Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Ware,Williams,Relief, Sycophantic to Sydney, Suarez stupidity

April 23rd, 2013 No comments

The loss of Paul Ware is terrible on so many levels. Being honest, Warey was never a Hudson or Greenhoff, but we had a player we could identify with. A player who gave us the 100% we demand and played his part when we had some success. I , like many Stokies, will always cherish the moment at Peterborough when his free kick sent us to Wembley. That moment alone is enough to secure our affection forever. Many people don’t, and will never relate that…. which, quite frankly, is their loss. RIP Paul Ware.

At Queens Park Rangers on Saturday Stoke City finally registered the victory we’ve needed for so long.  We gained three thoroughly deserved points against a home side destined for relegation.  From the moment Peter Crouch gave us the lead shortly before half time the result rarely looked in any doubt.  Our approach to the game was a refreshing change.  It demonstrated that if a team goes all out to win  and commits men forward to support the forwards, you have a chance of winning a game of football!  We now go into the final four games of the season six points ahead of the relegation zone.   Even taking into account our horrendous start to 2013 we can be forgiven for feeling a sixth consecutive Premier League campaign is in touching distance.  After the trauma of recent months many of us will be relieved to see the back of this season and take stock.  Everyone involved must do all they can to ensure a long sparse period like the one we’ve suffered isn’t repeated. The powers that be at Stoke City will have some big decisions to make in the close season.

The A-League season reached it’s climax with Central Coast Mariners crowned champions for the first time.  In the Grand Final Central Coast deservedly beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0. Despite losing the final Western Sydney can be justifiably proud of their first season…. their vociferous support has added much needed noise and colour to the Australian sporting landscape.  In the wider perspective, few could deny the arrival of Heskey Ono and Del Piero has raised football’s profile here.  One bone of contention has to be the way the Grand Final was reported.  Much of the media have lauded the crowd of over 42,000 as a sign football has well and truly arrived in Australia.  The point has to be made that the previous two Grand Finals, both played in Brisbane, each attracted crowds of over 50,000.  The A-League has attracted more media attention than ever this season which obviously is beneficial to football’s profile… but the game here isn’t just a product of the last twelve months.  We shouldn’t have to wait until we have a successful team from Sydney to see the game’s growth acknowledged and celebrated.

Throughout last season’s controversy over the Luis Suarez racism charge, Liverpool Football Club stood by the player.  Kenny Dalglish’ support for Suarez was so absolute it’s hard to believe it had no influence on his eventual dismissal.  Suarez has repaid this support by demonstrating he is, quite simply, a loose cannon not to be trusted.  Many  players have made rash tackles or foolishly lashed out but on Sunday overstepped every conceivable mark by biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.  If the FA take appropriate action and give out a lengthy ban it’s possible he’ll never play for Liverpool again. Nobody denies Suarez is a marvellous footballer but, at this stage, Brendan Rogers should assert some self governance and get rid of him. It is however sickening to think by moving him on Suarez will probably  get a move to a glamour club and a pay rise.

We saw the other end of the scale at Anfield on Sunday when a minutes applause was held in honour of Anne Williams.  She was a marvellous woman whose tireless campaigning has been an integral factor in the marvellous work of the Hillsborough justice campaign.  After losing her 15 year old son Kevin in the disaster Anne Williams spent her life challenging authority figures and gathering evidence to confront the lies associated with that tragic day. RIP Anne Williams.  Justice for the 96.

The PFA’s player of the year ceremony takes place on Sunday.    However, one question that has to be asked is why does the voting have to take place so early in the season?  The awards are dished out before the seasons climax when there is plenty of time for players to impose themselves on a season’s story, yet nominations start in February.  The PFA awards remain the games most prestigious.  Acclaim from fellow professionals remains a great accolade.  But to maintain credibility the timing of the ceremony and the voting procedure needs a revamp.

The current season is drifting to it’s conclusion and it’s something of an anti climax.  Across Europe titles are a formality, most leagues currently have a runaway leader.  Bayern Munich secured their latest Bundesliga title with six games to spare.  In the Dutch league Ajax and PSV Eindhoven were neck and neck but Ajax have started to break ahead and now carry a four point lead.  Hopefully the cup competitions will provide some much needed thrills and spills.



And…..THEY’RE OFF!!!!!!!

August 21st, 2012 No comments

Welcome back into my life football. My friend, my strength, my infatuation and, of course, my eternal frustration!  Weekends are  inconsequential without you football my darling.   The big kick off symbolises a  return to midnight (or 1am) kick offs before retiring to bed usually accompanied by liberal doses of fatigue and deflation.   It’s August, time to start all over again.

