Posts Tagged ‘Britannia’

Win required urgently, the media’s hyperbole, Jose, a dilemma for Napoli?

February 7th, 2013 No comments

Losing at The Emirates Stadium wasn’t a shock, but to go through an entire match without a period of sustained pressure on the Arsenal goal was as infuriating as it was predictable.  At Old Trafford in October we lost, but at least we made a game of it.  Similarly, at Stamford Bridge Chelsea were mightily relieved to dig out a late winner agaainst us.   Two defeats but we’d taken the game to the opposition and given them something to worry about.  At Arsenal we seemed to set out just to snuff out Arsenal’s threat at the expense of everything else.  The nature of Arsenal’s winner may lead some to suggest we’d been unfortunate.  It’d be a flawed perspective.  Andy Wilkinson made a bad challenge that presented the opportunity.  When you spend so much time camped in your own third of the pitch you are susceptible to the receiving end of the games quirks.  When you give free kicks away, as Stoke do far too often, you are vulnerable.  Overall Arsenal were worthy of their victory but on that showing Bayern Munich have little to fear.  Next up Stoke face Reading.  It isn’t melodramatic to suggest it’s a must win game for us. There is a lot at stake.   We haven’t won since Boxing day.  At Christmas time Reading looked doomed, we looked as if we could make a run at a Europa League spot.  If Reading were to win at Britannia on Saturday they would be only four points behind us and deliver a big blow to our morale and it’d do nothing to quell the mutterings of discontent in the Stoke support.  As with many difficult spells for football teams our current situation is nothing a win won’t put right, and on Saturday we really need to.

Anyone connected with Manchester City casting envious glances at Mario Balotell’s impressive debut for Milan should think again.  Nobody ever doubted Balotelli’s ability.  Few can deny that ‘on his day’ Balotelli would be an asset to any of the top clubs in Europe.  The question is, how often did Mario have ‘his day’?  He’d clearly hit a dead end with Manchester City and when the big money offer arrived it was wise to take it.  Balotelli’s time at Manchester City was far from a failure.  He was part of the team that won the FA Cup and followed it with a Premier League title winners medal.  For all that, the cold hard truth is  when it’s over it’s over. Observe and replace.

Elsewhere in Italy, Napoli briefly got that Maradona feeling on Saturday when they went joint top of the league with Juventus. Edinson Cavani may not quite be a Maradona but he is priceless to Neapolitans right now.  The Uruguayan sits proudly on top the Serie A leading scorers chart.  However, one of several differences between now and the Maradona era is the simple issue of finance.  The Italian League isn’t as prosperous as it was in the 80s.  If some of the European powerhouses come knocking there could be an irresistible offer.  Napoli should treasure days like these, they might not be as sustainable as they’d like.

On transfer deadline day Peter Odemwingie became a subject of ridicule.  Awaiting his transfer to QPR to be finalised he sat in the Loftus Road car park and waited.  And waited.  And waited and waited.  No such deal was made and hapless Peter was left to lick his wounds and endure international humiliation. Some may not accept this but Odemwingie is actually deserving of sympathy.  Going to the effort of driving to London suggests he’d been told to do so, maybe by an agent or a club official, we may never know the full story as clubs take great pride in treating information like this with utmost confidentiality.  Whatever the motivating factor, Odemwingie looked foolish by the end of the day.  Transfer deadline day has become a huge hyperbole drenched media event.  Television cameras are placed outside stadiums across the nation hoping for a slice of information, rumour  or  hint that helps them deliver news  to a grateful populace.  In the days before 24 hour sports channels, and a drooling social media, we may not have learnt of a transfer until reading the following days newspapers, and we didn’t know, or care how the move had come about.  Perhaps Peter Odemingie’s biggest problem was that there is nowhere to hide in 2013.

