Posts Tagged ‘Kightly’

A bold effort, toothless administrators, flourishing down under, culture change required

October 23rd, 2012 No comments

A definitive moment of Saturdays match at Old Trafford came moments before half time. Having fell behind moments before, Stoke played a ball into the Man Utd area.  The ball dropped slightly behind Walters who couldn’t manoeuvre the right angle or body shape to get a shot in.  This was indicative of the difference in quality between the two teams.  If a similar ball fell to a Man Utd forward they would be perfectly comfortable controlling the ball and creating an opening.  Not that the home teams technical ability had overwhelmed us.  On the contrary, we had taken the game to Man Utd and even had the audacity to take the lead!  We continued to attack and opened them up when Crouch’s neat footwork created an opening for Jon Walters who forced a save from  De Gea.  That scare seemed to stir Man Utd into action and they effortlessly stepped up a gear to assert control of the game.  They equalised when Robin Van Persie floated over a brilliant cross from the left, Wayne Rooney nipped in between our two centre halves to nod home a leveller.  From that stage it was crucial not to be overran and it’s to the credit of our players that we tried to attack and take the pressure off.  When Van Persie put us behind on the stroke of half time it was a sickener.  Old Trafford isn’t a happy hunting ground for Stoke, simply reaching half time on level terms would be worthy of celebration!!  When Welbeck put us 1-3 down immediately after the interval it felt the next 44 and a half minutes could be very long indeed.  For a while we were under serious pressure.  We were fortunate not to go further behind but managed to stabilise.  Michael Kightly’s tenacious run led to us actually getting a goal back and at 2-3 down we dared to dream.  We soon  woke up though when Rooney scored his third of the game.  Had we stayed at 2-3 we may have been able to set up a grandstand finish but we were left with too much to do.  Four goals conceded, all from crosses…. Tony Pulis will know what needs work this week.  There are several positives to take from the game too.  It was great to take the lead, brief though it was, and a refreshing change to try and impose ourselves on the game.  The biggest positive from the game is that it’s over and we know we don’t have to go there again this season.  Next week we play Sunderland and we’ll all look forward to a game we have a decent chance of winning.  We’ve played the top teams and only lost twice.  Very commendable, but now we need some points.

Much of the British media has focused on Rio Ferdinand’s decision not to wear a T Shirt bearing the slogan of Kick It Out… the anti racism campaign.  Ferdinand may feel disillusioned with aspects of the campaign but taking aim at Kick It Out is a misplaced gesture.  The administrative bodies of the game have failed to address the issue properly.  It has taken a whole year for the John Terry / Anton Ferdinand altercation to reach a conclusion.  A year including a bizarre court case, an England manager’s resignation and thousands of column inches.  Had the FA taken swift decisive action the message would have been sent out to all those involved in the game that racism won’t be tolerated, as it is the sheer length of the saga suggests they fail to fully recognise the problem.  FIFA aren’t  really prepared to assert their authority on this subject.  During the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, delegates were even instructed not to take racism into account when voting.  last week in Serbia England under 21s Danny Rose was racially abused throughout the game yet FIFA’s response has been conspicuous by it’s absence.  UEFA seem much more concerned with pacifying sponsors than dealing with issues of racism.  Displaying the emblem of a sponsor’s competitor results in quick action involving hefty financial penalties, in comparison, perpetrators of bigotry remain unscathed.  Despite what Alex Ferguson implied after Saturday’s game the issue is much more bigger than his own embarrassment.  Ferdinand made his point, a point he’s fully entitled to make.  For all that, in the future pressure needs to be applied to the ruling bodies of the game.  Despite their vacuous lip service there is little action taken to adequately confront the matter.

The A-League currently flourishing.  The pivot for the fresh wave of interest is undoubtedly the arrival of marquee signings Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey.  While the current boom could be seen as superficial it does justify the huge expense on acquiring the signatures of big drawcard players.  Football here still needs publicity to encourage the Australian public to actively support the game.  While the marquee players wouldn’t be the right action for every club it’s pleasing to see our game receiving increased TV coverage crowds and media attention.  Even the UK news has noticed!

