We’re the famous Stoke City….
….and we’re going to Wembley!
Well what a joyous day to be a Stokie, we really showed what we are all about against West Ham this weekend and thoroughly deserved to claim a place in this season’s F.A. Cup semi-finals.
It really will be a great occasion to see the massed ranks of Potters back at Wembley. Many will argue as to whether the semi-finals should be held at the home of football (and they probably shouldn’t) but who could deny our great a club a day out against a Bolton side whose supporters have walked a few miles in our shoes over the years?
It was disappointing to hear some fans and members of the media expressing their sadness that a potential Manchester final had been scuppered. The rise in football snobbery has really shone through lately and the disrespect shown to ourselves and the Trotters was frankly a disgrace.
The beauty of the cup is that it isn’t all about the football establishment and the snobs in the press need to realise that proper fans don’t care who ends up in the final, they watch it because it is the final.
As for the quarter-final itself we started very brightly with both wingers attacking their full backs at every opportunity. We took the lead through our German goal machine and in truth could have been out of sight before West Ham scored a goal via a clear handball.
Into the second half and we got out of the blocks quickly and were immediately rewarded with a penalty for the wrongly allowed equaliser that we had suffered. Matty took the subsequent spot-kick and in truth gave Green every chance of saving it which he duly did.
At this point even the most optimistic Stokies must have started to wonder whether it was going to be our day but it was to the players’ great credit that they kept plugging away. After an obvious foul on Kenwyne, the lively Pennant struck a free-kick that was deflected away via the arm of a West Ham player. Referee Mike Jones correctly awarded us with another chance to test Green but with it being far closer to the edge of the box TP appeared to inform a frustrated looking Jermaine that it now needed some proper treatment!
Cue Higgy and a piledriver (with the aid of a little bit of Huthy magic) which Green couldn’t keep out. Obviously (and it wouldn’t be Stoke otherwise) everyone in the ground of a Stoke persuasion became pretty nervous and we began to sit deeper. Thankfully West Ham didn’t really do much with the possession we allowed them and although the last 20 minutes felt like a lifetime we hung on reasonably comfortably given the circumstances.
The final whistle saw great scenes as Stokies celebrated our first trip to Wembley since the Auto Windscreens Shield and what a day it will be. It’s great to see clubs like ourselves and Bolton in the semi-final and here’s hoping for a great game and another trip to Wembley for us!
Next week it’s back to business and a massive game against Newcastle. Hopefully our continued presence in the cup will spur us on and help push us over the line. With any luck TP will see that we are at our best when our wingers are played in tandem and Higgy is there to strengthen our resolve at the back.
This season still has plenty to offer and we could have a very good few weeks ahead of us if we approach things with the positive mentality that we had in this weekend’s excellent performance.