And how sweet was that after the way Stoke kicked lumps out of us a year ago in the Carling Cup. No side now finds it easy going to the Potteries and taking points, not even the big boys, but nobody was more surpised than me when we went up there last Christmas week during a dreadful run of results and came away with a 2-0 win. The boys did it that day for the gaffer, whose job was on the line after a woeful loss to West Ham on Boxing Day - our lowest point of last season.
Who needs reminding our unlikely hero on the day was Chris Baird with two long range rockets. It may also have been the last time he got a decent effort on target (sorry Chris). Our home win in the return by the same score was altogether more comfortable. This time it was Deuce with the double - the first after great work from AJ, the 2nd a penalty, with Shawcross seeing red. Post Christmas it was Stoke who hit a blip, at the Cottage they should have been hit for more, but credit to Pulis for getting them to the Cup Final and into the Europa League.
We might disparage their style here in the south, and be smug about living in the Home Counties rather than industrial Staffordshire, but the two clubs have more in common than you might think. Similar size crowds, perennial also rans for football's top honours, a famous statue of legendary cast outside their respective grounds. As different as chalk from cheese in demeanour, both Pulis and our own Woy working with real desire and a burning passion to maintain Premiership status on tight budgets and against the odds. Both Pulis and Hodgson have secured their places in fans hearts by steering modest craft into the sunshine of an altogether larger pool.
No club outside the top four bar Liverpool spent more on players in the last transfer window than Stoke. Their £10 million man Crouchie will give Hangeland and the rest plenty to think about as he heads up City's attack. Martin has to do without Bryan Ruiz (minor knee problem) but no matter. At present he's not required. On paper the two sides look evenly matched, and many are tipping the draw. Jol- if you can believe it, is reported as happy with a point (more on inaccurate press reports later).
Digging deeper however, Stoke have a number of key players struggling for fitness. Etherington is supposed to be taking sugar injections for a bad back - whatever good that does. Should it begin to swell, would that be one lump or two? Kenwyne Jones, Fuller, Pennant, Wilson, Palacios, Higginbotham are all carrying injuries. The side were all over the place last time out when losing to Swansea, and while they rarely lose on their own turf they haven't won for a month. Early season form sees them currently 8th and above us having beaten Liverpool and drawn with both Chelsea and Man Utd. But while we were struggling for points back in the early weeks I sense the tide has turned, and I'm going for a 2-0 Fulham win.
Let's remember we have not conceded in our last four matches, and are coming off the back of that 6-0 win. As to team selection surely it has to be a no-brainer. Same again please, with fit again Aaron on the bench. If Jol tinkers with the team and we lose then he'd better be prepared for the flak to really fly!
On which note we return to the subject of way wide of the mark press reporting. How many Fulham fans got hot under the collar over the past two weeks to hear that Zamora and Jol had apparently had an almighty bust up and that the mood among the players was far from harmonious? Today, in case you've yet to see it, Stephen Kelly has come out to rubbish all such reports, and 'if there was any kind of bust up here on the training ground I haven't seen it.'
Will we I wonder see an apology from the hack who set the ball rolling with this rubbish, and took a pop via Twitter at 'some earnest ESPN blogger' who questioned the veracity of the story? I've been at this game a lot longer than you my friend.
Back to the footie, and I'm going to really stick my neck out - having already predicted the result - by tipping Clint to score. He played two great games in the USA last week, his match winner against Honduras was quality, and now he's being praised by Klinsmann as the man who makes the whole USA team tick. With 80 caps, and an appetite for the game that grows alongside his own appreciation of how to get the best from his ability, I'm making an entirely rational statement that this guy - and we all thought he was outstanding last year - is ready to go to another level at Fulham. All my usual posters went quiet over the break...don't do it again! Let me know how you'd shape up the side, should AJ go, are we really top 5 material...???
I said it after the QPR goalfest, if all our big players stay injury-free for a spell, this team under Jol could really fly. On that basis I've invested in a trip to Poland next week. Let's start another great week for FFC with three points again off Stoke. Now here's a stat to finish with - Fulham have not won away in the league during October since 2003. And we all remember where that victory came don't we???