The fallout from England’s draw in Warsaw continues to resonate. Qualification for Brazil won’t be as straight forward as we’d hoped.   We clearly lacked tactical flexibility in the squad to alter the system effectively.  This is where Roy Hodgson shouldn’t be heavily criticised.  The nature of English football doesn’t make for international success.  No manager can change an entire football culture in five months. That is the primary issue. The obsession with aggression has to develop into a more technical thoughtful game.   If England are to develop into a side capable of challenging the worlds best physical clashes and gritted teeth won’t be the primary requirement.  The problem is that we hype up the Premier League, import foreigners to make it  tactically astute and more technical  than the qualities we breed, sell it to almost 200 countries because of it’s physical conflict and fast pace…..  and delude ourselves that this makes the world tremble.   Until the English game is prepared to implement the required changes, invest the time and finance to install them effectively we’ll continue to just lumber through tournaments hoping to somehow get lucky.   Simply blaming the manager for a disappointing result is a quick fix for the short sighted

The subject of Pep Guardiola’s next job remains a topic of speculation. Last week Milan made it clear they would be interested in his services and until he’s appointed somewhere Roberto Di Matteo can be excused for feeling nervous.  Guardiola’s ex Brescia team mate Luca Toni has revealed his old friend has asked him about life at Bayern Munich, adding that Pep would be ideal for the job.  With Jupp Heynckes reportedly set to retire from Bayern at the end of the season this, may just be the most feasible possibility.  One thing is for sure though, until he takes his next role the speculation surrounding his next appointment won’t be fading away.


Stoke City – Characteristic tenacity, a new boss and a worrying trend

August 27th, 2012 No comments

To use a football cliche, our draw with Arsenal brought the reward of a ‘hard earned point’.  We rarely looked likely to trouble the Arsenal goal, similarly, our opponents were stifled by our characteristic tenacity. There were several phases of the game during which our midfield  struggled to handle Arsenal’s movement but our back four were focused and played with discipline.  The one worrying aspect of our defensive play is how often we lunge into tackles.  At Reading Dean Whitehead saw red for two unnecessary challenges.  On Sunday Huth and Wilkinson steamed into tackles and, as well as receiving cautions, gave away free kicks in very dangerous territory.  Wilkinson stayed on his feet, had he slid in his may well have been a straight red.  As a team we are physical but that needn’t equate to recklessness.

Geoff Cameron made an encouraging start to his Stoke City career. He broke Arsenal’s midfield play up well and made simple passes to maintain possession.  Again it was Michael Kightly who looked our most potent attacking threat.  Kightly also threaded a defence unlocking ball  through for Jon Walters… a rare delight from a Stoke player!

So, two games gone and two points earned.  A solid if unspectacular start to our season.  Meanwhile Arsenal will be painfully aware that the season has barely begun and they are already seven points behind the leaders.

The next league game is at Wigan.  In all fairness it’s a game we should set out to win.   The away form must improve and Saturday will be a good way to send the message out that we are no longer a soft touch on our travels.  It’d be a relief if we have some new personnel in time for that game.

Last week Football Federation Australia appointed ex rugby league supremo David Gallop as their new CEO. Gallop is an established respected sports administrator having held the same role as head of the National Rugby League.  The move has been generally well received.  While it does seem to be a good appointment the whole spectre of administration of football in Australia continues to be draining.

On arrival here in 1996 I was looking forward to acquainting myself with the Australian game.  The main TV show which covered local football issues was an hour long magazine programme on a channel called SBS on Monday nights.  The first time I watched, most of the show was taken up with a radical discussion regarding an internal issue in the corridors of power.  Over 16 years later the ongoing internal wrangling in football’s corridors of power continue to cast a dark shadow over our game.   The game here won’t fulfill it’s rich potential until headlines are made by players instead of administrators.  I hasten to add that I, along with all football supporters, wish David Gallop every success in his new role.

