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A bigot, a hindrance worth winning and talented indifference.

Back in 1993, our legendary striker Mark Stein assaulted Stockport defender Jim Gannon.  There is no doubt that Stein did strike Gannon (albeit lightly) but what was overlooked by the media, is that Stein had reacted to what Judge Peter Northcote described as ‘extreme provocation’.  The aforementioned provocation manifested itself by the way of racial abuse.  The judge then seemed to dismiss this by telling Stein that this was ‘A burden you must bear’. In the modern age such language would rightly be deemed unacceptable, but it was hardly smiled upon then.  The fact is that Gannon’s bigotry was largely ignored by the press but his vile tirade is a matter of public record.  In court, Gannon’s lawyer said that, yes, his client had abused Stein verbally, calling him “a short, ugly, black, bean-headed tvvat”, but argued that that was the language of the football park…. the same lame justification Jimmy Hill used when defending Ron Atkinson’s racist comments about Marcel Desailly.  Despite this, he stands in a strong position to be appointed manager of Port Vale.  Are the board at Port Vale aware of the incident?  Are they aware of how inflammatory it would be to employ someone who has a record of racially abusing a player based in the same city?               

The festive period was generally healthy for Stoke City.  Following the efficient victory at Blackburn with a defeat at home to Fulham was infuriating of course, but much of that was nullified by the win over Everton.  Despite phases of the Everton game being played in our half, we stifled them and they created very little, especially in the second half.  The ref, for some reason, didn’t award Everton the penalty they should have had in the first minute, and we capitalised on our good fortune.  It’s particularly pleasing that Jonesy opened the scoring.  Against Fulham he was off the pace so to respond in such style was a much needed boost for us all.  Our second goal ended the match as a  contest and all that was left was to play the game out in uneventful safety.  It was also encouraging that against Man United we made them sweat for the result a little bit more.   Admittedly only a little bit, but after the previous visits it’s a huge improvement!  It was fantastic to spend a few minutes in dreamland after super goal machine Whitehead’s equaliser.  It didn’t last longer than a few minutes admittedly, but seeing their anxiety increase in the final minutes showed that we hadn’t rolled over and had put in a strong showing.   On reflection, the best thing about the fixture away to Man United  being over is that we know we don’t have to go there again this season! 
It was a return to the pre Premier league days to be listening to the Cardiff game on the internet instead of watching on television……  hearing the familiar tones of Nigel Johnson were like visiting a dear old friend.  It sounded as if it would have been a decent game for the neutral, but we aren’t neutral!  Our inability to get a winner means we face a replay next week.  If anything symbolises the FA Cup’s waning magic it’s that both Tony Pulis and Dave Jones admitted the extra game will be a hindrance we could both do without.  But nevertheless, it’s a hindrance worth winning, if we were to totally disregard the FA Cup it would be an arrogant mistake.

Despite going behind early Liverpool were the better side in the first half of their tie with Man Utd, until Steve Gerrard undid all his teams good work with that stupid violent attack.  Despite Dalglish’s protestations that vicious assault got the red card it deserved… and with it went Liverpool’s FA cup hopes for 2011.  Whatever is wrong with Torres?  He has the demeanour of a man who would prefer to be elsewhere, maybe Liverpool should grant him his wish and re-invest the proceeds from his sale into rebuilding the team.  There is a precedent.  Groundhog Day could occur, in 1987  Dalglish used the money from the sale of Ian Rush to Juventus to buy Beardsley and Barnes and revamp the team and their playing style, he could do worse than repeat that policy.  Nobody can deny Torres’ immense talent but if his recent performances reflect his attitude, they would be better cashing in and acquiring the services of a striker whose interest level rises above indifferent. 

The Arsenal v Leeds tie was a crash bang wallop of a tie.  8,500 Leeds fans travelled to London to watch a game being shown on TV.  That’s impressive.  Despite the amusement felt at the  2004 and 2007  relegations, their return to the Premier league seems to be a matter of when not if, but with support like that it may not be too far away.

In Qatar the start of the Asian cup has generated unparalleled levels of indifference.  Seeing an international tournament played out to empty stadiums hardly gives FIFA’s choice for 2022 any more credibility.  Australia started with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over India.  The most enthralling point of the tournament so far is that India have a player with the second best ever name for a footballer…. Climax Lawrence!!

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