Archive for February, 2011

Cup fever, a charming loser and a whinger

February 22nd, 2011 No comments

The match against Brighton wasn’t televised live here in Australia.  It was however shown on a delay at 7.45 on Sunday morning.  The early morning stroll to a friends house in the blazing sun was well worth it.   It wasn’t sweat seeping from my red and white pores….  I’d merely succumbed to a bout of cup fever!   The symptoms  persisted when we eased through to the quarter final.  Despite opposing  defender Tommy Elphicks’s romantic flourish in the build up, contained their threat in comfort.  It was comprehensive and professional showing from Stoke, exactly the kind of showing you’d expect when a Premier League team faces league one opposition.  Three first half headers saw us through with the minimum of fuss, from the moment John Carew gave us the lead we never looked like being cup shock victims.  Brighton keeper Brezovan was overpowered and bruised by our aerial strength and in the second half we were afforded the luxury of being able to play the game out with a rare and pleasing lack of anxiety. 

So for the second year running we have reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup.  And the point has to be made the draw has been considerably kinder to us than it was at this stage last year.   But nothing is certain.  West Ham will be as relieved as we are with the draw.  We still have lot to deal with to reach our first FA Cup semi since 1972.  Memories of Stoke in the FA Cup still evokes more pain than happiness but I can’t help humming Abide With Me!   Even the most hardened cynics (ie me!) have to dream. 

Everton injected the much needed shock factor back into the competition by knocking Chelsea out.  Infuriatingly and predictably,  the media focused on Chelsea’s ongoing stuttering form as opposed to congratulating Everton on such a great result.  While there is little doubt the competition has lost some of it’s gloss, knocking the holders out on their own patch is a commendable achievement.  After going behind some sides would have folded and been satisfied with a near miss but Everton showed admirable resilience by digging in and equalising as they did.  Baines free kick was a beauty too, a beauty for which he hasn’t received the credit he’s really due.  It’d be pleasing if this result puts and end to the plethora of rumours surrounding David  Moyes position as manager.  He deserves much better than that.  Orient have made themselves a fortune by earning a replay at Arsenal.  True to form Wenger came out whinging about fixture congestion but that doesn’t distract from the joyous scenes of Orient’s celebrations.  Those moments are the reason we live this footballing life, Wenger sulking over his multi millionaires having to get their shirts dirty one more time can’t erase marvellous memories like that.

The first knockout games in the European Cup were tremendous.  Top class players at the top of their game.  Each tie so far is finely poised to have second legs full of excitement and drama and perhaps an upset or two.  It demonstrates why the competition is in desperate need of a revamp, the quality of the knockout matches shows how meaningless and tedious so many of the group games are. 

In one of the aforementioned dramatic ties,it was the European Cup defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk that was instrumental in Claudio Ranieri’s departure from Roma.  It’s entirely feasible that Ranieri jumped before he was pushed.  Last season saw Roma challenging for the title, that progression hasn’t been followed up and the manager paid the ultimate price.  Charm and self deprecating wit may make for a media darling but doesn’t necessarily equate to being a manager able to sustain success.  It’s hard to predict where Claudio will turn up next but  it’s unlikely to be Chelsea.  The Italian media is currently swamped with rumours of Carlo Ancelotti heading for the Stadio Olimpico, but a swap isn’t on the cards!  Elsewhere in Serie A, Allegri at Milan has a Pulis / Fuller situation, he insists on playing Pato as sub when he’s clearly the most dangerous striker they have.  Against Chievo Milan struggled and huffed and puffed but Pato was supersub and saved the day with a late winner.  It’ll be interesting to see if Pato satrts in their crucial six pointer top of the table battle cliche fest this coming weekend!

The Old Firm match on Sunday wasn’t actually a match at all.   Celtic’s dominance was absolute.  Bartley’s early booking left him wary of tackling which meant a significant portion of the midfield was conceded.  Celtic used this advantage with great intelligence, able to keep the ball in relative comfort.  They used it enough to effectively have the game won by half time.  Rangers started the second half with a surge but it subsided quickly.  The third goal just gave the scoreline a more realistic complexion and 3-0 up Rangers can feel grateful their defeat wasn’t more emphatic.  This result puts Celtic well and truly in charge of the title race, Rangers games in hand are nullified.  That’s not to say it’s over but Rangers will have to show more of an appetite than they did in this tepid surrender.

Fix for blackberry requested was created using form data from stoketshirts

February 19th, 2011 No comments

I was searching for an answer to fix an annying problem with my blackberry. It kept having this message.

The page you have requested was created using form data. This page is no longer available. If you resubmit the data, any action that was specified by the form will be repeated. Do you want to resubmit the data? When I click either yes or no, nothing happens except that the message just reappears. I can’t get rid of it so I can’t do anything else on my phone, except answer a call if someone calls me. How do I get rid of this message from my phone? I tried turning it off and on….even leaving it off for 5 minutes before turning it back on. I can’t even check my OS because I can’t get at anything on my phone. I hope someone can help me with this.

