An emotive few weeks
Feature by Dan Buxton
Updated Thursday, 10th September 2009
Fan Forum chairman Gareth Ekin gives us his latest columnIt certainly has been a very odd few weeks being a Stoke fan, that's for sure! We have had the frustration of the transfer window disappear, with the late signings of Huth, Tuncay, Collins and Arismendi. The appointments of Peter Reid and Gerry Francis have been a much welcomed boost to the backroom staff, our league cup victory and our league win against a much improved Sunderland squad with Kiston scoring twice in 4 days.
Throughout all of this though it has been the off-field events that has detracted from this. I cannot help but feel sadness at the senseless attack on Neil Warburton at Birmingham. Whilst I do not know Neil personally, it is still very sad to see such a thing happen in today's game. The days of the seventies are long gone but still the threat of football violence is as real today as ever. For the sake of a football match, Neil and his family will be scarred by that day for many years. I wish Neil a speedy recovery and hope that the good progress he has made over the past week, continues.
Four days after this incident took place in Birmingham, I sat watching Sky Sports News showing the events that completely overshadowed the West Ham vs Millwall League Cup match. The mass violence outside the ground in which a man was stabbed, as well as the behaviour of West Ham supporters invading the pitch. Fans were injured by objects being thrown at them, including sharpened coins and darts. Allegedly Carlton Cole was racially abused as he was substituted and to make matters even worse, the stabbing of Callum Davenport and the death of Jack Collisons' father had occured in the five days prior to the game.
I can't help but think back at the visit of West Ham to The Britannia last season. The disgraceful scenes of West Ham fans trying to cross the divide into the section of the South Stand occupied by Stoke supporters. From my seat in the family stand, I could see most of what was going on and at no point did I see anything to provoke or instigate the events that took place. I can also vividly remember the length of time taken by police in the stadium to assist the stewards in restoring order in the away end. Several others around me also remarked as we watched the stewards struggling to contain the West Ham
fans, whilst a large group of police stood by the players' tunnel for several minutes before intervening.
Football is a sport that should be enjoyed by the whole family and to think that whilst following your favourite team, you could end up being attacked for it, is both a disturbing and frightening thought. There are certainly games and grounds that I would not take my family to and that is a very sad situation.
I can only hope that the remaining fixtures this season pass without incident, although many may look at Birmingham and West Ham and think that these are the most likely candidates, with both recent history and of course our 2006 FA cup meeting at home against Birmingham. We showed everybody, time and again, last season, that you can make a ground intimidating and loud for the opposition without resorting to the type of behaviour witnessed the last few weeks.