The postponement of Saturday’s game at the Emirates means Stoke’s quest for a Premier League win in December still goes on (clearly we were a shoe-in at Arsenal) with only fixtures against Blackburn and Fulham remaining. Although there are no easy games at this level the two festive fixtures that the computer has thrown up for us should offer some hope especially given the circumstances surrounding our opponents.
A week ago our trip to Ewood Park looked like a very tough assignment, Blackburn are a very decent side at home and were managed by a very good and experienced campaigner in Sam Allardyce. A week is a long time in football though and we now visit a club seemingly not sure what direction it is going in and who have some key players looking doubtful following their weekend draw against struggling West Ham. Away wins don’t come easy in the Premier League but the trip to Blackburn on Boxing Day should definitely be looked at as a fixture we could now potentially win.
We sign off 2010 with a home game against Mark Hughes’s Fulham who have been this season’s draw specialists with ten stalemates out of their opening seventeen games. It was always going to be difficult for the Craven Cottage outfit to follow on from last season’s Europa League heroics and despite having some good players they are another team that (on our day) Stoke should be looking to beat at the Britannia.
The visit of Fulham will also see the wannabe football pundit, Danny Murphy’s arrival to the Potteries for the first time since his ridiculous comments earlier in the season. As we know he didn’t speak too highly about the Potters and accused TP of getting our lads “too pumped up” (heaven forbid) before a game. I can only imagine our gaffer must have had a word with Fulham skipper prior to our League Cup clash in September. Why else would he have been pumped up enough to throw the ball into Ryan Shawcross’s face I wonder?
Happily other than a few predictable voices the overwhelming view was that Murphy was bang out of order but I’m sure should he be in any doubt, the Potters faithful will make sure he gets the full, unedited picture next Tuesday – enjoy your day out Danny!
As things stand we currently sit on 21 points from 17 games, at the turn of the year last season we had amassed the same number of points but from two more games. Should the Potters enjoy a prosperous Christmas programme we will therefore be well on our way to bettering the 47 points we collected during the previous campaign which would be an excellent effort.
If we can now put a decent run together and collect a good haul of points I’m sure that it won’t do our prospects of recruiting a couple of high profile additions during January. The Chairman has indicated we are in for a quiet window and I think he right to suggest this. I’m sure the gaffer will be bending his ear (especially if a centre half becomes available!) to give him the funds necessary to improve the team.
This weekend I managed to catch Stan Collymore’s overview of the season so far and where he suggested we need to strengthen. To be honest there wasn’t any great shock for the Stokies who tuned in. He thought we’d finish about where we are currently (I think we’ll finish higher though) and he knew exactly where most of us agree we need improving, namely central midfield and at full back. I’m sure that if TP can pull a couple of rabbits out of the hat this current Stoke team can push on and exceed last season’s achievements and attain a top half finish.
Right now it’s time for all things family and a whole day without thinking about football (well nearly) so enjoy the festivities and then get yourselves up to Ewood Park on Boxing Day.
Happy Christmas fellow Stokies and here’s to a great 2011!