WELL the fix as Alexandra the Meerkat cat from comparethemeerkat says is simples .

Take that battery out, leave it for a minute and now it;s gone! Top Bombing.

Marvellous travelling support, marvellous Brisbane Roar, negligent media

February 16th, 2011 No comments

Our finest performers on Saturday were the travelling Stokies, chanting long and loud and supporting the team throughout what proved to be a seriously frustrating afternoon.  We did enough to get a draw but it’s difficult to feel too aggrieved about the late goal we conceded.  We looked unlikely to concede a goal but would get more sympathy for suffering the late killer if we’d made more effort to actually win the match.  We defended well throughout and were on top for long spells but never looked remotely as if we could score.  Neither did Birmingham but if you don’t seize the initiative and get on top you are susceptible to a sucker punch… and so it proved.  While every team you face in this league will cause you problems, the over cautious approach to away games remains a bugbear for many supporters.  The fact is that against a modest Birmingham team we seemed reluctant to commit men forward and appeared content to sit on 0-0.  Clean sheets are crucial but with a touch more ambition we would have comfortably won a match that was there for the taking.  The last three away league games have resulted in depressing defeats and no goals scored, nothing too devastating in that but for the fact that we haven’t looked at all likely to do so.  The approach to our away games is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly.  Failure to do so could result in us being dragged down into the malaise of the relegation struggle.  And our magnificent travelling fans deserve  better than that.  Much better.

Upwards and onwards to the FA Cup.  With all respect to everyone, we can understandably expect to beat Brighton, even with our temperamental FA Cup record.  However, while it’s understandable that some players may be saved for battles ahead it could prove a costly error to take this game too lightly.  There’s a lot at stake.  An FA Cup quarter final isn’t to be dismissed and with the luck of the draw (the luck we didn’t get last year) we could enjoy some very special occasions.  No trying to be clever, lets just win.  It’ll be televised here on a delay on Sunday morning.   Hopefully morning coffee will taste as luxurious as vintage champagne.

Brisbane Roar completed the greatest league season in the history of Australian football by demolishing Gold Coast united 4-0.  Yet another thrilling performance oozing style and panache.  As the regular season concludes this coming weekend, a finals series starts involving all clubs in the top five clubs, the winner of the competition being determined by the winner of a grand final on Saturday March 12th.  Brisbane enter the challenge in very good health indeed.  Hopefully they will remember their lines and win a season they have completely dominated.  Unfortunately the local media aren’t so embracing of the teams achievements.  Coverage in the local newspaper remains limited and the TV companies seem reluctant to offer any extensive attention.  All the more frustrating when the Rugby League and Aussie Rules seasons are yet to begin.  Football can’t, and doesn’t ever expect to match those two in terms in terms of popularity but surely an achievement as comprehensive as winning a national league merits some publicity.

Ronaldo has announced his retirement from the game.   In recent years he has become a figure of fun for his ongoing weight issues but that mustn’t be allowed to cloud over the fact that he was a great player.  A special combination of grace skill and electric pace.  His career was full and varied, we may never know the entire truth about his convulsion in Paris but there is little doubt that Brazil struggled to impose themselves on that night’s  game without him.  The controversy over his appearance in the 1998 World Cup Final was finally put to rest four years later when he cemented his name amongst the games greats by starring in Brazil’s successful World Cup campaign.  His fitness issues came to the fore again in 2006 when looking slow and unfit he still managed to become the highest scorer in World cup Finals history with 15.  On retirement he said “The head wants to go on but the body can’t take any more. I think of an action but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time to go.”  An appropriately dignified exit for one of the greatest players of the modern era.

Unsurprisingly Wayne Rooney’s winner against Man City was one of the biggest stories of the football week.  It was a special moment which had all the hallmarks of great goals including opportunism agility and accuracy.  But would it have received the vast outpouring of attention had it been scored by a team that wasn’t Manchester United?  Was Rooney’s winner that much better than than this goal by Melbourne Heart’s Alex Terra?

The friendly against Denmark produced some overdue reasons for optimism, feint optimism though it may be!  Wilshere showed signs that he could finally be that crucial precious English rarity…. a midfielder who can dictate play and help to keep possession.  He should at least be substitute against Wales.  The time is right to start playing youngsters and phasing out the old guard.  We desperately need new players and fresh faces in the team and as Morrissey asked How Soon is Now?

