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Sour grapes, of course, and without a drink to numb the pain

Filed: Monday, 14th March 2011
By: Paul Walker

You know whatís coming, you are going to be mugged, but you know thereís nothing you can do to stop it.

That is the feeling Iím sure many Irons fans had as they left - eventually - the Britannia stadium after Sundayís FA Cup failure.

Stoke tucked us up, mugged us and go to the semi-finals with their lovely brand of brutalised football, which no referee seems to have the courage to stop. Certainly not Mike Jones, who missed so much in our 2-1 quarter-final defeat he may well been standing next to Tony Pulis in the technical area, he certainly came on their team coach.

OK, Freddie Piquionne may have got away with a hand ball for our goal, but even after countless TV replays I still canít be sure what part of his chest shoulder, upper arm, first made contact with the ball.

But that was small fry compared to the organised skulduggery that passes for a football match in Stoke. I have no problem with Rory Delapís long throw, itís a perfectly legitimate ploy.

What stick in the throat is the constant fouling, holding, pulling, pushing, blocking, obstructing, grabbing etc that goes on while the ball is in the air.

This policy works in England. But as our old friend Martin Samuel (congrats on the award) wrote last week, we have a different set of rules to everyone else. Why has Pulisí theories not be taken up across Europe? Because referees in Spain, France, Italy, Germany etc do not allow the battering of goalkeepers in the six yard box or the fouls that go on unabated. It just doesnít happen anywhere but here.

And letís be clear. Stoke practice cheating on the training ground. The clever, subtle turn and run into Matthew Upson by Jon Walters to allow Robert Huth a free run to score their first, takes split second timing.

Yes, Manuel da Costa stupidly made sure he did not give away a corner, rather turning the ball out for a throw that set-up their first. What planet is he on, has he not been listening and watching.

But that doesnít absolve referees for allow the organised thuggery that goes on when Stoke attack a Delap throw.

Yes, we were pretty rubbish in that first-half, constantly hounded and caught in possession and some decision making defied description.

But why has nobody, not TV, mentioned the blatant foul that gave Stoke their second? Jones was clearly trying his best to give them a goal, first a non-penalty than a hand ball decision against Carlton Cole - just how often is that penalised?

But as Danny Higginbotham drove in the free-kick, Thomas Hitzlsperger was dragged out of his place in the wall and almost thrown to the ground by a Stoke player to create the gap. Of course Stoke practice such things.

Jones needs to look at his whole performance. You can only wonder what sort of ear-bashing he got from Pulis in the tunnel after the Piquionne goal.

And Iíd love to know the content of Jonesí giggling, whispering chat with Matty Etherington as the pair waited for the second-half to start. Fifteen seconds later, with Matty in a heap after not being touched by Scott Parker, we all had our own ideas.

And Jones was never going to give that blatant penalty when Walters rugby tackled James Tompkins to the floor in the box. As John Hartson said on the box, how that wasnít a penalty heíll never know.

Upson hit the bar, Thomas Sorensen saved brilliantly from Cole and Robbie Keane, and yes, as clear as night follows day, we were out. Itís not the first time Stoke have done this, itís rather funny when they mug Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool but not as funny when it happens to your team.

Their pitch is the narrowest in the league for obvious reasons and their ball boys need sacking or a lesson in fair play. How often did the ball bounced down the line past maybe two of the little mights skulking behind the advertising boards before one of them managed to get up and return the ball. It was so, so much quicker when it was a Stoke throw. Are the Potteries club teaching kids to cheat as well?

And then there was the Staffs police, a fine body of men who had in their number bobbies that couldnĎt even direct me back to the station properly.

And someone will have to explain to me what the point is of banning booze in the away end while the other three sides of the stadium - not full I might add - can drink all they want.

I couldnít get into the hotel at the station Iíve used often for a meal and a drink before or after the game, and the one pub on the stadium complex - that Harvester - meant a 30 minute wait in a queue to get in and then a 15 minute wait at the bar for a drink - me and my lad gave up.

Getting out of Stoke was equally challenging. We were kept in a holding pen for 20 minutes or so, helicopter hovering, to allow the Stoke fans to disperse - we were told - and then let out by the Bill into streets still full of home supporters.

Buses were there to take us back to the station, but not allowed by police to move until the away compound had been cleared of fans, coaches and mini-buses. So our lot just milled around outside getting into rows with the police.

