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Why Stoke City Should Play Their Own Game


Anti-football, 1890’s tactics, cheating, dirty Stokies. That seemed to be the general consensus from the debate on The Times ‘The Game’ blog when Oliver Kay posed the question: Are Stoke City the least popular top-flight club since Wimbledon?

Fans from pretty much all corners had their say and the overwhelming answer seemed to be, yes, Stoke are the least popular side since Wimbledon. In Kay’s piece to start the debate he stated that “Certainly the establishment will shed no tears for Tony Pulis and his players if embarrassment in the FA Cup is followed at the end of the season by relegation from the Barclays Premier League.”

He balanced out his argument by saying that they were not a bunch of thugs but rather “an honest bunch of players trying to make the most of their limited abilities in a league where they would perish if left to get by on technique alone.” Something which I’m sure Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson would dispute after seeing possible leg-breaking challenges on Emmanuel Adebayor during Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at the Britannia and on Cristiano Ronaldo during United’s 1-0 Boxing Day victory.

First you have to agree that the way Stoke play is not the type of football that people love to watch. They get lots of men behind the ball and look to hit long balls into the channel for Ricardo Fuller to chase. They rely heavily on Rory Delap’s long throw to create goal scoring opportunities and Pulis has signed big strong players to give them a physical presence that very few team’s can match.

They have players who are not afraid to put a tackle in and the claim’s that they are over-aggressive have some truth. Other criticism that has been labeled at them is that they cheat by tactically fouling to break up the opposition’s play and that they time-waste to run down the clock.

All these claims have some truth to them but what a lot of people don’t realise is that these are things that maybe 70-80% of all team’s do. Manchester United and Chelsea often surround the referee to pressure him when making decisions. Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano is a master of the tactical foul, it’s something that foreign team’s have always done and time-wasting is hardly a new phenomenon and referees are wise enough to know when it’s going on.

What Tony Pulis has done, and has had to do, is create a team that is disciplined and plays to a system that may be defensive and may be ruthless but is one that got them in the Premiership and is one that will give them the best chance of staying there.

If you speak to many Stoke fans they will tell you that they believe the media is totally biased against them and that they were prejudged before they even got promoted. As they are an unfashionable club from an unfashionable area with an unfashionable manager. The criticism they received seemed to hurt both the club and its fans earlier in the season and they both became defensive about their style and tried to justify themselves. But why should they?

Unlike Tony Mowbray’s West Brom side who seem determined to win as many plaudits for their style of play as points on the table, Pulis is not here to win fans or praise. He wants to keep his team in the division and it’s his job to do that anyway possible. He has made mistakes in the transfer market, notably the deadline purchases of Michael Tongue and Tom Soares, but they were signings to add bodies to the squad if nothing else. The signings of Matthew Etherington and James Beattie add Premiership quality and experience to the side, as well as a touch of creativity.

The Premier League is so tight this year that no team from Hull in 8th are safe from relegation and Phil Brown’s team are no longer on the run they were had at the start of the season and are slipping fast. The problem that Stoke face is that the likes of Tottenham and Man City have some top class players who will eventually click into gear and pull them to safety. Stoke don’t have that luxury and will have to rely on all the things that people hate to give them the best chance to stay up.

That task starts at Stamford Bridge today against a Chelsea side who, despite being far from their best, are perhaps the team most suited to resist Stoke’s physical approach. But if Pulis stick’s to his guns then there is no reason why they couldn’t cause an upset to further Phil Scolari’s troubles and stick two fingers up to the haters.

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  1. Wedgwood (Indonesia)

    January 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

    ASG, the reason the bus gets parked, as it did at Anfield is the Premier League system. Do you want us to compete on a level playing field? If the answer's yes then to quote Bob Geldof 'give us the F'in money', there is no way we can compete and play attractive football without it it. We can however try to compete by playing, for want of a better phrase, spoiling football. Particularly away from home.

    It's interesting to see that Stoke have something like the fifth best home record in the Premier League, particularly as for the first few years of its life the Britannia Stadium held little fear for many opposition teams. I think the one positive that cannot be argued with is that we've given the Premier League back something that has been lacking, passionate, vociferous fans who aren't scared or too bored by the Premier League experience. The away matches I've attended this season, particularly at Anfield, have made me feel embaressed for some of the home support. They seem more like tourist attractions, where the attendees are expected to turn up, empty their wallets and go home.

    The mentals against Arsenal, Villa, Spurs et al have all made it worth it. The pleasure some teams and fans will take from seeing us relegated, because we remind them of the passion they're lacking, is what will drive us on from now until May.

    Goarrrn Stoke!

  2. Australian Soccer god

    January 18, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I thought Stoke were brilliant against my team (Liverpool) recently. They came with a game plan and executed it brilliantly. It wasn't pretty for me to watch, but that was mostly because they stifled our play, and caused us problems going forward too.

    I agree that there is a problem with teams coming to the big grounds and 'parking the bus' – its getting to the stage where i look forward to an away game more than a home one because of this – but i don't blame the likes of Stoke. Their football against us was far better than so-called exciting teams such as Tottenham and Newcastle anyway…

  3. Wedgwood (Indonesia)

    January 18, 2009 at 3:28 am

    “Anti-football, 1890’s tactics, cheating, dirty Stokies.” “They get lots of men behind the ball and look to hit long balls into the channel for Ricardo Fuller to chase. “

    The fact of the matter is Josh, that our failings are always going to be highlighted more than the fact that the teams at the top, cheat, dive & roll around with little injury evident (I aimagine Pulis would fine anyone other than Fuller if they tried this), harangue and swear like navvies at supposedly 'respected' refs, punt the long ball (which then gets turned into a superb 50 yard pass).

