They say that luck in football evens itself out. Well can I dispel that myth here and now? Equilibrium may be restored if you’re a Man Utd of this world but you rarely seem to find parity if you’re a Stoke City playing in this “big club” obsessed league. In the past two seasons alone we have seen perfectly good goals wrongly chalked off against Aston Villa, Man City and now Spurs. Strangely I don’t recall many being given to us in controversial fashion to level things up. It’s not only goals though, we get punished for the most minor of offences while the opposition do far worse and play gets waved on.
In Saturday’s game Chris Foy was the very definition of a referee who appeared to give the bigger club the benefit of the doubt in all the major decisions. The “big one” I will get to in due course but what annoys fans is the one sided nature of 50/50 calls. Take Peter Crouch in this game for example. All through the 90 minutes he continually backed into his man, fell over and won a free kick as all Mr. Foy could do was watch with an admiring smile.
As soon as Stoke looked like breaking away and there was an opportunity to blow for a foul he did so, leaving the players and home crowd bemused to say the least. Of course all of this paled into insignificance with a moment that should (if there is any justice) end Foy’s career as a professional referee. While standing no more than ten feet away from our “goal” being scored, Mr. Foy completely bottled making a decision against Spurs and looked towards his assistant standing 35 yards away!
As for Stoke and our performance, well it was a strange old day really. Things started badly as TP got his team selection woefully wrong for the umpteenth time. How anyone could look at the defeat to Wolves and think the only thing that needed changing was dropping the usually dependable Danny Higginbotham for the walking liability that is Danny Collins is baffling.
Every single one of the 2,800 or so at the Custard Bowl could see that our midfield was not just bad, it was absolutely dreadful. It’s not as if it’s a new thing though and we have been crying out for changes in that area for a long time. Rory Delap (God bless him) simply cannot play out wide while Whelan and Whitehead are the worst duo since Horne and Corden tried to shake off their characters from “Gavin and Stacy.”
Our midfield and attack was simply begging for (the very impressive debutant) Jon Walters to play wide right allowing the effervescent Tuncay to play alongside Ricardo Fuller. Instead we huffed and puffed, showed very little quality until the ball somehow reached Walters or Ric and looked nailed on to lose once Spurs fortuitously went in front. Incredibly we got level from a good poachers goal from Fuller but that signalled the end of our attacking play in the first 45 minutes and poor defending allowed a ball to be played to the unfortunate looking Gareth Bale (that blow to the face for his first goal couldn’t have made him look any uglier) who hit a superb shot past Sorenson.
Into the second half and it took an age for TP to realise that we needed a spark so eventually on came Tuncay in the 63rd minute. It is fair to say that within only a few moments the Turkish international had the crowd on their feet with an energetic and positive contribution to a game that was heading nowhere until his arrival.
Sadly for “Tunny” and the massed ranks of Stokies, for all his effort he couldn’t put away any of the chances that came his way. During that final 30 minutes we absolutely battered Spurs and further opportunities went begging to Ric, Ryan and Matty before an idiot denied us of our deserved “equaliser.”
As gutted as I was during my walk home from the Brit, it would be foolish not to give great credit to the way the lads finished the game but also ask serious questions as to why it took us over an hour to get something like the correct personnel on the pitch.
Given the apparent nature of the injury to Mama and us having other players who look out of form, TP needs to strengthen and do it quickly. Midfield is still the main cause of concern although we look very shaky at full back as well. I’m really hoping that somehow the gaffer can find a way of using Tuncay and we simply don’t ship him out before the end of the window (as I suspect we might.)
It seems almost bizarre that we are so short of creativity and yet we seem to be unable to find a way of harnessing the undoubted talent that the little Turk has.
On a final note, may I wish Mama a speedy recovery from what by all accounts sounds a very serious injury. He has been an excellent servant to Stoke City and although he was looking increasing out of his depth at this level, it would be a very sad way of signalling the end of his career at Stoke if the Spurs game proves to be his last appearance for the club.
Good luck Mama.