Sounds like Iím brassed off doesnít it? To right I am. Football should be so much better than all this rubbish and cheating, shame is we are not able to rise above it all . Relegation fight now, anyone?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by andy fisher
08:14PM 17th Mar 2011
''What grated most was Matty taking a dive; he said in the Sun today that the ref wanted to even things up in the second half.

It's a joke, something was defo said at half time between Pulis and the ref, yet Grant gets pulled up by the FA for comments he said after the match!''

by Terry
08:58PM 16th Mar 2011
''Must admit that I'm a little dissapointed with Hammers fans for getting caught up in slating of Stoke.

No doubt that the referee obviously only lives about twenty miles away, but being slated for blocking and tugging in the box?! Every single Prem team does it every single game on every single corner, it's just unfortunate for you that two come off for Stoke last week.

Anyway, genuine good luck for the rest of the season, just don't go above us!''

by Mick Woods
10:16AM 16th Mar 2011
''Not a great match, a great West Ham performance or a great bit of refereeing either. At the end of the day they were a tad sharper and hungrier than us and Freddy's equaliser was, erm, let's just say a refereeing error in our favour. Oh yeah, we could've been luckier too but we weren't.

Looking on the bright side - at least we can concentrate on the league.''

by hammer head
05:38PM 15th Mar 2011
''I just love the so-called expert football pundits. Stoke this, Stoke that, glad they won. You could tell that all on ITV wanted Stoke to win, they hardly looked at the so-called hand ball. They had already made their minds up that it was.

I still think that you cannot tell even now. Yet as you say it takes great timing to block someone off or pull them out of the way, something you must have to train to do. But that did not seem to matter to 'the pundits'.

Yeah, great team that Stoke...''

by Tugboat
11:45AM 15th Mar 2011
''Spot on.''

by Keith James Holland
11:33AM 15th Mar 2011
''Btutalised Football is a very accurate description and I'm sure it is well practised. Most disappointing feature is that Matt Etherington has been immersed in their cheating.''

by PC
07:56PM 14th Mar 2011
''I'm glad I was not the only one who thought the ref was totally inept! It's not sour grapes because I do not think we did enough to win the game but nor did Stoke - I would not pay to watch that dross every week, no wonder they cannot fill their ground.

He missed the foul on Upson for the first goal, three harsh bookings in the first half - I am amazed he didn't send someone off later, he was so poor. The penalty that wasn't that he gave and the penalty that was which he gave a free kick the other way, absolutely mind-numbingly stupid!

Our goal was handball, the goal they scored was not a free kick and should have been a free kick the other way for the foul on Hitz. The bully-boy tactics remind me of Bolton before they discovered it is better to play football. A long day out never mind the cost ruined by an official not fit for purpose, I dont mind losing to Stoke but I object to losing to the referee!''

by JD
03:16PM 14th Mar 2011
''When speaking to other football supporters about teams like Stoke I try to defend the way they play as much as I can as they obviously don't have the resources of the bigger teams and they do what they do to as a means to an end - i.e. staying in the Premier League without spending too much money, and to be fair Stoke do what they do far better than anybody else. That said, I'm glad I don't support a team who plays like that...

What inspired me to respond to your post more than anything else was your point about generally practising cheating on the training pitch. I watched the TV replays at the time and I thought exactly the same, there is no way that they could have executed that blocking off move on Upson for their first goal without having practised it beforehand, and the way their player dragged Hitzlsperger away at the free-kick for their second goal was also obviously well rehearsed. And this is where I think Stoke should take a real good look at themselves. It's one thing making the most of what you've got, it's another thing entirely actually practising cheating as a way of gaining an advantage.

One final thing, the way Matty took a dive to get the penalty sickened me. He's always received a good reception from us West Ham supporters, but he's now at a level occupied by the likes of Defoe and Ince as far as I'm concerned. ''

by Colin Elliott
02:51PM 14th Mar 2011
''Well stated. How you can call true supporters of your team when they immediately boo the oppostion as soon as the kick off and continue thru outīthe match? Shawcross for England..? What a liability he would be in any national team.

Glad to see Avram quite rightly left out Ba as I dread to think what he would have been subjected to by the 'class' players from SCFC. Still we only have ourselves to blame for that first goal. How can you leave players like Huth on their own without a challenge...still we could get our satisfaction if both Stoke and Bīham get relegated. Fat chance for both but we could some luck that we deserve.''

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