Well there’s nothing like a good cup run and after Sunday’s win at the Custard Bowl (and it really did look like custard with all those empty seats) we find ourselves with a home tie against League One pace setters, Brighton.
Clearly we will not take our opponents lightly but other than the fact they are going well in their division (as draws go) we couldn’t have asked for much more than a home tie against a team from two tiers below us.
Last year’s run to the quarter finals (albeit a much tougher one on paper) was very enjoyable and who’s to say where this one could end if we get past Gus Poyet’s high flyers? We were very unlucky to be drawn away to Chelsea in last season’s quarter finals so if can dispose of Brighton it would be great to get another game at the Brit.
First things first though and we will have to pay the utmost respect to a Brighton team who are very much on a high. Their league form has been superb and with the construction of their new stadium well under way, Albion are looking like a club on the up and up.
As for Stoke, our game at Wolves was a strange affair given the locals decision not to attend in any numbers. There seemed more police around the ground than Wolves fans so the atmosphere was all a bit odd and certainly played into our hands.
Despite making a few changes, Stoke for the most part were the team who looked more like winning and had several good chances to score. Wolves only opportunities of note came courtesy of an understandably rusty, Abdoulaye Faye who almost gifted the lead to our hosts on two occasions.
Just when it looked like it wasn’t going to be our day, up popped the immense Robert Huth to nod home from 6 yards. The very healthy Stoke following celebrated with our jubilant players and we began to sense that the fifth round was in touching distance.
Clearly Stoke wouldn’t be Stoke without the obligatory “heart in mouth” moment and this time it came by way of referee, Mike Jones who had given us nothing all day (his assistant awarded us the free-kick that we scored from.) Without a seconds hesitation he sprinted into the box as he over-elaborated his gesture that confirmed to the sparse home crowd the award of a very dubious penalty. Had Mr Jones took just a second to think, he may have come to the correct conclusion that Robert Huth never touched their player even though he theatrically threw himself to the ground. Fortunately justice was done as penalty expert Tommy Sorenson pulled off a great save to ensure our passage into round five. It had been a very solid and professional display from the Potters with some very good individual performances. John Carew had a promising full debut, Danny Pugh was excellent at left back, John Walters did well in midfield and Robert (he’s a massive German youth!) Huth was simply awesome once again.
As I write this we are just over 24 hours away from the impending transfer deadline. Up to now we have done quite well completing Jermaine Pennant’s permanent move and getting John Carew in on loan. What deadline day will bring is anyone’s guess. It appears that at least one of Tuncay and Fuller will be departing us which in my opinion is a great shame. Both players offer something a little different and are the type that gets people out of their seats.
Hopefully we could see a more creative midfielder come in and also a left back (as well as a striker if we do lose Ric or Tunny.) If we do manage to add a little bit to our already very competitive squad we could have a decent end to the season and hopefully enjoy a good run in the F.A. Cup to boot.
Before I sign off I would like to say that if we do end up losing Ricardo to another club before the window shuts it will be a sad day for Stoke City and the end of an era. Ric has been the driving force on the pitch for the last four and a half years and his flair, pace and sublime goals will be sorely missed by Potter’s fans. In all my years of watching Stoke, the Jamaican maestro has been the most exciting player I have seen. He has provided so many great memories and scored some truly wonderful goals.
Hopefully we can keep hold of him but if we can’t may I take this opportunity to wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his efforts and the great moments that he has etched into the memory banks of an army of very grateful Stokies.