Indulge with me as I tell you the tale of my most miserable afternoon as a Stoke City fan to date.
It’s matchday. I’ve driven back from Loughborough in the ice after moving out of my university accommodation for the Christmas break and I’ve arrived back in Stoke ready to brace the elements to go and watch my team play. I knew it was a big game today, with both teams threatened with relegation and an ex-Potters hero coming back to his old hunting ground. It’s been difficult to get excited about Stoke City in recent weeks, this time though I was pumped. Little did I know that this game was to be one of the most emotionally demanding I’d ever attended.
It wasn’t a great start to the afternoon, me and my dad had left home and arrived in Fenton without the tickets. We were worried that we’d miss the start of the game, with that and the fact that travelling to the stadium was being slowed down by the icy walkways. It turns out the delay to our adventure wasn’t going to cost us: a power surge at the bet365 Stadium meant that kick off was delayed until by an hour and we’d be locked outside the stadium in the freezing cold. It’s fair to say the fans were even more fired up, if nothing else.
Well I am sat here reporting on another loss full of anguish, no explanations or excuses about this defeat will wash in my view. Too much has gone on before last night for me to have any degree of tolerance, now it is about results not performances. Mark Hughes will take us down, act now Mr Coates or start to lose credibility yourself. For those who made the trip up to Burnley on a bitterly cold December night – well fair play to you. It took me 3 hours to get there owing to the terrible traffic on the M60 and M65. I sometimes struggle to explain what makes me keep putting myself through it. I guess if its in your blood, its terminal I am afraid.
Last night was not an advert for Premier League football, it was a 90 minute scrap fest. Admittedly the conditions did not help with wind rain and snow all playing a part throughout the 90 minutes, however I did not see much quality from both sides. It was a battle, an evening when we needed players to show some bottle, roll their sleeves up and grind out a result at a tough away ground.
On Tuesday evening we travel to Turf Moor, in what has to be a do or die fixture for our beleaguered Manager Mark Hughes. With temperatures forecast to drop below freezing, can the Potters inject some warmth into us all? Well with 3 defeats in our last 4 games the mood is not so good at all.
Burnley in contrast are 7th in the table and doing incredibly well. Their popular gaffer Sean Dyche has turned Turf Moor into a fortress. They have 28 points from 16 games, just 2 points shy of those Champions league places. Imagine that!
Jack Butland – 5
Conceded five but it would be harsh to blame him for any of the goals conceded, made some good saves to prevent it turning into a cricket score, had a lucky escape when he messed up with his feet.
Tom Edwards – 2
Not ideal that the youngsters second game is against a team like Spurs but he was poor throughout. Son beat him far too easily and Edwards lost him a few times, could be blamed for three out of the five goals. Shame after a bright start.
My duty is to write a succinct match report outlining the events.
However after todays debacle I am struggling to report on anything other than what we have become. A 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Spurs might not seem so bad in isolation, however that is just the point. Forgetting the fact the three previous Stoke v Spurs matches have all finished 4-0, the last 12 months have been dire. Today enough was enough for many.
The first large scale ” Hughes out ” chants rained down from the away section at Wembley Stadium as our goal average took another shocking hit. A video just released on Twitter too of Stoke fans chanting at our players ” Your not fit to wear the shirt ” is starting to go viral. The mood has become toxic, make no mistake, we stink of relegation right now and something has to give.
So the next location on the road will need no introduction as the lads head South tomorrow to the famous and iconic Wembley Stadium. As we all know Tottenham Hotspur currently play their home games at Wembley whilst White Hart Lane is being re-developed into a 61 thousand state of the art all seater Stadium. This is due to be ready for the 2018/19 season and will be slightly bigger than the Emirates Stadium which has a capacity of 60 thousand – we are reliably informed that White Hart Lane was designed to be deliberately bigger !
Spurs currently sit in 6th position on 25 points some 18 points adrift of the runaway leaders Manchester City. Spurs were indeed widely tipped for an assault on the title itself but appear to be stumbling along at present and are certainly off the required pace for that. Spurs have not won in the previous 4 Premier League games prior to tomorrow (2 wins and 2 draws) therefore arguably this is a good time to play them. Famous last words…..
Jack Butland – 7
Didn’t have much to do all game apart from a superb save from his own captain. Left with no chance for Bony’s goal.
Kurt Zouma – 6
Struggled going forward down the right and at times was beaten too easily. Showed his strength as always but certainly not a right back.
A very nervy afternoon at the Bet 365 but a huge 3 points nonetheless. This wasn’t particularly pretty but the lads got the job done. A feeling of relief at the final whistle was widespread such was the importance of this result.
Mark Hughes had opted for a 4-4-2 formation selecting Bruno Martins Indi in the centre of defence and dropping the unconvincing Wimmer to the bench. Zouma slotted in at right back and Diouf started as a centre forward alongside Peter Crouch. Oh and Jack Butland was recalled replacing Lee Grant following his speedy recovery from a broken finger. This was a positive formation and pretty much what most people had been calling for.
Make no mistake, it is hard work watching the Potters right now. Results are not going our way, supporter unrest, calls for the Managers head and now a heavy home defeat on a freezing cold night at the Bet 365. A 3-0 defeat to Liverpool has left me feeling very hard done by as the scoreline certainly does not reflect the 90 minutes that I saw.
Despite calls for a change of system following a defeat at Crystal Palace, our under fire Gaffer stuck with the wing backs and 3 defenders. However this time he recalled Bruno Martins-Indi into the centre of defence at the expense of Wimmer. Peter Crouch was to start up front.
Lee Grant – 6
One stand out save in the first half but left with no chance for both goals.
Mame Diouf – 5
Useless going forward after getting himself in good positions but did nothing with it. Didn’t do enough to stop the cross coming in that ended up with Palace scoring.