Every game has it’s own story.  The story behind our 1-1 draw at Reading is a tale of Stoke City’s two dropped points.  The match started with a familiar look as we defended deeply and struggled to impose ourselves on the game.  For all Reading’s possession they rarely threatened to unlock us and as the first half wore on we were increasingly comfortable.  After half an hour we started to carry the game forward and we quickly found the ultimate reward.  The ball dropped in the box to Michael Kightly who tried a shot.  Fortuitously, Reading keeper Federeci completely misjudged the scuffed effort and the ball bobbled guiltily into the net.  Fortunate or not it was great to be ahead away from home and fantastic that Kightly could mark his debut with a goal.  For over an hour it seemed likely to be the winning goal.  Until the 89th minute we defended our lead in comfort and controlled the game.  We put pressure on Reading and while we didn’t create much we still looked more likely to add a second goal than Reading were to equalise.  Then came that fateful 89th minute.  We were caught out at the back and Dean Whitehead’s lunge resulted in the penalty that provided Reading their escape route to retrieve an unlikely draw.  As a result we got one point from a match we should have won comfortably.  The very simple lesson to be learnt is that if you fail to finish games off whilst on top in them you’ll be vulnerable to sucker punches.   Reflecting on the entire game we really have nobody to blame but ourselves for those two dropped points.  And that is the story of Reading v Stoke City.

As an aside it was pleasing to see Robert Huth start the game and compete as vigorously as ever.   Less than a fortnight ago our very own Berlin Wall was in hospital with a serious illness.  It’s just so frustrating that we couldn’t mark his rapid recovery with a clean sheet and three points.

Our next challenge arrives in the shape of Arsenal.  Last season’s game was marred by tasteless chants regarding the Shawcross Ramsey incident.  That incident occured two and a half years ago. It’d be a refreshing change if everybody dropped the vitriol so that terrible moment can be well and truly  confined to history.   There are some aspects of football that are truly awful and that was  horrible for all concerned.   It’d be a refreshing change if everybody just let it go and concentrate on supporting their team.  Please, no more.

The London Olympics contained many special moments.  For many football supporters the most poignant moment was Sepp Blatter being roundly booed before the womens gold medal match.  Despite the  hostility Sepp generates he clings on to his prestigious role like grim death.  Only last week his bruised battered organisation announced further investigations into the activities of disgraced ex official  Mohamed bin Hammam.  This is merely shooting fish in a barrel hoping it’ll deflect from other more relevant discrepancies. For the good of the game Blatter and his sycophantic cronies should be dragged from the trough and replaced as soon as possible.

As the cliche states it’s early days for Brendan Rogers at Liverpool.  Even bearing that in mind few could argue that the 0-3 defeat at WBA was an horrendous start to his reign. While at Swansea, many were impressed by his teams style of play and the confidence they showed in their first top glight season.  To receive similar plaudits at Anfield he’ll need some resilience to accompany panache.  At The Hawthorns his team waved the white flag as soon as the ref waved the red card.  It looks as if some of their players are too comfortable.  A huge clearout is required.  It’ll be a long painful process but the powers that be must be  prepared to give the manager time fulfill his vision.


Reflecting on May 14th, sexual equality, not so wild about Harry.

July 10th, 2011 No comments

Whilst Watching Manchester City beat Spurs on the Tuesday night before the FA Cup Final I came to the grim realisation lifting the trophy would be too much for us.  That victory confirmed Man City’s qualification in next seasons Champions League, and the elation and relief were there for all to see.  They could head into the final having achieved their primary objective for the season.   The final provided them with the chance to finally get that wretched banner at Old Trafford taken down.  Combine their exuberance with our injury list, the cup was on it’s way to Manchester. We can take some pride in the fact that despite our injury depleted warriors facing billionaires, it took a late scrappy goal to beat us.  I was in the Quality Hotel at Wembley on the Friday night and participated in Radio Stoke’s eve of final special show.  Presenter John Acres asked for a prediction and I managed to give an answer without actually addressing the question so perhaps a career in politics awaits!  It would also have sounded too downcast to suggest that having travelled so far miles to attend a football match we’d emerge defeated.   I’d hoped with all my heart my miserable premonition would prove flawed but it wasn’t to be.

Of course the result wasn’t what we wanted, but May 14th 2011 will be remembered as a special day in our lives.   There were so many moments to cherish.  At midday I walked past Wembley Park Tube Station and glanced right up  Wembley Way to the stadium.  The sight of the  stadium draped in huge pictures of the old trophy combined with thousands of supporters heading towards the ground was amazing.  It’s a famous scene but this time it was us on one of the grandest stages in football.  I expected to cry during Abide With Me, instead tears arrived when the teams walked out onto that famous lush green turf!  Those moments alone were worth a 12,000 mile journey.  When I boarded that plane for the UK, it won’t wasn’t just to see a football match, nor was it self indulgent laddish wackiness. This was a piece of history we could be proud to be associated with…. a pilgrimage. We doffed our collective red and white caps to  shared heritage.  And now we all hope we don’t have to wait so long for another chance!