    When we can blow £10-15m on a player, like Bolton have on Elmander , Newcastle have on Collocini, or Middlesbrough have on Alves and we still play to our current style then fair enough.

    Are Stoke allowed no transitional period to try and establish themselves before changing their style, finances and time don't allow for this. Apparently we should be taking on the CHampions League Finalists of recent seasons, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea all at their own game. How long do you think we'd last and how boring do you think the game would be as a spectacle?

    As for Manchester United, we may as well have turned up at the Boxing day game against them , put the ball in the back of our own net in the first minute and gone home having given them three points. They cheated, dived, moaned, swore and harangued their way to a difficult win because Stoke dared to give them a game. Gary Neville must be expecting a call from the Referees Association when he retires from playing I'm sure they'd fast track him as he attempts to referee every game as it is. The swear box at their training ground must be full of Wayne Rooney's pay slips, this vile little creature, f;d and blinded his way through the game constantly at the officials yet no card was issued. He the elbowed a Stoke defender under the nose of the linesman and trotted away with not even a talking to. The same incident didn't even merit a mention on the local highlights program. Neither did Ronaldo's stamp on another defender, the second time he threw his toys out in such a manner in as many games. Again not even a talking to.

    It's not just the fast free flowing style of play that you struggle to adapt to Josh, it's the undeniably one sided officiating, it's the David vs Goliath financial battle that you try to take on paying over inflated prices for average players to try and compete.

    And what to we get? Football snobs like Oliver Kay or glory hunting followers of the 'Big' four getting riled when we don't roll over. The sooner a European or even Arabian League is established and the franchise's of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea sod off and play in them the better. They'll be able to whine about Manchester City being involved with them but they have so much money I suppose it doesn't matter. Effectively that's what it boils down to and that's why we play the way we play, finance.

  4. richard

    January 18, 2009 at 2:03 am

  5. Jim

    January 18, 2009 at 1:08 am

  6. Josh Pedley

    January 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for the comment's. I dispute the fact that its the type of football people want to see. If it was then lower league games would be sold out every week. Maybe it didnt come across as such, but I was actually sticking up for Stoke(despite living in the area as a Port Vale fan). It's good to see them upset the establishment.

  7. ls7

    January 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with Matthew. There is not just one type of approach to the game of football. If you can win by playing solid defensive football and score from set-pieces and counter-attacks then so be it. There have been some crunching tackles from Stoke players but it happens in matches with other teams as well. I'd hate to see tackling be lost in the game, I think I'd stop watching if there were no good crunching tackles from time to time. I'm not talking about intent to injure but tackles like these:

  8. Wedgwood (Indonesia)

    January 17, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Stick to buying your LFC bottle coolers and Ruffneck 'Soccer' scarves! LMFAO.

  9. bygeorge

    January 17, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Hey maybe rugby was spawned out of football which was already invented. Kind of ruins my previous argument. Anyway who has the right to decide how teams should play. Tony Mobray, Arsne Wenger? As long as its in the rules it shouldn't matter.

  10. Bygeorge

    January 17, 2009 at 4:20 am

    If you want passion, noise, incidents, controvasey and generally good value for 20 odd quid a game then get yee sen down to the bear pit Britannia. All this nonsense about how the game is supposed to be played, dear oh dear. Is it me or was the game spawned from the fields of rugby school during a game of er………rugby? Maybe Stoke play the game the way it was intended, take note.

  11. ghostie75

    January 17, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Agree entirely with wedgewood!!!!

    Its been made very clear to us from the beginning of the season that a club like ours isnt wanted by the premier league establishment and the press in the most part have written us off at every chance and slaughtered us for the style of football we play.

    It seems to really upset some managers (are you taking note here Wenger?) that we wont stand off and applaud the big 4 teams as they pass around us as they pick us apart with their multi million pound players. Well Boo hoo….. if you want teams to roll over and give you the three points then go and play West Brom.

    It says it all when a certain bookmakers paid out on Stoke being relegated before the season had even started!

    We may go down at the end of the season, but it wont be without a fight and the teams left in the premier league will know that no one came to the Britannia and had it easy against us…..

  12. Matthew Jones

    January 17, 2009 at 3:57 am

    You're so so wrong. People do want to see this football. Proper football fans. The lower leagues IS this type of football, so there are 72 clubs below us who play just like us.

    Looking for further proof? Look how many times we have sold out this year.

  13. Wedgwood (Indonesia)

    January 17, 2009 at 2:57 am

    “Something which I’m sure Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson would dispute after seeing possible leg-breaking challenges on Emmanuel Adebayor during Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at the Britannia and on Cristiano Ronaldo during United’s 1-0 Boxing Day victory.”

    Yet no mention of Adebayor's equally dangerous high challenge on Ryan Shawcross, Robin van Persie's petulant, and deservedly red carded challenge on Thomas Sorensen. And again no mention of Ronaldo's provocative (and second in as many games, stamp on Andy Wilkinson, and Wayne Rooneys elbow, a certain straight red, which was ignored about two feet away from the linesmen.

    Stoke City's reputation has been foisted upon them, before the season started, as soon as they started to tweak the snouts of the 'bigger' teams at the Premier League trough, and has been perpetuated by lazy journos, lazy pundits and wind up merchants since.

    Stoke City unfashionable and Stoke on Trent unfashionable, yes, we're the boil on the arse of the Premier League and the Labour Government who just want us to go away and die.

    Stoke, arrogant? Racist? Angry? We're not, we just hate everyone!

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