Let The Excuses Begin

By Dan Buxton
Last updated : 12 July 2010

Come on then, lets hear them. I'm waiting for the likes of Adrian Durham, Mick Dennis, Martin Samuel and Patrick Collins to explain in detail about how great Spain were and how those nasty bullies in orange ruined the World Cup Final.  

I’ll be honest, Spain may have great players who are supremely gifted technically, but I think watching them could send a glass eye to sleep. If you like lots of slow build-up with short, horizontal passes then fine, but to be blunt, if I wanted to see that I could go and watch a 5-a-side game at a local leisure centre and not have to pay money to get in.  

Of all the teams I have watched over the last few weeks, I think Germany are the team that have impressed me the most. They have excellent young players who mix and match their style to suit any given situation. Once again the Germans have performed at the highest level and you suspect they could be a dominant team as they gain more experience.   

I absolutely love football, but despite what many of the English media snobs would have you believe, our great game constitutes much more than little triangles and attempting to score the “prefect” goal that it appears these pundits wanted to see Spain score.  

Football is blood and thunder; it is high-octane drama that should be played out in front of fans so passionate that they are spitting blood as they scream support for their team. It is about goals, tackling, heading and it is also about fouls.  

I cringed as the Match of the Day team glossed over the game. Instead they concentrated on how good Spain can be and not how they struggled once again to convert possession into goals against a very determined Dutch team. I certainly don’t dispute that the Spanish were probably deserved winners of the tournament, but the fact that they are the lowest scoring World Champions in history tells its own story.  

What worries me now is that a new age of supporter seems to want to change the English game into some sort of sterile, non-contact sport with lots of tippy-tappy football. They would be happy if a match-day experience consisted of us finding our seat, sitting on our hands and occasionally applauding politely as we witness hundreds of completed passes. At least the blokes who collate the statistics for Andy Gray would be happy.  

We as Stoke fans have witnessed first hand how ruffling a few feathers is not welcome in a league that many wish to alter into a more “European” competition. The snobbery that exists in both those who pay to get in and those who are paid to express their blinkered opinions is probably the most disappointing aspect of our return to the top flight.  

Don’t get me wrong; there are elements of the more established teams that I would love to see at the Britannia. That said, if improving the performance of the national team comes at the expense of the game we have grown up enjoying, then perhaps I am not as bothered as I thought I was about England’s woeful exit in South Africa.  

Talking of our lads in red and white, pre-season is here and we are now officially up and running (literally knowing our Tone!) The team are out in Austria again and I simply can’t wait to get back into the routine of going to matches, starting with a few friendlies.  

There are plenty of rumours knocking around now and we have been linked to a huge list of players. Carlton Cole is an exciting name that keeps cropping up (as reported on this site) and it does appear that we have a serious interest in the player. Maynor Figueroa, who scored that freak of a goal against us at the Brit, has also been heavily tipped as a target for TP. The Wigan fullback seems to be a good player from what I have seen, although the £7M fee mentioned in the press does look excessive.  

I think it is fair to say that a striker (or two) and a left back are certainly positions that require strengthening. As for midfield (and with Liam Lawrence’s seemingly imminent departure) other than Jermaine Pennant, we haven’t really been linked to a right-winger, which is a bit of a concern. I’m hoping the gaffer has a rabbit to pull from the hat here, as we often looked poorly balanced without a natural right-sided player last season.  

The other position that many Stokies are desperate to see suitably filled is the role of play maker. We haven’t of late really had anyone who can put their foot on the ball and control a game for us. My pick would be Jamie O’ Hara but I suspect he may not want to leave London on a permanent basis. He seems to have a real appetite for playing football and has a good eye for a pass and isn’t afraid to have a pop at goal. 

We certainly have plenty to do between now and August 14th, especially with the new 25 man squad ruling. It is pretty obvious that there are several players who have no future at Stoke City, so the worst-case scenario would be having to pay them but TP not even having the choice to play them if he had to.  

It would have been nice to have seen a few new faces fly out to our Austrian training camp, but it seems we will have to wait a little longer for the cavalry to arrive and the dead wood to float down stream.

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