Text  Larger | Smaller | Default

Stoke City Preview

Filed: Thursday, 15th October 2009
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy takes a look at Saturday's match.....

Next it’s a trip up the M1 and M6 (or, if you’re feeling flush the M6 (Toll)) to the Britannia Stadium for a 3pm Saturday kick-off of the type that we seem to be forbidden to have at home.

Our opponents this week currently lie in 11th place with 9 points from 8 games played. At home their form has been mixed with their initial two wins against Burnley and Sunderland being followed by defeats to Chelsea and Man Utd, the Chelsea defeat coming right at the death in the fifth minute of stoppage time when it seemed that they might have held on for a point. Away from home Stoke are a bit of a statistical oddity. There have been few draws in the Premiership this season but Stoke have figured in three of them, at Birmingham, Bolton and Everton, their one away defeat so far being a 4-0 thrashing at Anfield.

It’s fair to say that the Potters won few friends with their “style” of play last season. The “hit it long and try to win a throw-in” tactic was successful enough to see them reach 12th place with 45 points but, on a list of things I like to watch it’s right down there with the Jeremy Kyle Show, Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor.

During the transfer window they were reasonably active. They plundered relegated Boro’ for Tuncay and Robert Huth and spent some time being linked with Dean Ashton, though whatever it was that someone had spiked their oatcakes with had worn off by the time somebody looked at the medical reports. They were also linked with a move for James Collins before Ginge departed for Villa. Based on the logic that one Collins is pretty much like another they plumped instead for Sunderland’s Danny, Rumours that a bid for Phil out of Genesis is to be made are unconfirmed, though “In The Air Tonight” would obviously compliment their playing style perfectly.

Also in from the Mackems came midfielder Dean Whitehead whilst slightly more exotic climes were visited to obtain the Uruguayan Arismendi, who arrived from Club Nacional for a fee in the region of £2m.

Strangely, Tuncay, in my opinion the best of their window signings, hasn’t made much of an impact as yet at the Britannia. That he has failed to feature much to date has been blamed on his frequent absences on international duty, which have been considered to have had a detrimental effect on his bedding-in.

They did have others away on international duty during the break. Whilst the last of Arsemendi’s caps for Uruguay came last year, Liam Lawrence and Glenn Whelan both featured in the Republic of Ireland side that came close to beating the Italians at Croke Park in midweek, Whelan netting the Irish opener with a curler from distance. Whelan picked up a calf injury in the Italian match and played no part in the 0-0 draw with Montenegro, though the injury is believed to be minor and he should be available for selection at the weekend.

The Potters’ top scorer this season so far is Dave Kitson, who makes up for the failure to sign James Collins on the ginger front. Kitson appeared to be unhappy at the Britannia a while back. Having arrived for a club-record £5.5m he failed to score in 18 appearances and was sent back to Reading on loan where he managed 2 in 12. Kitson was later quoted as describing his move to Stoke as having been a “bad decision” and muttering that “sometimes you go into training and wonder what you are doing there”. In the absence of a major rush from anywhere else to claim his services, he seems to have knuckled down a bit now and made “a new start”. He is also one of many professional footballers to have succumbed to that strange tightness in the wallet that professional footballers get after a few beers when it’s time to get a cab home and he finished an 18 month ban for drink driving during the summer.

Another player with an interesting past is, of course, Matty Etherington. Etherington managed to get himself sent-off early in his Stoke career for having a kick out at Danny Collins, his current team-mate. So far they have managed to avoid coming to blows in the manner of Ricardo Fuller and Andy Griffin’s famous contretemps at the Boleyn the other year. Etherington of course has had a few problems with gambling and has been a visitor to Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance clinic in the past. At the time of his departure he owed the club a reputed six-figure sum and I expect his transfer fee included some sort of adjustment to recoup that. During his time at the Boleyn, Matty gained a bit of a reputation for disappearing rather too quickly in matches if given an early kicking – indeed Lucas Neill tested out the theory in the corresponding fixture last season. If the theory is to be tested again look out for an early welcome present from Mark Noble this time round.

Up front they have been going with Fuller and Beattie to start with. Fuller has had injury problems this season but returned for the draw at Everton and is expected to be fit to start this weekend. Fuller’s aforementioned spat with Griffin seems long forgotten, though it remains one of the funniest things ever seen at the Boleyn.

As for us well we need to start sorting stuff out pretty darn quick. The international break went well with Robert Green managing to cleverly avoid injury by sitting out three quarters of England’s final two qualifiers. Upson went one better by resting with his feet up watching Rio have a mixed few days. Even Carlton Cole managed to avoid anything more serious than a sweaty shirt, which makes a pleasant change. We also have some returnees to the squad. Jack Collison is listed as available following a calf injury as is Danny Gabbidon following a similar knock. Physioroom also suggests that Kieron Dyer’s hamstring should have recovered for him to play some part in the proceedings. Me? I’ll believe it when I see it. And as for Franco your guess is as good as mine.

The Fulham match was the classic game of two halves and, in retrospect, the sending-off was probably the worst thing that could have happened. Too many looked like they thought the game was won at half-time and once you get into that state of mind it’s difficult to turn things round – as we found out nearly to our cost. There have already been too many silly defensive slips and, though Upson was more sinned against than sinning for the penalty, he will probably admit that he has not been at his best this season and I’m already concerned that Ginge’s departure could ultimately prove costly over the course of the season.

Last season Upson and Tomkins coped admirably with the towel-assisted aerial onslaught from Delap but neither have been at their best to date and, with Green not exactly on top form at present I am a wee bit nervous that a lack of confidence at the back might prove telling at set-pieces. On the bright side we’ve looked good at set pieces ourselves this season – most of our goals so far have come either directly or indirectly from set plays and, in Diamanti, we have someone who at least looks capable of causing problems from free-kicks.

Our problem has been more in general play where, for all the passing, we don’t look like breaking sides down. There was a lack of intelligence about the way we played into Fulham’s hands last week – with all the extra space on the left we insisted on playing the ball down the right time and time again whilst Hines, and later Stanislas stood totally unmarked in space. I for one would rather not have to rely on free-kicks and corners for our goals. Next thing you know we’ll be looking for a long throw specialist as our main tactic – and I believe the Premiership has one team like that already.

If heads have been banged together behind the scenes the players should be raring to put things right but I fear that the international break may have robbed Zola & Clarke of the opportunity to work on a few things. I can see this one being a bit dull overall and, unless we score early on I don’t see us testing them much. I rarely predict such a scoreline but for once I feel justified in plumping for 0-0 and the final spot yet again on Match Of The Day.

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: Won 1-0 Tristan amazed everyone by planting a free-kick into the top corner rather than, as was his usual practice, into the crowd. Lucas Neill provided light relief for the crowd by scrapping with a ball-boy for Delap’s towel.

Referee: Martin Atkinson – last seen turning down ridiculous penalty appeals from the brain-donors at White Hart Lane in last April’s 1-0 defeat.

Look out for: A free table at the Harvester. The only drinkery for miles around understandably gets quite busy and you’ll need to get there early if you want to grab yourself something to eat (though doing so is recommended as you then get your drinks brought to you rather than having to brave the six-deep scrum at the bar!).

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

comments powered by Disqus