscape.  In the wider perspective, few could deny the arrival of Heskey Ono and Del Piero has raised football’s profile here.  One bone of contention has to be the way the Grand Final was reported.  Much of the media have lauded the crowd of over 42,000 as a sign football has well and truly arrived in Australia.  The point has to be made that the previous two Grand Finals, both played in Brisbane, each attracted crowds of over 50,000.  The A-League has attracted more media attention than ever this season which obviously is beneficial to football’s profile… but the game here isn’t just a product of the last twelve months.  We shouldn’t have to wait until we have a successful team from Sydney to see the game’s growth acknowledged and celebrated.

Throughout last season’s controversy over the Luis Suarez racism charge, Liverpool Football Club stood by the player.  Kenny Dalglish’ support for Suarez was so absolute it’s hard to believe it had no influence on his eventual dismissal.  Suarez has repaid this support by demonstrating he is, quite simply, a loose cannon not to be trusted.  Many  players have made rash tackles or foolishly lashed out but on Sunday overstepped every conceivable mark by biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.  If the FA take appropriate action and give out a lengthy ban it’s possible he’ll never play for Liverpool again. Nobody denies Suarez is a marvellous footballer but, at this stage, Brendan Rogers should assert some self governance and get rid of him. It is however sickening to think by moving him on Suarez will probably  get a move to a glamour club and a pay rise.

We saw the other end of the scale at Anfield on Sunday when a minutes applause was held in honour of Anne Williams.  She was a marvellous woman whose tireless campaigning has been an integral factor in the marvellous work of the Hillsborough justice campaign.  After losing her 15 year old son Kevin in the disaster Anne Williams spent her life challenging authority figures and gathering evidence to confront the lies associated with that tragic day. RIP Anne Williams.  Justice for the 96.

The PFA’s player of the year ceremony takes place on Sunday.    However, 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, yet nominations start in February.  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.

The current season is drifting to it’s conclusion and it’s something of an anti climax.  Across Europe titles are a formality, most leagues currently have a runaway leader.  Bayern Munich secured their latest Bundesliga title with six games to spare.  In the Dutch league Ajax and PSV Eindhoven were neck and neck but Ajax have started to break ahead and now carry a four point lead.  Hopefully the cup competitions will provide some much needed thrills and spills.



That 1989 feeling, RIP the 96, Brazil’s struggles, Mario’s madness

April 12th, 2013 No comments

Whether Stoke City avoid relegation or not, the current malaise leaves Peter Coates with a huge decision to make in the close season regarding the manager’s position.  Coates may recall a similar situation in his first spell as chairman.  The 1988/89 season was Mick Mills’ fourth campaign managing Stoke City.  During the first two he’d done well to stabilise the club.  At the start of his third season in 1987 we were confidently expecting a sustained push for promotion.  Inconsistency hampered any ambition we had and our season never really got going.  The next season saw us stagnate.   By the end of the 1988/89 season it was abundantly clear to everyone in the game Mills had hit a dead end and, for whatever reason, he’d ceased to be an effective Stoke manager.  It was the summer of 1989 when the board at SCFC  made a cowardly decision and inexplicably awarded him a new contract.  Predictably, at the start of November he had to be sacked… and his contract paid out.  The summer of 2013 will leave Peter Coates in a similar situation.  So far this year Stoke have picked up fewer points (5) than any other Premier League team.  Our play is increasingly disjointed and Saturday’s match against Aston villa was a low point in our recent history.  For all that, we still have a reasonable chance of avoiding the drop.  In a rut like this it’d be easy to forget that Tony Pulis has been a very successful Stoke city manager… with that in mind he should be spared the indignity of  dismissal during the season.  Peter Coates will know there is a huge decision to be made.  With a heavy heart  I state my own feeling that Stoke City need a new manager.   The mistake of 1989 mustn’t be repeated.

As depressing as Stoke’s recent form is it’s worth remembering football is a brilliant game.  To reinforce that point here is Antonio Di Natale’s goal for Udinese against Chievo.  Watch it, then watch it again and again.

Sadly, Monday April 15th marks the 24th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.   Policing at football grounds has, for many years, been a sore point amongst supporters.   It was  former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker who said in the 80s he was aware that many police knew that football matches were one time they were “Let off the leash”.  On the 31st January 1989  Stoke played an FA Cup replay at Barnsley. Thousands of Stoke supporters arrived late due to traffic congestion.   Outside the ground a crush developed and people were getting hurt.  The initial response was to send a police horse running through the crowd which  only added to the chaos.   To ease the congestion the police opened one of the huge exit gates which allowed the crowd  to enter the ground free of charge. This was the response the same force used two months later at Hillsborough.  Had there been more Stoke supporters on the away terrace that night we could have suffered that awful disaster.  Same situation, same police force, same reaction.   We, like all football supporters, were actually riding our luck,  not just on that  night, but for so many years.   There was very little consideration for the issue of crowd safety over crowd control.  It could have been any of us  with the loss of life…..  and the same scandalous tabloid allegations.  With September’s release of documents and the original inquest findings quashed aa new inquest is to take place.  As a result we’ve seen huge steps towards justice which is  testament to the work of the Hillsborough Family Support group.  We can hope this  can bring the bereaved some comfort at what must be a deeply traumatic time of year for them. RIP the 96.

Much has been made of Brazil’s lowly FIFA world ranking of 19th place.  Most people are aware that the positions are determined by a co-efficient devised from competitive results over a four year period.  As Brazil have qualified for the 2014 World Cup as hosts, a lack of competitive fixtures means a fall in the rankings was inevitable.  Brazil’s recent form has been hit and miss.  However, dismissing their chances of success next year would be foolish.  A year out from the 2002 tournament their form was dreadful, there was even the possibility they could miss out on qualification altogether.    It was all forgotten when Cafu lifted the trophy in Yokohama.  Don’t write them off.

Football Federation Australia have announced plans for the FFA Cup, a national competition  to run in addition to the A-League.  With over 600 teams involved the new competition could be an exciting addition to the Australian sporting menu.  The format is yet to be confirmed.  This could provide football clubs in remote areas a rare chance of national recognition and help the game here to become more inclusive.  It’d also be a progressive step to encourage indigenous communities to enter teams.  Overall it could prove to be a vital step in football’s growth in Australia.

The living breathing soap opera that is Mario Balotelli acquired yet another layer of controversy when he was caught smoking on  the train taking the Milan team to face Fiorentina.  In 2011 he famously showed his T-shirt asking “Why Always Me?”  Doing things like getting caught smoking in train toilets is perhaps one reason why always him!