Flaws, positives, finishing top and a costly burst of anger

February 8th, 2011 No comments

On Wednesday at Anfield we didn’t give ourselves enough of a chance to get something from the game, or to just make a game of it.  In the first half we contained them well but never looked remotely like scoring, or even putting the home side under a period of sustained pressure.   When the pinball free kick led to Liverpool taking the lead just after half time it was game over.  Fuller came on and looked lively but a side like Liverpool enjoying the Dalglish resurgence was never going to relinquish the lead they had patiently intelligently probed for.  Liverpool were far and away the better side but the point has to be made that we didn’t really set out to get at them.  Had we started out 442 instead of 451 we may still have lost but we’d be able to reflect on what could have been a cracking game.  These words from the site sum up our lack of attacking strategy…. “Stoke were pretty poor, and had a similar problem with a lack of support for Carew. He competed well with the Liverpool back three, winning six from 10 headers, but couldn’t do it all on his own. Stoke’s real area to exploit was in their own full-back position – with Liverpool playing no natural wingers, they had time on the ball and space in front of them – but too often they simply hit the ball long”  Quite.  Begovic made a stunning save in the first half for which he hasn’t received the credit he deserves.  That was amazing. Had a keeper from a more illustrious club made that save I don’t doubt it would have grabbed attention across the globe.

Our match against Sunderland was an emotional rollercoaster.  Amid the twists and turns and the ups and downs we were only ahead for the final 120 seconds of this rugged epic struggle.  Rain and a moody sky provided a suitable backdrop.  The most satisfying aspect of the game from our perspective is simply that we won, which does tend to nullify many of the flaws in our performance.  Nullified though they are now, it’s still worth reflecting on some of them.

Why do we never win a second ball?  When we attack and balls in the box run loose it’s rarely a Stoke player attacking the ball, for a side widely considered to be physical and combative this is a serious problem.  We struggled with  pace and movement on the break, they managed to thread balls past our central defenders far too easily.  Our players lack of movement…. Sunderland’s second goal came from a good run by Etherington which came to nothing, Jones was in front of him but didn’t make an incisive run to be picked out by Matty, whoever was at fault doesn’t matter, suffice to say it proved to be a costly shambles.  This led to an excellent opportunity wasted, at the point we could have been celebrating a 2-1 lead we were back to square one a goal behind.  Muntari received a yellow card yet we never pressurised him knowing he’d be wary of tackling, in fact, for a spell in the second half he was free to run the game in the holding role.  The main flaw is, predictable though it is to mention, we simply don’t keep the ball well enough.  Possession is 9/10 of the law.

The positives were that through dogged bloody minded resilience we grafted  and  toiled and eventually got the win we needed.  Tone deserves credit as his positive substitution changed the game in our favour.  Walters contribution was vital as he provided a crucial link between midfield and attack, thus enabling Pennant and Etherington to deliver crosses in the attacking third, great work by Tony Pulis.  Despite our reputation as filthy violent kickers, we committed fewer fouls than any other premier League team at the weekend.  The quality of set piece deliveries from Pennant overwhelmed and overpowered the Sunderland defence.   The deep bending ball that Huth scored the winner from was an absolute peach.  When we departed the rollercoaster we were 3 points better off.  For large parts of the game it was an unlikely 3 points but our fortitude proved fruitful.  33 down 7 to go!!

Whilst coming down from the high of our crash bang wallop of a game I watched the first half of the Newcastle v Arsenal match.  Arsenal were magnificent in that first half.  On form they play with a stylish majestic swagger combined with ruthless efficiency.  Such was their dominance the 4-0 lead they had at half time actually flattered Newcastle and the only question seemed to be whether they could get the two goals required to equal Man Utd’s goal difference.  The TV cameras picked out some of the Geordies leaving during the first half so depressing was their predicament, reflecting on the sale of Carroll could hardly have helped their mood either.  So Diaby’s 50th minute burst of anger was very very costly indeed.  Why at that stage, in a game that was seemingly won, Diaby couldn’t keep his hands to himself is anyone’s guess. From that point Newcastle staged a stirring comeback becoming the first team since the top flight changed it’s name to the Premier League to blow a four goal lead.  They did actually close the gap on Man Utd by a point following their result at Wolves but the events on Saturday could leave a deep scar in Arsenal’s psyche.  As the title race continues they will know they had their hands on two more precious points and blew it….. completely. 

After months Brisbane Roar finally secured the championship.   Melbourne Heart’s 1-1 draw with Central Coast gave Roar an unassailable lead at the summit.   That is part of the story but by no means the whole story.  As the regular season concludes this coming weekend, a finals series starts involving all clubs in the top five clubs, the winner of the competition being determined by the winner of a grand final on Saturday March 12th.   It’s long winded but during the last five years of stuttering mediocrity I longed for Suncorp Stadium to hose an A-League grand final in front of 52,000 on a summer evening.   Sadly, this city has been the recipient of  recent tragedies and ongoing trauma.  While sporting victory doesn’t stifle the agony many are feeling it would bring some much needed moments of happiness to some local lives.  The time is now. 

In the Cologne v Bayern Munich match Cologne had Novakovic clean through and Bayern’s Badstuber brought him down to blatantly deny a goalscoring opportunity.  Inexplicably, the ref awarded a yellow card.  It was such an amazingly clear red card it isn’t even  a subject for debate.  The conclusion from the tale is that England isn’t the only place where the bigger clubs are the beneficiaries of referee bias.

Cup fever, Australian agony,the window closes….maybe on Jose?

February 1st, 2011 No comments

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!