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Stoke City v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 1st March 2013
By: Preview Percy

Next it’s up the M1 and whichever of the versions of the M6 you prefer to the Potteries where our hosts will be Stoke City. Kick-off is the traditional 3.00pm at the Britannia Stadium.

At the time of writing the Avram Grant Rest Home’s for the Bewildered’s resident trainspotter is shaking his head muttering something about “overhead line problems on the West Coast Main Line. While there’s a day to go before the match these things have a habit of taking time to sort out so don’t be surprised if your locomotive isn’t in the right place when you turn up at Euston tomorrow. Worse still they might have run out of supplies of Gentleman’s Relish in the Dining Car. Check before you leave as usual.

Our opponents sit in 10th spot with 33 points from 27 matches. They’ve picked up four points from their last six, courtesy of a home win against Reading (2-1) and a 2-2 home draw with Wigan. They lost the remaining four including away defeats at Fulham (1-0), Arsenal (1-0) and Swansea (3-1) and a home reverse to Chelsea (0-4).

They picked up two players in the winter window, though one of them seems to have gone missing in the post, or possibly he’s using the West Coast Main Line to get there. Keeper Jack Butland has been signed on a deal rising to a possible £3.5m but the 19 year-old will see out the season at St Andrews. All of which means that one of current first choice Begovic or Sorenson is likely to be seeking pastures new come the summer.

The other new boy was US international Brek Shea. Shea, whose name suggests one of those macho type actors who appears in one of those innumerable spin-off spy shows that Sky seems to fill its schedules with (NCIS Broadstairs cannot be far away), is something of an artist. Not with the ball as such but in a slightly more literal sense since he is a painter. Having had a look at his “Left Foot Studio” website his daubings aren’t exactly my cup of tea but if the football thing doesn’t work out the Avram Grant Rest Home for the Bewildered could do with a lick or two of paint. He’d have to bring his own ladders though. He’s made just the one sub appearance so far this season since his arrival.

Missing from their defence will be central defender Robert Huth. Huth is a perennial thug whose recent assault on Fulham’s Senderos has bought him a three match ban. Presumably the disciplinary authorities have mislaid the details of previous hearings involving, well I hesitate to use the word “player”. Had they looked close enough I’m sure that they will have seen the words “warned as to his future conduct”. Stoke decided not to appeal the ban for fear of activating the lengthier ban that Huth deserves. “He let himself down” remarked manager Pulis, presumably referring to Huth’s getting caught on camera rather than the assault itself.

Another one we won’t see will be Matt Upson. The ex-Hammer – and another victim of a cowardly Huth assault – is away at Brighton on loan to the end of the season whereupon his contract will be up, suggesting that he may already have played his last game for Stoke.

This will leave Ryan Shawcross as the senior partner in the centre of defence. Shawcross has the broken legs of at least two opponents on his record over his career, which, in the eyes of manager Pulis makes him suitable material for the club captain role. Clearly the concept of “role-model” is not one that has reached the Potteries then.

Up front, I’m wondering whether Jon Walters has been walking under any of Brek Shea’s ladders or whether it’s just the inclusion of the number 13 in the year. Walters (OG) (to give him his full name) scored twice for Chelsea in Stoke’s 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge and missed a penalty. He also missed against Fulham last weekend. Still Walters should cheer up – two goals at Chelsea is better than Torres usually manages. Walters was on target at the Boleyn earlier this season, though the goal owes more than an assist to the officials who managed to miss the Potters’ usual illegal tactics at set pieces. Strange that – I mean it’s not as if it should come as a surprise to match officials is it?

Ex-Hammer Matty Etherington is a doubt – a bad back is the word on the street. That’s a “bad back” rather than “backed something bad” as might have been the case in years gone by. Another doubt is Michael Owen – already a peripheral player in the Stoke set-up, he has a hip/thigh injury, presumably gained from poor posture when aiming a punch at Arsenal’s Arteta the other week. Didn’t take him long to get the hang of the Stoke way did it?

Us? I thought we were worth a point the other night – only the simian Bale and the usual lily-livered performance from Howard Webb in refusing to dismiss Dembele prevented that. We have a number of injury concerns to think about. Demel has a “knock” which translates as a tight hamstring but might be ok. Noble’s elbow continues to cause concern whilst whatever virus ails James Tomkins is still bugging him. Notably, Kevin Nolan has a broken toe, a result of the stamp from Dembele that ought to have seen a straight red on Monday night. On the brighter side, Linda has been back in training this week and, if fit, ought to be a better bet than Pogatetz on the left, where Lennon failed to do anything until the Austrian arrived.

