To be wily, is to be slippery, deceitful and underhanded. To be Wiley is very similar, but it is also to be a cheat. Alan Wiley’s shameful handling of Stoke’s game last Tuesday against Manchester City can be seen by no other view. As football supporters we always feel hard done to by referees, but on a cold Tuesday night at The Britannia Stadium we witnessed something different. We saw a ‘man’ who had seemingly already decided upon a result before the final whistle, and the fact that this repulsive excuse for a referee is still officiating makes a complete mockery of The FA’s Respect campaign. It’s bad enough when referees miss fouls or infringements that cost a team dearly, but to actually dream up an offence, to scrub out Stoke’s last minute ‘winner’ is cheating, plain and simple. Earlier in the season Sir Alex Ferguson called into question Alan Wiley’s fitness levels, in order to officiate at the top level, I’d go one further than that and call into question Alan Wiley’s eye sight, morals and imagination.
But this week’s column isn’t really about the odious Wiley. It’s more about the effect that it’s had on us the supporters. Last week I said that the team from last season had finally reappeared following our heroic display at Manchester City in the FA Cup. On Tuesday night, something else returned to this great club of ours which is of equal importance to our fortunes over the remaining season. On Tuesday night, WE reappeared in all our venomous and savage glory. There is nothing like the feeling of being hard done by to unite football fans, and although the atmosphere at The Britannia Stadium has been as loud as last season, there have been times when you sense that not everyone has been ‘up for it’. There was no mistaking the importance of Stoke’s ‘12th man’ last season, and our incredible home record proved just that. Tony Pulis this week was quoted as saying that The Premiership was a lot like going out with a woman, in that the first few dates are incredible, but over time the excitement fades, not that you love her any less. I think he makes an excellent analogy, and if this is the case then the effect of Alan Wiley’s farcical performance is the same as our lady friend getting a boob job.
I’ve always been a firm believer in home teams making sure that their guests receive the most hostile and uncomfortable experience from their trips to their stadiums. Every time a team walks out at the Britannia Stadium, they are arriving with the aim of beating us. Why should we make it easy for them? How dare they come to our city and try to walk away with 3 points?! This was the mind set last season from the off, and for whatever reason it had begun to fade. However, thanks to Alan Wiley the siege mentality seems to have returned. You could visibly see the rage and anger on every supporters face on Tuesday, as Wiley’s decisions got more and more ridiculous, leading up to THAT incident. This is how it should be. From the choruses of ‘John Terry’s your Dad’ to Shaun Wright Phillips, to the numerous Wayne Bridge songs, the atmosphere was red hot. If we can carry over the same level of hatred and hostility into the rest of the season aswell as our usual deafening supprt, then it can only help the players on the pitch. People say that footballers should be man enough to pass off the abuse from the fans, and that if anything it spurs them on. You only have to look at the effect it’s had on Cristiano Ronaldo, Shaun Wright Phillips and Kris Commons in the past few seasons to know that this isn’t always the case. All have been visibly shaken when entering ‘The Bear pit’ due to the sheer anger, rage and abuse aimed at them, to the point of putting them off their game.
Alan Wiley may think that he’s got one over on us this time, but he hasn’t. If the result of his gut wrenching incompetence is that we come together again as one, and once more adopt the ‘Us vs The World’ stance then he can shove his 2 points where the sun doesn’t shine. This season holds a lot of potential for Stoke, starting with our FA Cup 5th Round replay. So let’s have it! Vis Unita Fortior.....