I apologise for not writing for the last 2 games but I have been over in New York – and whilst I was there was lucky enough to find the New York Supporters Club of Stoke City at Fitzgeralds Pub. It was quite an experience to roll off the busy Manhattan streets into New York’s own Stoke City tribute and I could be forgiven for thinking I was back home as I took in the signed shirts, footballs and photographs as well as the dartboard, though the fact the Kentucky Derby and the Baseball was on at the same time alerted me to the fact I was watching the game from 3500 miles away – it was certainly surreal. That’s the Premier League for you, you could walk into bars in pretty much any country these days and find a game on a Saturday, the appeal is such that the global brand is bigger than ever, and the local barman Kevin was well versed on the Manager and individual players on show for the Potters that day, though I think we got some funny looks as we got worked up for Rory’s howitzers not to mention that damn miss to which a local responded by telling me “no swearing in here please”
Stokies here, Stokies there…
I thought we did well against the Toffees, it was a big game for us after the humiliation of the Chelsea game and whilst we didn’t win, I would think the players were pleased as punch to keep a clean sheet and to follow that up again just a few days later at the home of the Europa League Finalists illustrated what a great response we got from a defence unrecognisable from ‘that’ game.
All in all, a great season for the Potters, the response to issues of last season, especially given that we were unable to strengthen as much as we would have liked, is commendable. Last season we had one of the worse away records in the league, this season, until the Chelsea game we had the best away defence in the League – that is a phenomenal response, and whilst there are still playing style issues to be resolved, this mustn’t be overlooked. It seems the negatives from this season have come from issues within the playing staff, petulance, complacency and moles (sounds like a 3 piece band) Indeed as I’m sat here pretending to work, I read various articles where Pulis is laying into un named but obvious individuals about their attitudes this season. A lot of people, myself included, are often baffled by certain decisions and selections on a weekly basis, but reading the Manager’s words in the last few days, it seems that his hand may well have been forced with certain players just not willing to perform for the shirt.
It looks to be a very busy Summer for a lot of clubs but I sense that the Potters will be busier than most. There are a hell of a lot of players we need to cut loose, be they players from years gone by, squad fillers from last year that never worked out or newer arrivals who have fallen into the basket of ‘bad apples’, I remember Pulis saying with regards to transfers that he would shake the tree and see what dropped for us, hopefully he’ll inspect this years batch a bit more closely to ensure we don’t end up with more Beatties and Kitsons. I imagine we can let a lot of players go who are nowhere near the first team without having to panic to replace them, the likes of Davies, Amdy Faye, Sonko, Griffin, Dickinson, Tonge, Soares, Diao et al could all be moved on with little impact to the first team squad. What will be harder for the manager is moving on well publicised trouble makers and replacing them with the quality required to push us on, but I guess that’s where he will earn his wage.
The usual names are being banded around and the new rules coupled with the World Cup should make for an interesting pre-season, though don’t expect things to start happening until the last week when all the brinkmanship has finished – usually led by Redknapp. Positions Stoke will be looking to improve should be;
Right Winger in the Etherington mould
Winger to cover both sides
Target Man with goals
Longer term Fuller replacement
Will we get all of these? Probably not, because much of that list is the same from when we came up, possibly even before that, but that’s why we keep coming back for more, it’s like a TV Drama, the Transfer Deadline like 24, the intrigue akin to the scripts of Lost (could the Polar Bear play the Mama role?)
I’ll be writing throughout the Summer as the sheer boredom takes hold, I’ll watch the World Cup for sure but for me it doesn’t do anywhere near as much for me as watching my beloved Potters. I imagine there will be some cracking rumours to discuss, and anticipate a fair bit of mud slinging from players certain to exit so please keep checking back and commenting, I’ll need you all to keep me sane.
Once again, Congratulations to the Staff and Players of Stoke City for a magnificent season and continuing to make this Stokie’s dreams a reality.