Barcelona’s dismantling of Man United and majestic stroll to the European Cup confirms their status as the finest club team of the modern era.  Some have suggested that Europe’s top club competition is now the game’s pinnacle.  Despite what some of UEFA’s sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the peak of world football.  The majority of supporters don’t follow Champions League teams.  If you support Southend or Ponferradina the Champions League is largely irrelevant. But those supporters do support their national team.  We don’t all fawn and feint over the worlds mega clubs.   The World Cup will always be more inclusive than any equivalent club competition.  Not good news for the corporate juggernaut that the Champions League has become but it’s good news for those of us who treasure the essence of football as an emotional entity.  Despite the circus that surrounds  big clubs it’s emotion that sustains it.

It was pleasing to see this article about the shamefully overlooked ex Liverpool manager Joe Fagan. If Fagan is ever remembered he’s often regarded as a stopgap between Paisley’s departure and the appointment of Dalglish which overlooks several aspects of Liverpool’s success.  Fagan won three trophies in his first season in charge, including the European Cup… won by beating Roma on their homeground.    His second and final season saw Liverpool struggling to handle the absence of Graeme Souness.  Despite this they reached the ill fated European Cup Final in Brussels.  Had the tragedy not occured would Liverpool have retained their title?  We’ll never know.  Returning to the UK Fagan was seen weeping as he left the plane.  That was his final act as Liverpool manager.  He deserved better than that.  Much better.

The Women’s World Cup is reaching it’s conclusion in Germany.  During the match between Equatorial Guinea and Australia the referee missed the most astonishingly blatant handball in the history of astonishingly blatant handballs.  This incident will surely go down as one of the most baffling moments in football. There are so many unanswered questions.  Why did she pick the ball up?  How did the ref not realise what had just happened?  Why wasn’t the penalty given?  Had Australia not gone on to win the game the fallout would be much louder and considerably more severe.  It seems female referees can be just as incompetent as male ones.  The similarities between the female England campaign was so similar to those of their male counterparts is eerie.  Get though the group stage without particularly playing well then make a quarter final exit on penalties. Claire Rafferty’s awful missed spot kick was truly painful to watch.  Poor officials, England making an exit on penalties.   Sexual equality is alive and well in  football it would seem.

The pre- season friendlies are getting underway.  As full scale training sessions they can be useful exercises.  To read too much into any results is foolish.  The only time a pre season friendly has any bearing on the proper stuff is if you suffer a particularly harrowing defeat a week before the start of the league campaign.  Other than that the only relevance they carry is when you support an underdog who has beaten a big club.  Therefore, Central Coast Mariners will still be celebrating their victory over Celtic!!

The media kerfuffle surrounding the possibility of Harry Kewell joining an A-League team rumbles on.  He seems to have been linked to every club in the past week.  His manager Bernie Mandic appears to be doing his negotiating through the media.  One suggestion is that Kewell should be paid a percentage of the increased gate receipts from away games.  If Kewell seriously wants to return to Australia he should return.  There can be little doubt his presence would be a huge boost the game needs.  But allowing his manager to dictate terms and haggle his dignity away does his reputation no favours.  Harry is widely believed to be the greatest Australian footballer ever.  If he’s returning he should join a club and have done with it, then the public can look forward to seeing him play football instead of reading about his agent exploiting his client.

England. The time is now. The slate is clean.

June 27th, 2010 No comments

It’s here.  The day has arrived.  In a few hours England will face Germany in a knockout World Cup match.   The last was 1990 and the nation was transfixed by the tears of a clown.     We’ll soon experience this years rollercoaster.  In 2030 will we remember tears of joy? 

So far it’s been a traumatic tournament for England.   Rumours of mutiny and boredom following the bafflingly incompetent showing against Algeria led to some vicious condemnation.    Fortunately a football match broke out on Wednesday and we put aside the distractions and won in (relative) comfort.   That’s all in the past now.  When knockout stages start it’s like  a new  tournament.   It’d be fantastic if  Wayne could ‘Write the Future’.   Imagine in twenty years looking back on the night we beat Germany!!   To make the difference on a stage like this is to become immortal.   No reason to feel afraid.  There will only be a billion people watching.   The time is now.  I can’t believe I wrote this paragraph and didn’t use the words ‘Penalty shootout’.  AAAARRRGH dam!!  

Both knockout games so far have been excellent.  Both filled with spritely attacking football and teams going all out for the wins as opposed to waiting to take a chance on penalties.    It was thrilling to watch the USA play their way back into their game against Ghana and exciting to see Ghana’s resilience in getting back in front.  Both sides were a credit to the game.   It’s becoming a great tournament now.   Let’s hope it continues. 

