After Frank Lampard’s penalty appeal this weekend I feel he has been unfairly labelled as a “diver” by many in the media. Let’s be honest, he’s never exactly been Twiggy-esque but judging by his appearance at the Brit I’m assuming Christine Bleakley is a far better cook than she is a T.V. presenter. Fair play to Ms Bleakley though, how she finds the time to conjure up a delicious meal and decide whether she should be teak or mahogany is an achievement in itself.
As for the game, it was great to be back to Premier League business and earn a well-deserved point. Our two recent ties against Hajduk Split were great occasions but a match against Chelsea on the opening weekend was always going to be something to look forward to. As soon as the fixtures were released it was obvious our game would be televised given the hullabaloo surrounding the Stamford Bridge outfit’s new gaffer.
At just 16 “AVB” (as he will now be forever known as) manages to combine running first team affairs at Chelsea with studying in readiness for college. It truly is a wonderful achievement for the young man especially when you consider the unfortunate condition he suffers from, which means he has to watch the majority of fixtures crouched in the technical area.
Given the resources young Villas-Boas has at his disposal I think Stoke’s effort and determination was a joy to behold, especially when you look at how threadbare the squad was even before injuries to Ethers and Rory. There were many plus points from a rock solid Potters’ performance. The back four were excellent with Woodgate slipping effortlessly into our defence. Behind our brick-like unit Asmir Begovic also had an excellent game, pulling off a couple of outstanding saves and generally looking very confident.
In midfield I felt Rory and Whelan had very solid games and given they were often outnumbered, coped very well with Chelsea’s big names. Up front Jon Walters (although not 100% fit) ran himself into the ground and showed for pretty much every ball as well as helping out in midfield.
As the game wore on the lads inevitably tired as Pitt the Younger brought on Drogba, Anelka and Benayoun to boost the Pensioners attacking options. The worry was we would eventually buckle under a tidal wave of Chelsea pressure but in truth that never really materialised and the ball spent a reasonable amount of time in their half during the last ten minutes.
The final whistle was still a welcome noise though and signalled to the rest of the league that (despite some suggesting that clubs will start getting wise to Stoke) we’re still here and we’re still going to give the best in the land a proper game. Although Villas-Boas made complimentary comments about us in the build-up he still managed to slip into the well-trodden path of slagging us off after the game. Apparently he was crying about the pushing and shoving by our players being “out of this world” and after receiving a kiss off his mum to make him feel better said he was going to get her to write a letter to Tony Pulis asking why his boys were such nasty bullies.
Well this week sees a return to Europa League action for the Potters and a trip to picturesque Thun in Switzerland. Having missed out on the tie in Split I really can’t wait to experience an away day in Europe. To think of some of the recent outings we have enjoyed following Stoke this truly is something to savour.
Hopefully this week will see TP get some new players in to boost the squad although they won’t be able to feature against our Swiss opponents.
Here’s to a good week both on and off the pitch and I’ll see you all in Norwich when I get back.
More Swiss roll, Frank?