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.