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What The FA Cup Final Means to Stoke City

stoke city supporters What The FA Cup Final Means to Stoke City

I noticed on EPL Talk the other day somebody asking for an article on Stoke City’s chances of winning the FA Cup, so I thought I’d have a crack at this blogging lark and give you the wisdom of this Stokie’s insight and opinion of our form and chances.

Getting to the semi-final of the FA Cup is a rare occurrence for Stoke City. Only once in the 19th century have we accomplished it, and only twice in the 20th century.  All before my time and poor going for a team that will be celebrating 150 years in existence in 2013.  Before the semi-final all I wanted was for us not to disgrace ourselves, to give it a go, and not freeze on the big stage. I said I’d be happy with Manchester City in the final. Well so far I’ve got what I want.

The semi-final was a truly surreal experience. I’ve followed Stoke all over England during the past sixteen years and have seen us take some real drubbings. The one that sticks in my mind is a 0-6 defeat away at Nottingham Forest when a young Marlon Harewood tore us a new backside just after Tony Pulis took over in his first stint at the club. That was embarrassing enough; God only knows how those poor Bolton fans felt after seeing their team rolled over on a stage as huge as Wembley.

Whilst Bolton were truly bad, everything gelled on the day for Stoke and I believe this is down to the meticulous preparation of our management team. Bolton players came out for their wander around the pitch suited and booted as if they were there for the final. The Stoke players followed them in tracksuits and training shoes, much more relaxed and apparently knowing in no uncertain terms that the job was not finished.  A mate’s son had being doing work experience at the club when Stoke played West Ham in the quarter final match; he said that after the match the players came in looking pretty calm, almost glum. They heard the cup draw and a few smiled and cheered when Bolton came out as the opposition. Tony Pulis’s response to them was along the lines of ‘Forget that, we’ve got Newcastle on Saturday’ (probably with a few more choice expletives knowing him). We know how to keep our feet on the ground.

During the FA Cup semi-final everything went perfectly. The Stoke City supporters bounced their way through the simplest game of football we’ve played all season. “Delilah” reverberated around the stadium at least five times; ‘We only score from a throw in’ and ‘We’re Stoke City, we’ll play how we want to’ were well aired also. The perfect game and result, on the biggest stage, it made up for my years following Stoke, toiling around League One and the Championship.

As we all know the semi- final match turned into the most one-sided FA cup semi-final in seventy odd years. Outsiders will think that this is a one off. Bolton froze, and everything went right for Stoke on the day.  I may have red-and-white tinted glasses on but it was more than that. We’re hitting form in all positions at the right time.

To recap for those that don’t follow the Potters on a regular basis; we easily beat West Ham 2-1 after they’d battered us the week before. Newcastle next 4-0, fair enough the bar codes aren’t great away but Stoke were ruthless. Chelsea 1-1, if not for Petr Cech it could have been 4-1 to Stoke and that is no exaggeration.  A 3-2 defeat against Spurs, a loss but another two goals and a much better performance away from home (we live up to our billing as dour in away matches usually).  Beat Bolton 5-0, say no more (watch the goals if you haven’t already – tell me which came direct from a set piece or a long ball).  We then drew Villa away 1-1, again a much improved away game, Stoke were on top for much of the first half. We defeated Wolves at home 3-0, The Wolves fighting to stay up, clinically pulled apart by Stoke, left the Wolves fans admitting it could have been 6 or 7.

I don’t think we’ve been playing this consistently since our promotion season. Jones, Pennant, Walters and Etherington have gelled up front, the defence has always been relatively settled and the central midfielders generally pick themselves.

However we’ve started to pick up injuries to some of our most important players. Fuller may not have been starting but he’s a magician, our talisman, worth chucking on to go all David Copperfield on your arse for the last fifteen minutes if we need to pull something out of the bag. He’s just been operated on and has no chance of making the final. Then on Tuesday against Wolves Matty Etherington went past a Wolves defender at pace then just slipped off the pitch. Hamstring apparently. We’re sweating on it but personally I feel it’s the bench at best for him in the final. Pennant is on fire at the moment, as are Jones and Walters; I expect all three to be rested at some point in the run up to the final.

As for the final against Manchester City it’ll be tough but it’s the match up that I wanted. We’ve beaten them more than once. In our first season back in the Premier League we beat them 1-0 after playing with ten men for 55 minutes, in an atmosphere that I’ve never experienced before or since. Hostile doesn’t describe it. Last season we played two epic FA cup matches and overcame them. We’re usually poor against them at Eastlands but we have already proven that Wembley does not daunt us. It’ll be tight and if Tevez is back then realistically Manchester City should be favourites. If Tevez doesn’t start, I’d say it’s up for grabs.