It was upsetting to see Paul Gascoigne’s latest public meltdown.  At a public meeting he was shaking and incoherent.  Following the incident Gazza travelled to the USA to attend a rehabilitation  centre. Since retiring from playing his numerous problems have been well documented.  He’s rarely far from the headlines and I, like many others, fear the worst when I see his name in a newspaper headline.  We can only hope  he can address his issues and the latest attempt at rehabilitation proves to be successful. As Terry Venables has said, “Only Gazza can save Gazza.”

The Champions league restarts next week with the tie between Real Madrid and Manchester United the fascination of the first week of fixtures.  The Jose Mourinho/Real Madrid situation is almost farcical.  it’s abundantly clear that  Mourinho isn’t wanted at, neither does he want to be at, The Bernabeu.  In recent weeks he’s talked longingly of a return to the Premier League.  Real Madrid’s players seem as if they would be happy to see the back of Mourinho, Iker Casillas in particular.  Amid the bitterness, Mourinho won’t leave and the club won’t sack him!   On taking the reins at The Bernabeu Mourinho’s brief was clear… he needs to win the European Cup.  While they remain in that competition he still has hope of fulfilling the terms of the mission statement.  The players could hasten his departure by having an off day.  The internal politics involved are so overwhelming anyone can be excused for forgetting there will be two football matches taking place!

Stoke City v Swindon Town – Reasons to be Cheerful or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

August 30th, 2012 No comments

It took a while to actually get around to this one as I hate losing especially against lower league opposition and it is a massive de motivator. Anyway here we go!

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Team selection – initially I thought TP had picked a strong side, a lot stronger than I initially thought it would be. Surely it would be a formality with the line up selected! How wrong could I have been

“Who Ya Gonna Call?” – Sun on the way to the Brit vs Swindon Town

The Weather – Watching footie at the Brit in my shirtsleeves at nearly 10pm, there won’t be many more days like that this season.

Talking of 10 – We only need 10 men – Well that was I note I made when Crouch equalised in extra time!

A decent away following – Swindon Town

A decent away following from Swindon.

Di Canio – great passion and desire, good moves, be great on Strictly Come Dancing!

Before they scored there was some nice one touch exchanges between Whitehead and Jones which resulted in a sweet volley but it was straight at the keeper.
Another couple of examples of easy on the eye football was when Jones should have done better with a Pennant cross a minute later. Also later in the game when Geoff Cameron decided to take the game to Swindon and carried the ball forward.

The Official Team Sheet Stoke City vs Swindon Town

Half Time seemed a bit surreal and it inspired me to tweet, “Dare I suggest that this is what u get when we rest super Johnnie Walters 🙂 woeful performance NO Desire.” At least he spiced it up a little when he came on with his endless chasing down.

Cameron was decent in patches.

A few players were found wanting and should become surplus to requirements – Sorensen, Shotton & Upson can be counted in that number. Get ’em moved on Tone!

Strange observation was that six of the seven goals were at the Boothen End!

Good physio work on the left back in extra time

Now I should be able to fill a page. Heavens Knows I’m Miserable Now

Sorensen looks off the boil, a poor kick and droppping the ball to gift the goal. He’s a good shot stopper as he proved to save Shotton’s blushes and again later in the game but I’d prefer a keeper that is a steady eddie and is consistent everywhere.

Misplaced passes
Again – where do I start? Shotton, Huth, Whitehead were just a few of the players that were guilty. We were made to look the league one side when Swindon showed how it should be done. Someone said he didn’t think Di Canio would pick some of our players in his side as they haven’t got the basic skill set he demands, I reckon he’s not far wrong.

Not wanting it
No desire in the side, It looked like Swindon had been in our dressing room and stolen all the bottles labelled “PASSION, DESIRE, COMMITMENT”  They played with our passion and got a deserved result.

Sorro’s handling – The back four don’t seem as confident around him as they do Begovic.

Shotton defending the diagonal long ball. Sorensen redeemed it, then we concede a real cheap goal from the resulting corner.

Empty Seddon Stand

The atmosphere – AWFUL! Leave the Seddon open even if the crowd is a sparce one or price the tickets to fill the place!

