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.