Archive for May, 2013

Puliser Prised – The end of an era

May 23rd, 2013 No comments

The most surprising aspect of the sacking of Tony Pulis was the startling ruthlessness with which it was carried out.  Several months ago when  Peter Coates announced publicly he’d never really approved of the finance involved in the Peter Crouch signing ,many sensed change was afoot.  What few could have predicted is less that 48 hours after the end of the season Tony Pulis would be dismissed.

Few could deny that in the second half of 2012/13 we hit a dead end.  The malaise was only  exacerbated by the manager’s refusal to change.  We paid a heavy price for Pulis’ stubborn obsession with work rate over craft… when the reliance on graft over guile wasn’t working there was blunt refusal to try any other method.  This was particularly frustrating because in phases Stoke  have been shown to be able to play a more expansive game yet we were dragged back to the artless lottery of the hopeless punt forward.  The mindset of supporters was hardly brightened when we saw clubs with smaller budgets press ahead and evolve…. and we certainly didn’t snag any Michu type bargains!  The age of the team was also an issue.  Few players under the age of 24 were ever considered for the starting line up.  This meant 1 the players being reared by the academy would simply be farmed out elsewhere and 2 as the players we buy are in their late 20s  rarely would any have  sell on value.  These issues and transfer policy in general may well have been the decisive factors in his sacking.

The initial question is whether or not his sacking was the correct course of action.  There is no doubt it contains an element of risk.  The fact remains Pulis had indeed kept us in the top flight for five seasons and has never been relegated as a manager.  However, that can be deemed null and void  when we remember in recent months we were sleepwalked to the edge of a relegation dogfight.  In the last eighteen months we have regressed at an alarming rate, there is no reason to believe we wouldn’t be sucked into the mire next year had he been given another season.  Another matter which has to be mentioned is the nature of the team and the seemingly limited ambition.  While survival and 40 points are undoubtedly a priority to hear those aims mentioned with such monotonous regularity, at the expense of anything else, left a bleak aura surrounding the team and club in general.  Being prepared to do little more than dig out 0-0 draws or perhaps sneak a 1-0 win was never going to be a thrilling spectacle.  Watching Stoke City play football became, at times, an awful way to spend time.  In that respect his sacking has saved him from himself… every time we played he damaged his own legacy.  So the point has to be made, despite the obvious risk his dismissal is the right decision.  A new direction is required and Tony Pulis has never displayed a tendency to embrace change.

Despite the miserable conclusion to his reign the point has to be made Tony Pulis has been a successful Stoke manager.  Promotion and Premier League stability should ensure applause if he manages a visiting team at the Britannia Stadium, not to mention the FA Cup Final and resulting European campaign.  It’s fair to say the vast majority of Stoke supporters wish Tony Pulis well in the next phase of his life and career.  Thank you and goodbye Tony.

Here’s a couple of videos

One showing TP after the Villa game

another as he leaves the pitch at the Brit for his final time as manager of Stoke City



Danny Higginbotham does “internet interview”

May 21st, 2013 No comments

Just in case you may have missed this, Danny Higginbotham appeared in a “live internet interview” this morning (Tues 21st May 2013.