A fiver a seat wouldn’t have gone amiss!

The Result

Jamie Ness debut – injury stricken midfielder gets an injury shock!

Team Line Ups

Stoke City
29 Sorensen
02 Cameron
04 Huth
12 Wilson
20 Upson
30 Shotton (Ness – 77′ )
07 Pennant
18 Whitehead
21 Kightly
09 Jones (Crouch – 77′ )
33 Jerome (Walters – 77′ )

27 Nash
17 Shawcross
28 Wilkinson
14 Ness
24 Delap
19 Walters
25 Crouch

Swindon Town
01 Foderingham
03 McEveley (Thompson – 98′ )
04 Flint
05 Devera
06 Navarro
10 Ritchie
12 McCormack Booked
18 Miller
09 Collins
16 Williams
23 De Vita (Ferry – 73′ )
30 Bedwell
15 Thompson
32 Smith
07 Rooney
08 Ferry
13 Risser
20 Storey


It was a game of two halves and a bit more!
First half we were woeful, second half we improved, the bit more was more of the same with Swindon deservedly getting through to the next round.

Infuriatingly craftless, shameless nostalgia, Brisbane’s excitement

March 2nd, 2011 No comments

Arsenal away wasn’t the catastrophe some of us feared.  After going behind so early it seemed we could easily be on the wrong end of a thrashing.  Admittedly, we were fortunate to only be one down after the first fifteen minutes but we grew into the game and stifled their constant stream of creativity and went in 0-1 down at half time.  Then in the second half something strange happened… Stoke City attacked and put Arsenal on the backfoot.  Instead of bleakly clinging on to nothing and seemingly defending a 0-1 deficit we got forward and gave our illustrious opponents something to worry about. It was such a refreshing change to give one of the big boys a headache.  That final defence unlocking ball was lacking but periods of sustained pressure in the the half of an opponent so famous was a thrill in itself.  The real lesson to be learned from that second half is that we now know it is possible to play away to top quality sides and have a plan to attack.  With a bit of luck and some opportunism we can get something.  When we face Chelsea there is no excuse not to have a gameplan with attacking potential.  The other good thing now we reflect on Arsenal away is that we know we don’t have to go there again this season!  So plenty of reasons for optimism as we faced WBA at home…. yeah right.

WBA’s late equaliser was slightly offside but to focus solely on that is to dismiss some crucial factors.  Throughout the game our attacking play was so shapeless we were unable to craft any worthwhile opportunities.  OK, we did put them under pressure for much of the first half but balls lumped forward time after time were dealt with in relative comfort by the WBA defence.  WBA were much more physical than we could have expected and were up to the challengeof the Britannia battering ram.  When the battering ram lacks subtle accompaniments it de-generates to an artless lottery.  After huffing and puffing we took the lead through a well worked corner (what was Carson actually diving after?) and that goal should have been a signal to shake off the inhibitions, attack and finish them off.  As Woy made changes to salvage something and leave space at the back we should have been able to exploit those areas and snatch a points assuring second.  Instead, we got pegged back and eventually got what we deserved by conceding a late equaliser.  It’s only the brilliance of Begovic that secured us a draw.  Had we emerged from this game empty handed we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Before the game we were 7   points from 40.  Now are 6 points away from that magical mark so it wasn’t a complete tragedy but, as far as forward play is concerned, it is infuriating to look so creatively hopeless.  Carew and Jonesy are too similar and chasing flck ons can be easily dealt with by any competent defenders, especially after the 328th time it’s been tried.  It makes no sense to start the one player we have who can carry the ball into the box and turn defenders inside out on the bench.   If we play like we did against WBA and West Ham played like they did against Liverpool we’ll get hammered (excuse the pun) and talk cup semi finals will be forgotten.. perhaps for another 39 years.  