Much of what can be achieved is down to attitude and approach.   Brazil and Portugal were both qualified for the second round but even bearing that in mind their boring violent dirge on Friday was vile.   Is that the best they could conjure up?  Two sides filled with talent and excitement yet they just spent all game barging into each other and arguing like a load of little kids.  Spain have clicked into gear though.    Iniesta’s goal against Chile had the swagger and execution Barcelona have shown for the last two years.  Villa took his chance well but you can’t help wondering why the keeper dashed out.   If Spain continue to improve the only future Christiano will be  writing next week will be on postcards from his holiday home in the Bahamas.  Wouldn’t that be a shame!!


Rejoice…..planet football is almost here!!

June 11th, 2010 No comments

Since South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup was successful in 2004 it hasn’t always been a smooth road.   In fact at times it has been violently bumpy.  So many doubters (including me) bemoaning South Africa’s hosting as a legacy of advanced madcap Blatterism.  There have been question marks over everything.  Would the stadiums be ready?   Will the lights stay on?   How will the thousands of visitors travel?  Will they be safe when they do so?  Was the talk of England being secretly approached and asked to step in true?  In fact, was there any truth in the rumour Australia had been approached and asked to step in?   Even today, the horrific news of the death of Nelson Mandela’s great granddaughter adds yet another layer to the story.

Watching the fans gathering in Johannesburg is special. Of course, we can easily relate to the spectacle and colour when excited fans congregate for football, but there is another aspect to it this time.   This also symbolises a changed nation. The tyranny of apartheid is in the past and the next month is the biggest moment in African history.  Has the planet ever been so focussed on that continent as it is now?  

After the internal wrangling and political stunts we can soon observe something much more important…..the football!  Enjoy the beautiful football.  Oh by the way, enjoy the ugly football too!!    

In 2 hours  54 minutes and 58 seconds we land on planet football.   ENJOY!!!!

An unfashionable passion

June 6th, 2010 No comments

In the coming weeks England will be overran with the national flag. St Georges crosses everywhere. On the cars, hanging on shopfronts, in pubs and clubs. Even the odd dentist waiting room may be adorned with a red cross on a white background.

However, it wasn’t always like this. In 1986 England’s tournament came belatedly to life when Gary Lineker beat Poland 3-0. This bought much needed relief to the country and despite the sluggish start England qualified for the second round. This sent me into a litte bout of Word Cup fever….not that I’ve ever been lacking in that condition!! To demonstrate to Lineker and co that the nation was well and truly behind them I lovingly placed an England flag in the bedroom window.

Younger people reading might find this hard to believe but there was a time when football wasn’t fashionable. In fact, football supporters were pariahs, regarded with disgust and contempt. Walking down a street wearing a football shirt could result in people crossing the road to avoid you and if fathers found out their teenage daughters were dating a football fan it could signal a sudden halt to blossoming love. I remember starting work in 1985 and telling one of my colleagues I was a Stoke fan and attended matches and she nearly dropped her sponge. She shook her head and told me she was surprised because I’d “Seemed such a nice lad”. In the mid 80s football was not something the nation could easily hold close to it’s heart.

So the flag in the bedroom window was far from joining in with a trend. It was regarded with confusion!! People would walk past the house and glance up and notice it then stand for several seconds with big question marks over their heads. It was viewed as a quirky teenage eccentricity and just one of those odd things you do when you lack total sanity.

So in the coming weeks, the country will be taken over by the flags. Some of the flyers may not be commmitted fans and in many respects it could be seen a johnny come lately action to those of us for whom football has always been a fashionable passion. But it symbolises that the game has survived and now thrives and, contrary some peoples views, it’s always been possible to be a passionate England fan without feeling the need to smash somebody’s face in. So lets embrace it.

4 days 11 hours 55 minutesto go, where’s that bloody flag??

McScooby’s “Imageology” – Graphics inspired by my love of Stoke City.

March 28th, 2010 No comments

Hi, I’m honoured to have been asked by to write a blog for them. I’m a regular poster on the Proboards “Oatcake” fanzine site and some of my posts have attracted interest due to their “graphic nature” 😀
The last couple of months have fueled my imagination, games against Man City and Arsenal in particular which were so full of contraversial decisions left me feeling angry and resentful BUT also produced many ideas for me to play with.
Alan Wiley’s mystifying performance during the game v. Manchester City at The Britannia Stadium was one particular occasion which got my brain sizzling. On my return journey home I couldn’t shake the idea that Wiley’s choice to:

  • send off a Stoke player
  • ignore Vieira’s tackle on Whelan
  • deny Shawross’s excellent header in the dying moments

was nothing short of theft…Grand Theft! Cue the birth of “Grand Theft Wiley”.
Grand Theft Wiley

Here’s the pics. of the T shirt we made up for McScooby with his great design.