Here’s what was asked and answered in the Q&A session

Live: Stoke City old boy Danny Higginbotham answers your questions

Tuesday May 21, 2013
Hi everyone we’re ready to roll and Danny wants your questions
Comment From John, Fenton
Hi Danny, Have Stoke under-performed his year?
Yes, I think they have, but it’s been a bizarre season because going into the last game they could have finished 10th.
I think now it’s more to do with the style of play and results certainly haven’t been what supporters have expected.
Comment From Mike
Danny, what’s your take on pigs-head gate?
I think it’s a storm in a teacup really.
All types of banter goes on and it’s just the fact it’s come out in public which has alerted people’s attention to it.
Sometimes it can get out of hand though.
But more often than not everything is straightened out.
Comment From Mike from Newcastle.
Hi Danny, which Stoke team mate over the years would you least want to play a practical joke on?
Lennie Lawrence and Andy Griffin because if you do anything to them it’s coming back at you worse than anything you can imagine.
I’ve been on the receiving end.
I will just mention a floating turd in a drink!
Comment From Chris, Meir Heath
Is Glenn Whelan daft, brave or does he really love flip-flops? And is Abdoulaye Faye the hardest man in football?
Glenn can be a fiery character and if he believes in something he will always have his opinion, which is the best way in football.
Abby was one of the most laid back lads I’ve ever met.
But when he got angry you stayed out of his way… though that was very, very rare.
Comment From Laura
Hi Danny, what’s your favourite memory as a Stoke City player?
Beating Arsenal in our first season in the Prem is right up there.
Everybody was writing us off and we beat them fairly and squarely.
They couldn’t really handle us and I think that’s when we started to believe in ourselves.
The atmosphere was also brilliant that day… and Wenger moaning about us afterwards made it all the sweeter!
Comment From Dave, Bucknall
Hi Danny. Did any sledging ever take place as Rory was about to whirr in a long-throw? What was the best? Which defence was the most intimidated?
I’ll always remember the home game against Hull when Dean Windass was warming up in front of Rory on the touchline to try and put him off.
And in the same game do you remember the goalkeeper putting the ball out for a corner instead of a throw.
As for those that struggled against Rory’s throw, you’d have to say Arsenal in that first season and also in the FA Cup against them.
And do you remember Jagielka’s og from a real fast throw from Rory?
Comment From Colin, Yarnfield
What do you think of ex-teamate James Beattie being appointed as manager of Accrington Stanley? Is he management material?
When I played with Beats at Southampton and Stoke I didn’t really think he was a manager in the making.
But when you look at his qualities as a player, you realise he has all the attributes such as his will to win and the way he will take full responsibility for everything.
He was also a great laugh.
That was brilliant for team spirit and so I think he’ll create a great environment and the players will want to play for him.
Comment From Ralphy
Danny, Who would be a realistic top signing for Stoke, also if TP Left, who would be the ideal Manager to take the Potters forward
A goalscorer would be nice, how about Andy Carroll?
He’d lead the line very well and the style of play at Stoke would suit him very well because he brings others into the game.
As for replacing TP, if that was to happen, I’d go for someone like di Matteo.
But there would definitely be a transitional period if that happened.
Comment From Will
What are your plans for the future Danny?
I’ve got one more year left at Sheffield United and then I’ll assess it during the season.
But I’m looking already to get more involved in the media and maybe the coaching side as well.
Comment From Pete, Tean
Why isn’t Ryan Shawcross in the England squad?
He’s been in once of course but Roy Hodgson is thinking there’s better candidates out there at the moment.
I think that being at the bigger clubs definitely gives you more chance of playing for England.
It wouldn’t surprise me if a bigger club came in for Ryan.
Which one? I look at someone like Liverpool with Carragher retiring.
Comment From Dave
Hi Danny, is it now time for Pulis to go?
I think that decision should be up to Tony Pulis himself after everything he’s done for the club.
There are arguments for and against it.
I think if he were to go there would be a big transitional period because he’s run Stoke from top to bottom and that would need a lot of adjusting from for the new man.
Also, just look at the likes of Charlton, who thought the grass was greener.
But whatever happens, there’s no doubt the club needs to evolve this summer whether Tony Pulis is the manager or not.
Comment From Angela
Is it difficult to constantly keep playing the way we do at Stoke in terms of effort? What do you see as the shelf life for most players at Stoke before they need moving on?
There’s no doubt that playing for Stoke, especially in certain positions, you have to be unbelievably fit.
The deep lying centre forward, Jon Walters, and your two wingers work harder than any players in the Premier League in my opinion because of the way Stoke play.
As for shelf life Angela, you’re always kept fit at Stoke there’s not too much difference in shelf life there as other clubs and I think early to mid 30s, like Rory, is usually the time to move on.
