It wasn’t a classic, but all the same, mission accomplished! For the second year running we are through to the fifth round of the FA cup. Our hopelessness in the competition has been genuine and legendary but it seems we are starting to change. On Sunday it took some grinding and battling but in the end Huth’s header and Sorensen’s spot kick saving expertise saw us deservedly go through. Not that the Wolverhampton public seem too concerned by their exit. The lousy crowd of 11,967 was disappointing to say the least. They may well have relegation avoidance on their mind, but all the same, it was a poor showing. I’d like to think that had it been a home tie we’d have had more interest than that.
Whilst attempting to avoid prematurely evaluating the quantity of poultry, the fifth round draw could have been much harder. Brighton is a game we will understandably expect to win. That was the good fortune we lacked three times last season! If we can get through to the quarter final and receive another favourable draw we could soon hear the taste of Wembley in our red and white nostrils. But we are still Stoke in the FA Cup….. more likely we are a goal down to Brighton after ten minutes and laboriously struggle to an 80th minute equaliser then lose the replay on penalties. That’ll teach us for allowing a rare streak of optimism to infiltrate our psyche!
The transfer window came and went. For Stoke City it was a subdued affair. Tony Pulis and Peter Coates made it clear that a deluge of new signings was unlikely and so it proved. The main focus of our attention was the possible sale of Ricardo Fuller. For various reasons players do well at some clubs but can struggle at others and for Stoke Fuller has been very good indeed. We’ve managed to keep hold of him which is a relief. We could debate and consider the reasons for his near departure but the fact is we may never know the whole story. There are so many factors (many financial) in why a player chooses to leave or remain at a club it’s too hard to speculate on. Suffice to say it’s good news to keep him for at least another six months. How Fuller feels himself at staying with us is another thing we may never know fully! It’d be harsh if any Stokies wished Tuncay anything but best wishes on his move to Wolfsburg. While his form was sometimes patchy he gave us some great memories. As for another departure….. in years to come we’ll reflect on the Gudjohnsen situation and wonder what that was all about. An expensive and baffling little episode, and again, we may never know the full story about his time with us.
The most damaging aspect of Gray and Keys comments about females in football is that, being a human being, Sian Massey will at some stage make a mistake. That mistake will receive excessive media scrutiny and put increased pressure on her. It could lead to some asserting that females don’t understand the offside law after all…. oblivious to the fact that plenty of male officials make errors. The Sky boys club could have a lot to answer for.
The story of Stoke and Kris Commons sums up the progress we’ve made. Six years ago he left us and some of us were disappointed. But now, despite him being an international and the prestige that comes with it, very few of us would want him back. This symbolises how far we’ve come. A talented player, who is still only 27 now isn’t good enough for us. His move to Celtic also symbolises how short of financial clout the Scottish League is. For a club of Celtic’s size and stature to buy a player from the English Championship isn’t necessarily a compliment to the player, it’s a sign of how Scottish clubs are having to make do and mend with little light at the end of the tunnel.
The final of the Asian Cup between Australia and Japan was how a cup final should be. Neither side was paralysed by fear and both played attacking football, which might not seem to be the case for a game which ended 0-0 after 90 minutes. They each created chances but couldn’t quite get the finish right, Harry Kewell squandering the best chance of all. Japan’s late winner came from a technically excellent volley but you have to wonder why at such a crucial stage the Australian defence went walkabout. So a 0-1 defeat for Australia but there are plenty of positives to be taken. It’s all part of a learning curve and the experience of playing in an international final has a multitude of benefits. In the same tournament in 2007 Lucas Neill arrogantly inexplicably made public an expectation of winning the tournament without losing a game. That was based on nothing and when Japan put a poor Australian campaign out of it’s misery by winning the quarter final on penalties justice was done. Four years later Australia underrated nobody and did a professional job throughout. Not quite having the armory to lift the trophy is frustrating but nothing to be too downcast about. This campaign proved how much the national side here has improved. It’s also worth remembering that losing to a team of Japan’s stature is nothing to be ashamed of. They have much more international experience and in the final perhaps it was that extra experience that made the difference. From the local perspective it’s pleasing that some of the A-League players made the step up, Brisbane Roar’s Matty Mckay in particular… but I’m biased of course!
It’s only February but there is little doubt that Real Madrid’s defeat at Osasuna was exceptionally good news for Barcelona. There many points still to play for but it’s increasingly clear that it’ll be the European Cup which determines whether or not Mourinho’s season is a success or failure. Whether he stays at the Bernebau for a second season remains to be seen. Mourinho has already been saying how much he misses working in England but who in the Premier League could realistically afford to employ him? The only real possibility would be if Man City failed to reach 4th spot and the owners wield the oilstained axe. But it speaks volumes for the stature of the self proclaimed special one that should he feel the blade on his neck in Madrid it’ll hardly dampen his employment prospects.
One of the weekends bizarre football moments came in Germany where Arjen Robben clouted teammate Thomas Muller. Here it is in installments! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlCcpENytr4