Firstly let me say how great a week it has been from a Stoke point of view. The win against Aston Villa gave every Stokie a huge lift and although we could only follow up that victory with a draw against the previously pointless Hammers, four points represented a decent week’s work from TP and the lads.
Probably the only real disappointment from those two games was the fact that we got to see precious little of our potentially explosive partnership of Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones. When KJ signed it’s safe to say that most Stokies saw him as a super-charged version of Mama. He is a player who is technically very good in the air, scores goals and is generally a real handful. What we didn’t expect was that he would replace our talismanic Jamaican striker though.
I’m not entirely sure what TP’s thinking is here, I’m hoping that it must be due to Ric perhaps not being 100% fit as opposed to any tactical reasons.
To me the pairing looks full of goals and a true nightmare to defend against. KJ has pace and power to go alongside the wizardry and sometimes Usain Bolt-esque speed of Ricardo.
In all my years of watching Stoke, no other player has been able to get fans out of their seats like Fuller does, some say he makes Stoke tick; I say he IS Stoke. Despite us developing our style slightly we still rely on someone who is prepared to work the channels and win set plays for us. Ric does this with bells on but better than that he also has the ability to leave defenders for dead to create a chance for a colleague or have a go at goal himself.
Given the exciting tools we have at our disposal in Ethers and Pennant we should (in my opinion) have our biggest threat on the pitch from minute one. Ric often played some of his best stuff when Liam Lawrence was on the pitch, they linked up really well and I’m convinced that a Fuller/Pennant combo could be even better.
As for Kenwyne, well he certainly looks like a player who is going to go from strength to strength at the Potters. He must now think he has a great chance to notch in every game with the dual threat we have on the flanks. We shouldn’t get complacent though as he can’t score in every game. That is where Ric as his partner would come into play of course.
Clearly TP has plenty of options and as we have seen in the past it can sometimes take a while for him to work out his best team but invariably he gets it right in the end. Look at our first season back in the top flight for example. Many Stokies wanted the front six we ended up with and no sooner as TP put them together we went on a fantastic run. I see no reason why the same thing can’t happen this season with the great group of players we now have.
Talking of TP and his decisions, I must pay tribute to our fantastic manager in the way he has conducted himself during such a stressful and traumatic time for both him and his family. His commitment to Stoke City has never been in doubt but last Monday he went above and beyond the call of duty by turning up and inspiring us to victory against Aston Villa.
Tony is a superb figurehead at the club and it is clear that he commands the respect of his players who it appears would all run through a brick wall for him.
We can only imagine the torment Tony was feeling following the tragic loss of his mother and I’m sure I speak for all football fans when I wish the Pulis family our sincerest condolences at this very sad time. I’m certain that Tony’s mother would have been looking down on him with great pride after his inspirational appearance at the Brit last week.