Comment From Pottermouse
What would be a realistic goal for Stoke next season Danny?
It has to be to finish in the top 10.
Especially now with the squad and the likely new signings.
A good cup run and from a fan’s point of view a more attractive style of football.
Comment From Jim, Longton
Hi Danny, what is your best anecdote about Ricardo Fuller?
I’ve often been given abuse for my dress sense – people call me a tramp – but Ricardo Fuller has possibly the worst collection of boxer shorts I’ve seen in my life.
He would stand there having a go at my clothes, while wearing these boxer shorts looking like a 1970s table cloth.
But that summed up Stoke City during my time there.
Nobody was exempt from the banter and everybody got on unbelievably, creating a great team spirit.
And as a player, Ricardo was one of the most gifted players I’ve ever played with.
He was so off the cuff and the goal he scored at West Ham was sublime and showed you in a nutshell what he was like as a player.
If only Stoke now had a 28 year-old version of him.
Comment From cmc89
Danny, do you know who is responsible for pig-gate?
Comment From Phil
What’s the deal with square pegs and round holes at Stoke? What will be Ryan Shotton’s best position?
That’s the way Tony Pulis plays.
When it comes to the back four, for instance, he’s never really asked for attacking full backs because he wants to keep a solid defence and really let the front five or six get on with it.
As for Ryan Shotton, I think full back will be his best position and he seems to have come on a lot this year.
Comment From StokieRob
You went through a tough time as a young player while on loan from Man Utd. in Belgium. Would you say that was a changing point in your career and can you tell us about the part Sir Alex Ferguson played in your life?
Hi Stokie Rob, going to Belgium was definitely a time when I had to stand on my own two feet at about 18 or 19.
I went where nobody spoke English and I had to embrace the culture of at least 17 different nationalities in the changing room.
It was at the time when the Balkans was at war and I was playing with a lot of players from both sides.
So you learn a lot about people, not just football, and met some good people.
As for Sir Alex, he taught you how to live your life in a professional way and how to behave on and off the pitch.
What he taught me has kept me in good stead throughout my career.
He remembers his players and still says hello whenever I’ve seen him.
Comment From Keith
What are the key attributes in “Stoke DNA”? Which player epitomises that spirit?
I think Jon Walters epitomises it best.
The Stoke DNA is a very selfless player who puts the team before himself and will run through a brick wall for the football club.
Comment From Rory
There is a perception that once you cross Tony Pulis there’s no way back. (Kitson, Beattie & Pennant are cases in point). Is this a fair perception?
Yes, that’s probably fair to say.
Tony Pulis has his own ways of doing things and once you cross that line there’s very rarely any coming back.
It’s a shame because the aforementioned players were good players, where as some managers will forgive and forget.
Comment From Pete, Tean
Would Stoke have won the FA Cup final if you had been fit?
Yes, I’d have scored the winner
Comment From Topher
Marc Wilson has ultimately been your replacement at left-back, how do you think he has adapted to that unfamiliar position?
To say that he came as a central midfielder, he’s done an excellent job and adapted very well.
I still feel as though eventually he will be playing in centre mid because of his range of passing and his feet are great.
Comment From Dave
Do you regret your decision to leave Stoke for Sunderland? I was gutted at the time! The emotion shown after the QPR game by yourself certainly showed the passion you had for the club so the switch to the North East came as a shock.
Yes I do regret it now and I regretted probably after a few months.
For me to go back to the Premier League at that time was a great opportunity and to work for one of my idols (Roy Keane) at a club like Sunderland was something I couldn’t turn down.
I was just fortunate Stoke came back in for me after they won promotion and I can honestly say that in the two spells I had at Stoke it was the best time I had in my football career by a long way.
Comment From Liam
Are you the Secret Footballer … or do you know who is?
No and No.
I don’t read papers much these days *(except the Sentinel of course), but when I was younger you’d get every newspaper on a Sunday morning to see what mark you got.
Younger players are a lot more insecure and you want the praise of everybody and you want it to be justified.
Comment From Henry
Hi Danny, were you ever to go into management, what is the number 1 lesson you have learned from Tony Pulis?
I’ve no real interest in management.
But what I learned from Tony Pulis, especially early on, is that in order to be a good manager you have to be a good man manager and deal with all different types of characters.
For example, myself and Rory, because we’d been there such a long time, Tony Pulis would have no issue with kicking us up the backside because he knew the way we’d take it.
Comment From Topher
You always played well at centre-back when given the chance, was it frustrating to be out wide so often?
Yes it was frustrating, but when I look back on my career it’s happened at most clubs.
And it probably makes you more attractive to other clubs that you can play both positions.
