Stoke and Blackpool Legend…
The crowd were treated to footage of the great man and many were left with a tear in their eye as they reflected on their own personal memories of arguably the best player the footballing world has ever seen. I was never fortunate enough to see Sir Stan play, in fact my memories of him are few save for enjoying videos of the Matthews Final and fleeting Stoke centred media appearances over the early years of my support. Being an exile, it is always hard to stay as immersed as I would like in all things Stoke and having missed his funeral procession I was always grateful to be able to pay my own respects to the ‘wizard of the dribble’. It was at the Auto Windscreens Final at Wembley in 2000 where the fans were given permission to sing ‘Abide with Me’, a song synonymous with the English game reserved normally for the FA Cup Final, where I managed to say my own goodbyes and it’s one of those footballing moments that will always stay with me.
Onto the game, it was one many were expecting a result from, and I think that was half the problem as the complacency could be sensed from the pitch to the stands. Blackpool started at a high tempo, their brand of football is particularly pleasing to the eye and they showed another side here as they utilised the long pass to great effect, if only we had a Charlie Adam to ping the ball into those channels for us! Not many of our players came out well in what ended up as disappointing afternoon for the Potters faithful, despite reports of hitting the target 16 times, it never really felt like we were in danger of actually scoring. It’s so frustrating, when I saw the team line-up I was ecstatic that we were able to name our most successful XI this season but the performances of the players against the likes of Liverpool and Man City were a far cry from those against the less glamorous Tangerine Army on the day and alas we left with nothing other than a chorus of boos from the Boothen End.
The talking points are as follows;
Team Selection/Set-up – As I’ve said above, most Stokies were thrilled with what has proven to be our best starting line-up this season and hopes were high that we would see a more settled performance than the one at the DW only a week earlier. Whilst we started with a relatively high tempo we failed to really get in behind Blackpool and having not scored after the first 20 minutes or so the team seemed to lose its urgency and enthusiasm as Blackpool then started to take control of the proceedings. There were just too many players who had a bad game and when 2 or 3 don’t turn up the team as a whole really struggles, it seemed it was more like 8 or 9 on Saturday.
Collins – Needs to be dropped. Danny has had too many bad games of late and for some reason always seems to be directly involved with us conceding goals and Saturday was no different. I lost count of the number of times he was sucked up field leaving a gaping hole at the back only to amble back to sit 5 yards deeper than the last man playing everyone onside. This is exactly what happened for the goal and once again his lack of a right foot meant he tried to intercept on the wrong side with his left which much like last week would only have one outcome. I thought Danny did OK in the first few weeks of the season but I have truly seen enough now to not want to see him in a Stoke shirt at full back again, and that is no exaggeration. We have to buy/loan a left back in January as whilst Higgy is preferable in that spot for now, he isn’t the long term answer there either.
Whitehead/Delap – It was a shock to see the two that ran the show against Liverpool’s midfield be so outclassed by the lesser lights of Blackpool’s. There have been many discussions this season of Delap and Whitehead’s inability to pass and they were well and truly shown up against Adam and Vaughan which made me think that whilst the two of them do a good job, we really could improve on them in January. It could be that we already have the answer in the shape of Wilson/Arismendi? That may be the case longer term, but certainly not for this season based on what I have seen of Marc and heard of Diego from Barnsley fans. To be fair to Rory though, I think he has been the best player in the middle this season and he may well have been carrying a knock as he didn’t seem comfortable right from the start, but injuries will now start to become more and more of an occurrence for the aging human sling.
Kenwyne Jones – Kenwyne infuriated me on Saturday, he has had a ‘slow’ few weeks now and sure enough once he had huffed and puffed for 20 minutes or so with little success he seemed to stop trying altogether. When he is on form he is unplayable, he will run for every ball, challenge for any header launched in his general direction and generally be a nuisance. Not so on Saturday as he refused to even jump for half the balls aimed towards him ,he was never on his toes looking to get to the ball, he just stands flat footed waiting for it to come to him then feels the slightest contact and attempts to play for the foul which he invariably fails to get. I was more than happy to see Walters come on and bring some urgency to that position, you could see that the impact of Blackpool’s midfield was lessened after this change as it looked to be KJ’s job to attempt to nullify that threat, he did no such thing. Kenwyne needs a rocket up his backside and I hope he gets it from the Manager, if we weren’t playing Arsenal on Saturday I would say drop him for the next match but I think his height, if not his attitude, could be of benefit to us against the aerially suspect Arsenal back line.
So onto the Arsenal game….
I just hope that we get a strong referee who won’t be swayed by the baying myopic hypocrites from North London, no doubt Wenger will make reference to how ‘physical’ Stoke are in the run up, despite his team remaining bottom of the fair play league. In addition to the referee, I also hope that Ryan Shawcross handles the occasion well as he will no doubt be targeted by all and sundry for his role in the 50/50 that broke Ramsay’s leg, I’d like to think he will be fine but it was clear to see how the incident affected him in the aftermath so we’ll have to see how he handles himself on the day.
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