In defence of Stoke City: an asset to the Premier League


The problem with Stoke City is complacency not brutality argues Greg Johnson

Next season Tony Pulis will be the second longest serving manager in the Premier League after Arsene Wenger, but in that time, what has he achieved with Stoke City?

Compared to the standards most other clubs measure themselves by, not a lot. Silverware has been non-existant and plaudits scarce, with the only stability being the certainty of an annual clamour for 40 points each season.

While provincial clubs to struggling to keep their head above water in the top-flight is nothing new, since their promotion in 2008, Stoke have spent £80M, and currently rank as the third highest net spend in the division.

Rather than trophies, popularity or sustainability, Pulis’ greatest accomplishment is the fear factor generated by his team of brutish giants and jilted cast-offs.

Stoke are the scourge of the Premier League, and they revel in their reputation. In fact, the league itself revels in their infamy, with the Potters now an unlikely asset to the branded tapestry of the English game. Continue reading

Stoke City: Stoking the Fire in Nobody’s Hearts

Stoke throw

A result against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland on Monday would see Stoke City all but confirm their Premier League status for yet another year, but would anyone really miss Tony Pulis’ team if they were to slip out of the top-flight? Simon Smith explores the source of Stoke’s infamy…

There was a brief moment when Stoke City looked to be on the verge of a surprise relegation to the Championship, much to the nation’s delight. That moment has now ended and we are stuck with the Potters for another season of the long ball game, Pulis’ seemingly limitless supply of baseball caps, cold wet Wednesday nights at the Brittania, and a swinging low of a certain sweet chariot. To make matters worse, it seems the third team to go down might be nice sexy Wigan Athletic, who we for some reason love out of a combination of the hilarity of a village remaining in the Premier League while big city clubs like Birmingham slog it a league below, and the luscious Martinez’s continental ideas like passing, playing three at the back, and calling Franco di Santo a striker.

This season is shaping up to be their worst since promotion, with survival only really secured by beating an absolutely abject QPR side. At no point were the hipsters gushing over Delap’s throwing range but there was something of an acceptance and appreciation during their first few seasons that has since completely deserted them. Have they hit their ceramic-pottery ceiling or is there scope to kick on? In short: where did it all go wrong for Stoke?

Well, in lots of places. The transfers have been touted as a big cause of both Stoke’s decline and their increasing unpopularity, as big spending without any perceivable reason so often is. Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome, Tuncay Şanlı, Peter Crouch; I appreciate there is a need for a squad of players but surely the endless replacement for replacement’s sake has done nothing for the quality of play. Would one world class striker not be better than these four? OK, the chances of Stoke city luring Edinson Cavani are slim to nil, but signings should really be made only if there is a problem to be fixed or a chance to improve the squad. These have achieved neither. Perhaps most damning of all is that Walters is a starting eleven stalwart even now: as a player I hugely admire everything about his determination, commitment and even some aspects of his ability in terms of what he adds to the attack. Still, the fact that a multitude of attackers has been bought without any finding a way to displace him is baffling.  Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #13 – Tiki-Taka is dead. Long live the Stokelacticos.


With Barcelona listing in open waters after a brutal broadside from Bayern Munich, David Wild declares that the Bavarians themselves will soon be replaced by a true, footballing monster born in the fire of the Potteries…

In the post Champions League battlefield, as the dust comes to rest, we see a world where Tiki Taka is dead. Bayern Munich were an obvious showing of the way that football is moving, with an emphasis away from silly distractions such as 83% possession and 9000 Xavi passes a game. However theirs is but a stepping stone to the next tactical and technical zenith of football. Now that Bayern have vanquished Tiki Taka from the football landscape it is only a matter of time before their own swift passing game is replaced by the next unstoppable force.

Picture a world where the Arabian consortiums had scoured the footballing landscape and plucked from obscurity the humble town of Stoke. It was to be their oasis of the beautiful game. Limitless funds would be made available and the only demand was that the club stay true to Tony Pulis’ tried and tested principles. Imagine, if you will, a world where Stoke City F.C. could buy whoever they wanted but still insisted on playing as if the pitch is made of lava and the ball will melt if left on the ground for longer than 4 passes. Welcome to the Stokelacticos. Continue reading

English Football Must Sort Out Scrambled Values

In another dramatic week for the FA, False Nine editor James Dutton questions their priorities…
To coincide with this week’s international break and a dearth of football on the television, attention throughout the media has focussed on the controversies which are wreaking havoc in the game. Dives, elbows and stamps have been universally condemned, individuals, none more so than Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, constantly vilified. Their actions are, however, compounded by the selective blindness coursing through the game’s governing body in this country. Continue reading