But when you’re younger you do feel as though it is hindering you because you’re trying to make one position your own.
But as you get older you realise you got more games because of it.
Comment From Dazza
Danny not so much of a question, just want to say thanks for your time here, you always were a true professional. Thanks for all the memories
Thanks Dazza. It was a pleasure playing for Stoke and I’ve got a lot of fond memories which I will probably appreciate more when I have time to reflect on my career.
Comment From Carl
Hi Danny, any thoughts on the future of most of stoke’s younger players with the academy now being given more support and money will we see any Youth prospects in the next season or two
Hi Carl, I think Stoke have got a lot of catching up to do, especially when you look at the catchment area and the other clubs around.
Up until recently, my son was at Crewe and the appeal of a club like Crewe is that they rely on youngsters coming through so you know if your son’s good enough he’ll have an opportunity to play first team.
At Stoke it’s different, but I see they are trying to change that.
Comment From Ben
Best goal you have seen or scored?
I think this year it has to be van Persie’s against Villa.
Personally, my goal against Newcastle at the Britannia was my favourite from my career.
Comment From Nick
It’s mentioned in the introduction so I’m just going to go ahead and ask. If you were Peter Coates, what would you do this summer re: the manager?
I’ve already answered that one earlier on Nick, but thanks anyway
Comment From Dan
Danny hi, do you think we will sell Asmir and how do you rate Butland?
I think that buying Butland would make me think that Asmir will go in the summer because you are not going to leave one of Thomas Sorensen, Asmir or Butland in the stands on a match day.
I think Asmir has the potential to be one of the best and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the top teams come in for him.
Looking around, you’d say Arsenal need a goalkeeper more than any of them.
Comment From Jake
What do you think about the stories regarding Phil Neville being approached as first team coach? Do you think he would do a good job?
I’ve spent a bit of time with Phil Neville at Man United and he was the ultimate pro, along with his brother.
I feel that when he does take that next step into the coaching side he will become one of the best.
As for coming to Stoke, I’ve no idea, but like I say he’d be a great addition to any club.
Comment From Rich
My uncle steve is a massive sheff utd fan an he’s 50 in a few weeks, can you give him a shout for his birthday!
Happy birthday Steve!!
Comment From Simon
If Shawcross were to leave who do you think would make the best club captain?
I’d say Robert Huth.
He has the respect of all the players.
As for him being hard, I just don’t think he feels any pain.
I remember him getting treatment once and he said something like “I haven’t got time to bleed.”
Comment From Rich
And more seriously. Who is the hardest player you’ve come up against?
It’s someone I remember as a young lad at Man United.
We went over to Ireland to play in a testimonial and I was about 18.
Their centre forward came up to me before the game and said if you touch me I’m going to break your nose.
After five minutes we went up for a header and he broke my nose with his elbow.
Some testimonial that was.
Comment From StokieRob
Danny, dressing rooms – I guess that TP leaves the players to their own devices and this is very much their space with the senior players running the ship. Where you and Rory the judge and jury back in the day?
I wouldn’t say we were as much the judge and the jury as the guilty and the not guilty.
I’d usually get the blame for the banter, while if Rory had done something he just couldn’t keep a straight face.
Age never came into it.
Old or young, you all got involved in the banter back then.
Comment From Topher
Can you put into words how you felt when that FA Cup free kick went in against West Ham?
I remember hitting it and Robert Green getting his hand to it, but being aware the ball had gone over the line.
Then when I saw the linesman running back to the half-way line I knew the goal had been given.
The feeling you get when you score any time is great, but to score us the goal that got us to Wembley was even more special.
Comment From Mo
What are your top 3 albums, and who makes you laugh (cannot be related to you).
What’s The Story Morning Glory by Oasis, anything by The Killers and I also like Foo Fighters.
Who makes me laugh? Andy Griffin. Not many people know this, but he used to have a tatoo on his shoulder of Tweetie Pie with a shotgun in his hand and decided to cover it up with something in the shape of a black sun.
But you can still Tweetie Pie.
He’s a very good friend, so he won’t mind me saying that!
Comment From Rich
Do you ever regret anything you’ve done or not done in your career?
I’ve made mistakes in my career, which everybody does, but I don’t have any regrets.
Mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them, it’s part and parcel of life in any field, not just football.
But you can’t do anything about regrets.
Comment From John
What’s your favourite oatcake filling?
Cheese, ham and onion
Comment From Joe
Big fan Danny! Who is the most skilful player you have played with at stoke?
Anywhere, it was Kinkladze at Derby, at Stoke it was Ricardo or Tuncay.
Comment From Ben
True Legend Danny! Loved watching you from the boothen!
Thanks Ben and thanks everyone else for writing in and reading my responses.

