Well after the thoroughly depressing drive back from Wearside last week following yet another refereeing “master class” how satisfying have the last few days been for the Stoke faithful?
Other than the nervy few minutes when Blues got back into the game on Tuesday, our two recent home games have gone to show that we are a good Premier League team that have just had some bloody awful luck coupled with a series of inept officials.
TP’s comments in the wake of Lee Cattermole’s unnoticed impression of Shaquille O’ Neal caused something of a media storm. The usual suspects such as Mick “the voice of football” Dennis were out in force. That twit (yes twit) from talkSport, Adrian Durham suggested that the catalogue of refereeing errors had nothing to do with our perilous league position and everything to do with us being rubbish as well as TP being “found out” as a Premier League manager.
Well considering we now have better players than our previous two seasons (where we finished 12th and 11th) and have arguably played much better football, the facts tend to fly in the face of their arguments. People like these sad individuals have been waiting for Stoke to slip up ever since deciding that we would more than likely make Derby look like a competitive Premier League team. Nearly two and a half years later we are still confounding the critics and continue to leave a large amount of egg on their over-paid faces.
Back to more pleasant thoughts and how great was it to see Stoke getting a really strong XI out on the pitch and completely dominating Liverpool? There were simply so many positives to savour. The back four looked balanced and resolute with Begovic putting on a confident show behind them. It was brilliant to see our “wing twins” really getting at Liverpool’s full-backs while deep in the engine room Deano and Rory had outstanding games nullifying the threat of Steven Gerrard.
Up top and the Caribbean duo of Ric and Kenwyne proved a real handful and the pair were both rewarded with a crucial goal apiece. It really was a superb evening to be a Stokie and it certainly was a night to remember with the Brit rocking once again.
On the back of our two confidence boosting wins we find ourselves travelling to our old friends from Rio de Smethwick. In fairness to the Baggies, they have made a surprisingly good start to their latest attempt not to “boing” back down to the Championship. Given our recent run of bad luck and results I have to admit to not exactly looking forward to Saturday’s game until this week. One defeat in 26 against them has given us an air of invincibility when we play the Throstles and the thought of the amount of glee on their faces after finally getting one over us would be too much for this Stokie to take. Happily as our form has picked up, theirs has dipped and we can now make the short trip down to the Hawthorns in buoyant mood.
There are far too many happy memories to choose from when looking back at match-ups against the Albion but if I had to choose one I think my favourite would be our 2-1 win at their place in the 1992/93 Division Two promotion season (although the 2-0 win in our first season back in the top flight pushed it very close.) It was a huge game for the Potters, who in front of a crowd of nearly 30,000 went ten points clear of the Baggies and indicated to the rest of the division that we were not going to be denied in our quest for the title.
Stoke took a huge following down there and the “mental” when Steino popped up with the winner was as joyous as it was crazy! Next week we find ourselves playing them in very different circumstances and of course there are still only three points available. As we all know though the stakes are much higher if you ask any Albion or Potters fan. We don’t want to experience losing to them after our long and enjoyable hoodoo and the Baggies certainly don’t want to hear us Stokies once again in fine voice on their own patch belting out Delilah.
Here’s to a good game, a vociferous Stoke following and another three points to the Potters!