That 1989 feeling, RIP the 96, Brazil’s struggles, Mario’s madness
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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TEA_tv7dlM
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!