Brighter route required, two retirements, equality

May 10th, 2013 No comments

For Stoke City there is no next level. The peak of our capabilities is to be a stable top flight team, every season we play the big clubs and might beat one of them. Combine that with a decent cup run every few seasons and that’s the height of our possibilities. So at this stage we are pretty much at our peak. The discontent of many Stoke supporters isn’t due to unreal expectation.  The current discontent is borne of the mind bogglingly negative approach to everything. Each time we’ve spent good money on a new player who could provide our play with a new dimension they get discarded as they won’t fit into the rigid system the manager employs…. a system that doesn’t work. The system where the only attacking threat involves hitting a long high ball to a forward who may or may not flick it on to nobody in particular because the midfielders are based so deep they have little hope of supporting the forward. Good teams can handle that ‘threat’ with the minimum of fuss. We were sleepwalked to the edge of the relegation dogfight and as our results were deteriorating we were increasingly entrenched in the bankrupt methods that created the malaise. Inexplicably, Tony Pulis claimed it was down to bad luck. The owner knows not to meddle with a manager’s playing philosophy, the same philosophy that could see us fall through the trapdoor and lose our treasured Premier League status. The manager, seemingly unable to change, is damaging his own legacy every time Stoke City play. We need change, amongst other reasons, to save Tony Pulis from himself.  We’ll always be eternally grateful to  Pulis for taking us to the Premier League and keeping us here but decisions have to be made.  In 2013/14 can we have a Stoke City with a precise cohesive attacking plan that approaches games with a fresh philosophy please?  This road has become dark.  A brighter route is required.

The last decade has been awash with media speculation regarding Alex Ferguson’s retirement and successor.  On Wednesday May 8th 2013 the announcement finally arrived confirming Alex Ferguson will retire from management at the end of the current season.  He once stated his finest achievement was “Knocking Liverpool off their f#^#ing perch”.  Under his leadership his club have overtaken Liverpool and have won 20 titles to Liverpool’s 18, this is  by far the most poignant indicator of their absolute dominance.  It’s now entirely appropriate to step down from the perch.  Fools learn by their mistakes, wise people learn from other people’s.  Ferguson will be acutely aware of the pitfalls of retirement.  Bill Shankly died with a broken heart.  A heart broken from seeing his beloved Liverpool go onto greater success without him.  He had to suffer the indignity of Liverpool’s directors asking him to stop turning up at the training ground…  his regular appearances  undermined Bob Paisley  because the players used to call Shankly ‘boss’.  Brian Clough managed two seasons too long.  In his autobiography Clough states clearly that the right time for to leave was after the 1991 FA Cup Final defeat to Spurs.  Of course it’d hurt to go out on a defeat but Wembley was a fitting stage for a manager of his stature to leave the game.  Instead, Old Big Ed signed out on relegation and degrading tabloid tales of excessive drinking and a catastrophic Shredded Wheat advert.  Ferguson is different.  His love for the game is obvious but football isn’t his entire life.  As well as football he has an interest in politics.  One thing which frustrates him is that visiting all the places he does professionally means there are few opportunities to  experience them fully.  There is still a keen interest in learning to play the piano properly.  In addition to these interests he has a family he’d  love to spend relaxing time with.   Alex Ferguson has chosen to step down from the perch.  At the age of 71 he’ll  find the bottom of the cage an invigorating place.

Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov also announced his retirement from playing this week.  Petrov was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2012 but is now in remission.  However, the illness and treatment has left him with insurmountable physical problems which have persuaded him to end his playing career.  It has been reported that Villa manager Paul Lambert is considering offering Petrov a backroom role at the club.  It’ll be an honorable move if it comes to fruition.

Jason Collins, a basketball player with the Washington Wizards, recently announced to the world that he is gay.  His ‘coming out’ has been widely reported and Collins has received widespread support from the sporting community.  In the same week PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle has said that at least eight players have told him they are gay, seven of whom told him they are reluctant to go public because of a possible negative reaction of supporters and media.  In 2013 anti gay bigotry is deemed unacceptable throughout society.  Many workplaces have processes in place to ensure employees aren’t victimized on the grounds of their sexuality yet gay footballers feel unable to come out.  This doesn’t reflect well on football.  We’ll only know how coming out effects a footballers life and career when a gay player makes the decision to declare his sexuality, hopefully he would receive the same level of support Jason Collins received.