Whatever happens this will be the pinnacle for me supporting Stoke City. All I’ve ever wanted is to see them lift the FA Cup. People are flying in from all over the world trying to get tickets from anywhere, anyhow. Stories are going around about holidays being cancelled; even a Stokie’s wedding has been postponed! It means so much to the city of Stoke on Trent.

I’m going to rush back from Wembley to Stoke if we win. I want a drink before the pubs run dry. Either way at least I’ll be able to get a hair-cut. I decided to let it grow until Stoke got knocked out of the FA Cup. That was on 15 November 2010.  I look like a cross between David Luiz and Rory Mcilroy now. Stylish it’s not.

Anyhow I hope this has given you a bit of perspective from the point of view of a match going fan who’s lucky enough to be able to attend on regular basis and has paid their dues slumming around the lower leagues with their team.  I’m sure you’ll excuse me for feeling pleased with my Stoke City life at the moment.  If any of you are daft enough to back Stoke based on this, don’t blame me when it goes pear shaped. But feel free to share any winnings with me!

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24 Responses to What The FA Cup Final Means to Stoke City

  1. Stoke fans have waited a long time for this moment and may have to wait an equal time for the next one so nats off to them for enjoying the final and the build up

  2. Sev says:

    I’m a United supporter and I want Stoke to gut City scum! GO ON STOKE!

  3. FC Asheville says:

    I think any non-City fan has to be pulling for Stoke. What neutral football fan could possibly want City to win anything?!

    • somervillain says:

      You seem to be out of touch with the footballing community. After United, Stoke City might be the least popular side in the Premier League because of their physical, direct style and gimmicky reliance on Delap’s throw-ins. Sure, City aren’t very popular with anyone these days as a result of their new-found wealth, but up against Team Anti-Football, I think you’ll find an awful lot of football fans put aside their jealously for the afternoon and support the side looking to pass the ball instead of lumping it into the box and playing for throw-ins.

      • Evan says:

        As a fan of the real City team in the FA Cup final, I’m hoping the Wembley pitch is too wide to get decent service from Delap.

        • IanCransonsKnees says:

          Hi Evan, against Bolton the throw didn’t really come into play, however when Delap took a few they looked as long as ever to me. I’ll be more interested as to how Hart plays, he’s the best keeper I’ve seen in the flesh since Alan kelly at Sheffield United and Shaka Hislop at Reading.

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        In response SV we’ve only scored around four goals directly from a Delap throw in this season.

        Have a look at this link and explain where ‘lumping it into the box and playing for throw-ins is relevant’

        http://epltalk.com/stoke-city-5-0-bolton-fa-cup-semi-final-video-highlights-30756

        I appreciate that it’s only one example but I could provide you with plenty of evidence that opposes your view. I don’t refute the suggestion that we play directly but we have much more than that in our locker now, particularly with Etherington and Pennant. For around £4m we’ve got two of the most potent wingers in the Premier League, what’s the point in playing them if they’re going to get bypassed? Look at their stats and they bear out that they’re where the majority of our success comes from.

        The fact that we’re still viewed so negatively and lazily is in part to the level of journalism that surrounds the Premier League (it’s largely only interested in the top 4), and the lack of exposure of teams outside this clique.

        In terms of being least popular you might be right. In my experience every time we win the stock excuse for the opposing fan is along the lines of ‘Stoke only won because we didn’t tun up/we’re shit, the ref was bad etc.’ Long may it continue!

      • Dave says:

        out of touch with ‘the football community’? what is the ‘football community’? and what would an American know about it? Over here in England (its what the E in EPL stands for) Stoke City are respected because they have some of the best supporters, who support their local team, something everyone in the ‘football community’ can identify with, a real football club with history and in the ‘football community’ here in England we love the under dog. I dont support Stoke but i will be during the final, most people with the exception of Port Vale fans probably will. You have no idea what football fans really think.

        • MG says:

          Just as Stoke has true fans, it’s the same with Man City. Some people dislike Stoke, some people dislike Man City. The ‘footballing community’ thing is irrelevant and arguable, evidently.

  4. Guy says:

    Nice article and perspective, Jon. Thanks. :-)

  5. MNUfan1991 says:

    Obviously from my handle you can tell I’m rooting for Rory Delap & Co. :)
    That being said, there’s something about the directness of Stoke’s approach that I admire. Self-appointed armchair experts may thump their nose at the long balls and defenders attacking set pieces, but their brand of football got them this far in the FA cup as well as solidifying their Premiership status. That’s what I admire about the English top flight–teams with varying styles and approach, from the traditional (Stoke, Blackburn) to Continental (Arsenal) to the international (United, Chelsea) all fighting for glory. Oh what fun!