Our attention on Wests now shifts from the Bromwich Albion to the Ham United variety.  In fact, West Ham will dominate our thoughts for a fortnight, the league game followed the week after by an FA Cup quarter final.  Any cup tie with West Ham will evoke memories of our titanic League Cup semi final en route to winning the trophy way back in 1972.  The first leg at home was a deflating 1-2 defeat. We’d confidently expected to take a lead to Upton Park but after taking an early lead found ourselves pegged back at 1-1 by a Geoff Hurst penalty.  The point has to be made though that their winner from Clyde Best was an absolute beauty.  These were the days before away goals proved decisive so all was not lost.  The second leg saw us 1-0 ahead and as the game was heading for a replay, a communication error between Pejic and Banks led to West Ham being awarded a heartbreaker penalty.  It was Geoff Hurst again to take the penalty, he  smashed it to the top corner and Gordon Banks, the greatest keeper ever, whose reflexes miraculously managed to tip Hurst’s piledriver over the top and our Wembley dreams were rescued.  Banks himself has described that penalty save as the best he ever made…. even better than this one…  Banksy’s miracle set up a replay (League Cup replays… remember them?) at  Hillsborough.  A tense affair which we had the better of but couldn’t conquer the hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson… goalkeepers making great saves was a characteristic of the tie!  The 0-0 stalemate led to another replay, this time at Old Trafford.  I know several West Ham fans here and some of them still detest Terry Conroy for injuring Bobby Ferguson after half an hour!  England World Cup legend Bobby Moore replaced Ferguson in goal and just to add to the thrills and madness of this rollercoaster of a cup tie, his first job was to face a penalty from Mick Bernard… and he saved it… only for Bernard to score the rebound! By half time the score had twisted and turned it’s way to 2-2 and anything could have happened at that point.  Shortly after the interval Terry Conroy restored our lead and the crowd must have been wondering what would happen next. What did happen next was that no more goals came next and we held on.  Finally, after 109 years of trying, Stoke City had reached a major final.  If the events of winter 1972 are anything to go by we know one thing for certain about the forthcoming encounter….  if we succeed we won’t be doing it the easy way!  The only question is about whether our nerves will be able to stand it all! 

After spending some of last weeks blog typing excitedly about the first set of European Cup knockout matches it was obvious the second lot would be as turgid as they were.  If a pack of clubs allegedly amongst Europe’s elite can churn out a pile of dross as rubbish as that they should all pack in football to go and dig roads.  

Arsenal’s long journey to a trophy continues.  The League Cup wasn’t their priority but losing after being such overwhelming favourites has got to hurt.  It might not make Arsenal feel any better but it’s healthy to diversify the trophy winning gene pool.  Man of the match was Ben Foster, making several impressive saves to keep Birmingham level.  This is a special achievement for Alex McCleish.  Could he be a contender to replace Alex Ferguson when he eventually decides to spend his time playing golf and cleaning his garage out?  The real calamity of the match was the linesman who made the inexplicable error of calling Bowyer offside early in the game.  Had the lino not made such and indefensible mistake Szczesny would have to have seen red for taking Bowyer down and the game would have been very different indeed.  The scale of the error is all the more glaring when you realise the deep defender playing Bowyer on was next to the lino.  While Richard Keys and Andy Gray are on Talksport promoting tiles or haemorrhoid cream they should take note that the official in question was male.

After winning the first leg of the finals 2-0 Brisbane Roar reached the A-League Grand Final with a thrilling 2-2 draw against Central Coast.   It was a fantastic game which contained some great stylish football, a gutsy fightback, some drama and the right result!    0-2 down at half time was a real shock as the game was meant be a little more than chance to meet friends for a beer and a chat.  Brisbane displayed the character and the stylish silky football that has led to them beiong the greatest team in the history of Australian football by bouncing back to draw 2-2.   Grand Final, 4pm Sunday March 13th Suncorp Stadium.   Whatever happens, it’ll be a great occasion for Brisbane football …. but a sell out and lifting the trophy would be most welcome!!