We go into Saturday afternoon at the Hawthorns in a completely different state to this time last week, looking for our third win on the bounce and Saido Berahino looking for back to back goals which he most certainly deserves after a strong start to the year.
I dream of Saido scoring a last minute winner before shushing the crowd who will boo him from first whistle to last and finally getting his own redemption. But this game is far more important than our contingent of former West Brom players getting one over on a former team, momentum is needed after a mixed start to the season and potentially easier games than this coming up.
After a difficult start to the season against teams expecting to be challenging at the top end of the table, a visit from newly promoted Wigan has become a must win as we look to get the promotion ball rolling at last. On the face of it, this is by far the easiest game of the season so far and in my opinion, a far better matchup for us tactically. That being said, some of the arrogance that crept in before the season started needs to be avoided when we play the easier games on paper.
Wigan have had a very mixed start to the season with a win, a draw and two losses with both of the defeats coming away from home at Aston Villa and Rotherham. So far this season they have favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation, switching to a 4-5-1 when defending to stay compact and hard to play through, with pace coming from the wingers and fullbacks which is where the danger lies as we repeatedly fail to cope with pace.
There hasn’t been too much cause for optimism over the past two years or so but excitement is building ahead of a stern test at Deepdale this weekend, but a Saturday night fixture in front of the Sky cameras and over 3,000 fans in a sold out away end is the perfect way to kickstart our stuttering season.
Morale is low after poor displays against Leeds and Brentford, with the performance versus the latter drawing boos from portions of the crowd at the Betannia, unwarranted in my opinion. There needs to be a reality for some fans who have so far failed to realise that the standard of teams in the division is not far off the bottom end of the Premier League and we have a target on our backs as the team that everyone wants to beat. I’m sorry to say that this weekend will be no different as we face yet another contender for the end of season play offs.
Last week was a less than ideal start to the season at Leeds but we have the chance to set the record straight as Brentford visit the Betannia for the first home game of the season. Last weekend can be seen as somewhat of a learning curve and a shocking introduction to the division, although many of us knew that it would not be quite as easy as the bookies made out.
For anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning Moneyball starring Brad Pitt, Brentford have adopted the same way of scouting and acquiring players that has seen so much success in baseball, and they’re starting to reap the rewards. Owner and fan Matthew Benham made his money through gambling and daringly decided that the way to match teams with greater spending power was to look for the things that nobody else could see, players deemed not good enough by the Premier League big boys or from abroad.
With the beginning of the season just around the corner, the reality of being back in the second tier is really kicking in, and there is no better way to start than facing the team we should least aspire to be like. There can be no doubt that the Championship is one of the hardest leagues to predict in the world and has been like quicksand to so many relegated Premier League clubs, although few have struggled as much as Leeds who were sucked straight in and have struggled to escape since.
Champions League semi-finalists in 2001 and relegated from the Premier League in 2004, their decline over the past two decades has included a three season spell in League One, numerous financial difficulties and no fewer than 19 different managers. Although none of those carry the reputation of the current boss, Marcelo Bielsa.
This weekend it is Monday night football for the Potters with or without a new Manager – time will of course tell. The daunting task awaits of trying to get a struggling team to pick up some points away to Manchester United. We have indeed been selected for live Sky TV coverage as we look to entertain the nation.
The Red Devil’s currently find themselves in second place on 47 points trailing their City rivals from Beswick by a huge 15 points. United are unbeaten in 5 having won 2 and drawn 3 and will of course be looking to take 3 points on Monday. Their supporters are currently frustrated at recent performances which has prompted away fans and the alike to sing about “ Parking the bus “. Let’s hope they stutter against us on Monday.
Away tickets are priced at £30 for adults, £22.50 for 18-20 year olds, £15 for 16-17 year olds / over 65’s and £10 for under 16’s. We have been allocated 1912 tickets including 12 wheelchair places and we will be housed in the East Stand corner. The free and official coaches will depart the Bet 365 at 1630hrs.
Google maps have advised that the Bet 365 is 47 miles from Old Trafford and should take you 1hr and 17 mins by car. There are a number of potential routes to take including the M6 north and the M56. The A34 or even the A523 are further options as well as picking up the A6 through Stockport – we would recommend the M6. Parking provision is pretty lousy near to the Stadium, you will probably pay over the odds to use a car park.
There are plenty of train services from Stoke on Trent to Manchester Piccadilly and this takes around 33 minutes on the best services (Virgin and Cross Country etc). The last train home leaves just after 11 pm from Manchester. From Piccadilly you can take the tram to Old Trafford which should take around 10 mins. Alternatively you could pay a bit more for a taxi or even walk it in about 40 minutes. After the game the tram will be very busy (back into the City) which can mean a bit of a wait, alternatively you can try and get a bus which are situated at the top of the Matt Busby Way. Be quick though as they fill up fast as United get around 75 thousand supporters for every home fixture.
A pre match drink can be a bit of a challenge especially the pubs near to the Stadium. You simply will not get in if you have any away colours on. Your best bet for a pre match pint would be in Manchester itself however that may not be practical for all. Failing that you can always go to the ground and enjoy a drink and a pie in the concourse. Foot long sausage rolls are priced at £4 and Rollover hot dogs are £4.40 !. There are a number of fast food outlets and shops at the top of the Matt Busby Way along with a Tesco outlet for better value.
We have been advised that the local Police are as fan friendly as any around the country, but would be quick to act should anyone become disorderly. They always have plenty on duty for their home fixtures.
Is it realistic to think we can get something at Old Trafford given our current form and the fact we are Manager less? Dam right it is ladies and gents. Time to batten down the hatches, support our lads like we’ve never supported them before and together we can get out of this mess.
See you Monday. Come on Stoke.
By James Lockett
So, as hard as it is at the moment following our beloved Stoke City, the show must go on as they say. On Saturday we take a break from the Premier League as we travel to Coventry City for our FA Cup fixture.
At present we have sold over 3000 away tickets which are priced at a reasonable £22 for adults and a fiver for kids. We will be located in the South Stand which is behind the goal. So far, the Coventry supporters have sold just 9500 home tickets suggesting that this fixture has not really caught the imagination of the locals!
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!
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…..
Well I’ve only just recovered from my Brighton jollies only to get back on the road just 5 days later. Indeed games are now coming thick and fast as we enter a critical few weeks of the season.
It is also another long journey, this time to South London to play Crystal Palace. Google maps advises the quickest road journey to be some 176 miles taking 4 hours and 13 mins via the M4. Obviously the free official coaches are the best value but if you can afford it, I would recommend the train. Stoke to London Euston (1 hr 30 mins), the underground to Victoria (using the Victoria Line (blue) – 15 mins), before catching another train to either Selhurst, Thornton Heath or Norwood Junction (15 mins).