  6. Dave (dlbags) says:

    As a neutral I’d like Stoke to win this but wouldn’t mind seeing City prevail either. Still given Stoke’s place int he league and what not it’d be great for them. I don’t hold the Shawcross grudge as many Gooners do.

    What strikes me as I’ve seen Stoke play quite a few times is their ability to pull out wins. Their location, stadium and fas seem to warrant some more money to be put into them. they certainly could at least be more of the Fulham type of club and finish mid top table. Question is if Pulis could shift his style of managing if he were given more talent to work with. Stoke to get a bad rap I’ve score a few goals not from set peices or what not, but still how they play will never get them beyond mid table. So the question is can they change and adapt to the more dynamic type of football being played by most of the EPL?

    • Dave (dlbags) says:

      BTW it was me that asked for it. Felt the blob needed to spread more stories about the rest of the league and Stoke are certainly having a reasonably decent season.

    • IanCransonsKnees says:

      Hi Dave, have a look at the link on my reply to somervillan above. Dynamic enough? In terms of investment our owner’s business continues to turn a healthy profit and their is scope to expand the stadium relatively simply to increase crowd levels (although I would be wary of this). Hopefully Channel 5 Thursday nights will be par for the course next season and sponsorship increases if we get a shot at the Europa League.

      In terms of outside investors I cannot see it happening but two local businessmen are billionaires in their own right, John Caudwell (mobile phones) and the Bamford family (JCB). Neither of them have shown any interest in football though.

  7. Evan says:

    The FA Cup final will me a hell of a lot more to City than Stoke. City are under far more pressure to win trophies than Stoke will ever be.

    • Evan says:

      By City I mean Manchester City…

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        I’m hoping that plays into our hands Evan. I mentioned that game in our first Premier League season against them when we won 1-0. The Sheik was in attendance and I bumped into him walking out afterwards, he doesn’t seem to have used the advice we gave to him then which was that he could by individuals but couldn’t buy team spirit. He had a face like thunder after that match, hopefully he’ll have the same look in a couple of weeks time.

  8. Jason says:

    Stoke has a very good chance of winning the FA Cup because Manchester City are a very inconsistent team. Stoke are very direct and comfortable with their style of play and extremely consistent. The only thing Stoke has to be weary of are injuries. With Stoke safe from relegation I think Pulis will rest some of his starters with the FA Cup final in mind. They will go all out to win the FA Cup.

  9. Jon Sharp says:

    I have been impressed with Stoke’s recent form. I agree with Jon that right now everything seems to be coming together for the team – particularly in the attacking part of the field (defensively, Stoke have looked good most of the season). Was a bit concerned to see Etherington go down and looks like he will miss all the fun which is a big shame as he is a quality player. I am looking forward to the final – two physical teams, one hitting top form and one oozing quality players. Nothing is written, everything to play for- should be a worthy spectacle!

    • Yespage says:

      Having seen most of Stoke’s games this season on the fs.tv, their first half form has just risen tremendously. Earlier in the season and last year, Stoke played not to let a goal in the first half, and then tried to push in the second half.

      The last couple of months, they have been scoring in the First Half and often. They are no longer relying on tying up games in the 2nd half. Their play against Chelsea (Cech did steal Chelsea a point in that game with his outrageously great form) and Tottenham have shown they can at least hang with the big teams.

      I’m just glad they have a month after the Bolton game, otherwise they would have left it all on the field. Man. City are no pushovers, but I liked Stoke’s chances against them a ton more than against United. Man City can be a great team, but they can also be an underachiever. Someone noted that Man City has the most to lose… a two-way street, which also means Stoke City have nothing to lose, which gives them a certain psychological edge.

      I’m just excited they are here. Granted, I’m a newish Stoke fan, adopting them over two years ago. But still, Stoke are fun to watch. They get bashed for “the long throw”, though as one commentator noted, if Delap was sending it in on a kicked set piece, they’d be marveled at.

      Go Stoke City!

  10. stourbridgestokie says:

    Evan,

    I think you’ll find that Stoke are the real City. I thought you might also like to know that the pitch at wembley is only 2 yards wider than the brit, that means only 1 yard each side! Seeing as Rory is reaching the far post regularly, I think you may be under seige again! I noticed Ryan Shotton as well yesterday, he was reaching the penalty spot too.

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