It’s disturbing to see the pre season here in Australia  tarnished by crowd violence. In Australia some youngsters have a sickening infatuation with the whole culture of football related thuggery.  I overheard some talking excitedly about trouble at a game and asked them why they were so fascinated by people bashing each other peoples heads in…… they didn’t know.  As a teenager, many of my contemporaries regarded becoming involved in fighting almost as a natural progression…. as if it was a rite of passage.  I specifically remember, even as a nine year old, standing in Glebe Street watching Millwall and Stoke’s hooligans fighting and being confused that so many people felt the need to smash people’s faces in over what was, essentially, wanting a different team to win a game of football.  Violence at football has resulted in lives damaged, people even killed.  It has given police the excuse (but not justification) to treat supporters as second class citizens.  There is nothing positive about football violence.

Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid have made a shaky start to the season.  A defeat and a draw are not what was expected at the Bernabeu.  While they were crowned champions last season, Mourinho was appointed to bring the European Cup to Madrid.  The semi final exit to Bayern Munich hangs in the air.  If form doesn’t improve quickly the managers position may be called into question.  What could save him could be the huge question of who could possibly replace him.  At Real Madrid  style and panache are as important to the culture of the club as their illustrious historical trophy haul.   In choosing Mourinho they  effectively made a U turn.  Mourinho’s brilliance is motivation and tactical manoeuvring.  His teams, as successful as they are, haven’t always played exhilarating thrilling football.  The pragmatism and attention to detail being the cornerstones of his glittering career.  Real Madrid is known to be a notorious  managerial graveyard.  If the internal politics become too much and he walks away he’ll be able to do so with reputation intact and will still be able to pick up a job at another  European powerhouse.  When he was appointed the Galactico was the manager.  He  was the one that couldn’t possibly fail….. and nobody is more aware of that than Mourinho himself.  That Jose isn’t stupid!


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

August 26th, 2012 No comments

Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 New Badge Hoarding

Intentons are that just a few of my thoughts from every game I attend this season will be published as a blog.
These will take the form of positive and negative thoughts and observations, Reasons to be cheerful, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.

Not sure how long I’ll keep it up for but as The Ramones once said Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

Reasons To Be Cheerful

KIGHTLY very comfortable on the ball, could be the start of a fresh Pulis approach for potters football. It was great to see the ball bought down and possession retained during the midfield melees.

CAMERON again comfortable with the ball, seemed unusual for Pulis to trust a newbie in such an important game but his presence paid off. Some nice touches, not 100% certain that he was the best player on the pitch but can’t think of many more players that could have took the man of the match award.

To be honest, most premier league teams would love the ability to have Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott being impact substitutions. Wenger launched all three and they were about effective as an ashtray on a motorbike.


Was Begovic playing the ball short to the back four real progression or just a tactic to draw Arsenal out from their own half while we lumped it forward? It seemed awkward at times and we nearly got caught short when there was an awkward short back pass. The jury is out on this currently!


The heat of the sun on the walk on home will be all but a distant memory in a couple of months. It’s a rare occasion when the sun shines on Ice Station Britannia so let’s hold the memory of that warmth for now.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
I would have involved Delap and the monster longthrow at some point. Okay I accept that he’s seen better days and is a squad player now but that the Longthrow has always been Arsenal’s weakness at the Brit and we never really had a quality low trajectory throw that tested their dodgy defence out.

Arsene wearing an invisible straight jacket. We love his histrionics as he bounces up the touchline trying to take off, flapping his duvet, but today he held back and seemed to have his hands tied back as if he’d been Christian Grey’s latest conquest (a reference for the ladies! 50 shades of grey)


I know it was a reason to be cheerful or is it? We had a year known as the binary season – Most games ended 1-0, 0-0, 0r 0-1. Is this season a return to that style? Not the most entertaining but at least the consistency meant you could make a few quid at the bookies!

Rumour Mill
Asmir off to Chelsea with Daniel Sturridge being loaned to Stoke.

Song of the Day
“Robin Van Persie – He Would Have Scored That”

Most Mentioned non Stoke City Player

Michael Owen who sat on the Goals on Sunday Settee

Michael Owen Joins Goals On Sunday

Michael Owen Joins Goals On Sunday

Line ups
Stoke City:

Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson, Pennant, Cameron, Whelan, Kightly, Walters, Crouch.

Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Jones, Upson, Delap, Shotton, Jerome.


Mannone, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Podolski, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Gervinho, Giroud.

Subs: Martinez, Santos, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin


Enjoy a few snaps from the day below


Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 The Stewards have delivered Arsene’s Flak Jacket

Car Park, Bike and Arsene Wenger Mask


Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 Programme Back


Stoke City v Arsenal 26 August 2012 Pitch view pre match



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 brilliance, low key preparation and a get well soon.

August 9th, 2012 No comments

The greatest team ever?  There is no doubt that Spain are the outstanding team of the modern era.  The graceful dismantling of Italy leaves no doubt over the current status of this remarkable football team.  The statistical bombardment we received during Euro 2012 became tiresome.  However, one unmistakable piece of data is that Spain have achieved something no European nation has done before in winning three consecutive tournaments.

A recurring point of discussion throughout the tournament was Vincente del Bosque’s decision to  pick his team without a recognised forward.  Surprising though it was, it hardy merited the incredulous responses it generated.  Several years ago Carlos Alberto Parreira predicted that in the future football teams would be deployed without strikers.  His words resulted in raised eyebrows. It suggested a dull defensive future where rigid shape would exceed invention.  In reality, if Spain’s dazzling display of kaleidoscopic movement is a template, we may have a lot to look forward to.  And Parreira’s words will be proved to be prophetic.

The participation of Team GB in the Olympic football tournament finally arrived…. and left. For Britain it’s been a phenomenally successful Olympic Games.  For all the achievements of the British sporting fraternity nothing has united the nation as the football did….. when GB were knocked out  on penalties the Welsh Scottish and Northern Irish learned how it feels to be English!  The whole air surrounding British participation was laced with negativity. After several years of discussing whether it undermines the individual status of the home nations,  it was eventually decided to field a team.  Again, after much  discussion and media speculation Stuart Pearce was appointed head coach and hurriedly assembled a team.  Did anything arise from GB’s involvement that would encourage the populace to demand involvement in future Olmpic football tournaments?  Probably not.  London hosting meant clubs were preared to allow players to miss a significant part of pre-season, it’s hard to imagine them being so compliant in the future.  Combine that with the political implications of a GB team.  Could it lead to  FIFA demanding a united Britain team?  In short there would be too many obstacles and not a great deal to gain.  So that’s the end of that.

As far as Stoke City are concerned this could be the most low key build up to a football season ever. The signing of Michael Kightly has livened things up slightly but it’s hard to remember a pre season so devoid of activity.  Peter Coates has made public his understandable instruction that to bring players in we must reduce the wage bill.  For too long we have had players clogging up the squad who are clearly not going to take part in league matches.  We are approaching our fifth consecutive season in the top flight.  To put it bluntly, it’s time to cut out the deadwood.

One thing that is clear is that if we start the coming season as we finished the last one we could find ourselves in serious trouble.  In 2012 we have only won four league games.  Throughout last season the quality of our play deteriorated.  Our attacking play constantly lacked any  fluidity and we rarely played well for an entire 90 minutes.  Any team with a competent defence can handle our forward play.  A series of balls hit long, usually to Peter Crouch, who may or may not flick a header onto a teammate.  The teammate in question is double marked and stifled.  Our midfield rarely pushes forward quickly enough to effectively support the attack so within seconds the ball comes straight back at us and we are under pressure again.  We aren’t creative enough we aren’t positive enough.  We’ll always be eternally grateful to Tony Pulis for taking us to the Premier League and keeping us here but things have got to change.  In 2012/13 can we have a Stoke City with a precise cohesive attacking plan that approaching games with a fresh philosophy please?  This road has become dark.  A brighter route is required  or we could pay the ultimate heavy price.

It was alarming to hear that Robert Huth  is in hospital with suspected meningitis.  We have to hope he makes a full recovery and is back to playing as soon as possible.  Good luck Rob.