There are two things we need to do here. Firstly (and this is something that I seem to write for every away game) we need to think about going forward occasionally. Nobody’s saying that we should go out all hell-for-leather and gung ho, but sitting back and waiting for stuff to happen doesn’t work. Ask Bradford.

The second thing we need to do is keep our composure. There is going to be a lot going on off the ball and reactions (such as, for example the understandable but costly kicking of Kebe at Reading last season) will need to be tempered. The non-appearance of Huth in this respect will be a plus but they still have a number of players capable of what the tv guys euphemistically refer to as “the dark arts” so cool heads required all round.

This is a tough place to get though there is a strange omen – I remember us getting a late winner up there in the second tier a few years back on the day that they elected the last Pope. Just as he resigns we play them away again. Coincidence? Or evidence, perhaps of some strange forces in the universe beyond the understanding of mere mortals. Coincidence, obviously. To believe anything else you’d have to be the sort of person who phones up those hilarious psychic tv channels that some of the old biddies here at the rest home love to watch (well Marjorie I’ve spoken with your late departed Albert and he warns you that you’re about to get a really large phone bill and he hasn’t left any money hidden for you to pay it).

Our away form is such that settling for a point at the moment would be an improvement so, with that in mind I’ll be placing the funds that we were going to bet on that Scottish cardinal to become the next pope (£2.50) on a 1-1 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met at the BritanniaLost 2-1 FA Cup March 2011) The performance of referee Mike Jones in this one was such a disgrace he ought to have been banned from football for life. Instead, as usual the FA punished Avram Grant for mentioning the fact. Meanwhile the dishonest Jones continues to ruin matches up and down the country.

Referee: Jon Moss. Culture Club drummer last seen handling our 2-1 defeat up at Wigan. Will need to be a darn sight more aware of his responsibilities than Webb was on Monday.

Danger Man:Jon Walters – top scorer and if you’re ever in the middle of a bad run we’re usually the ones to be playing.

Daft Fact Of The Week: Whilst looking for something vaguely interesting about the cultural vacuum that is Stoke On Trent I happened across the following rant from the “knowhere” website (Ed's note: Stoke fans please note that these views are not necessarily ours before you get all upset – we’re just reprinting them because, well they're funny!):

“ Where to start? Me and my girlfriend came to Stoke to study at Uni, and have spent nearly 2 years here. We are moving (finally!), as far away from this f***ing shithole as possible. 1st. The people. The majority of the people in Stoke are stupid, ignorant, illiterate, fat, sweaty, obnoxious mother f***ers. The rest are just the same but to a lesser degree. They have no get up and go, other wise they would have gotten their arses out of here a long time ago. They obsess over oatcakes (taste like shit), pottery (100 years ago, move on), football (both Stoke and Port Vale are fucking wank), Robbie (twat), and just how good they think the area is. Wake up!! No business in their right mind would move here, and they don't, the people are too fucking idle to get of their arses and work.

2nd. The area. Instead of Stoke being the city centre, it is actually Hanley. What the f***?!!! Stoke is home to some of the biggest slums in Europe, mainly Burslem (ghost town), Chell Heath (the Marines need to go in and just massacre everyone there. Every person in that place is a worthless piece of shit), etc, etc. I have never seen so little green anywhere before. When you drive back to Stoke from anywhere else, I swear that it actually gets greyer.

The Council. WORST COUNCIL IN THE U.K. (actually voted the worst council in the U.K). Absolutely f***ing useless. The people on the end of the phone struggle to put sentences together, the most unprofessional organization I have ever dealt with. Actually managed to charge us for two properties at the same time. Official letters were riddled with spelling mistakes, grammar f*** ups, etc. They struggle to even empty the bins properly, and they are one of, if not the only council in the whole of the U.K. not to recycle. The roads are in a f***ing terrible condition, half paved in some areas. They got a grant from the government, but instead of spending it actually doing the area up, they decided to erect shite sculptures everywhere. Idiots. It is no wonder businesses are leaving here faster than you can say, "f***ing Stokies".

Services. The bus station is a slum, a prime location for all of the inbred genetic retards to hang out in. Satuday night in Hanley is shit. It is O.K on a Monday, but that is because the majority of people up there on Monday are students (who are not from Stoke). Every other night, it consists of twats running around, trying to mate with the fat pigs around here they call women.

Conclusion. Do not move here. Do not visit. If you can drive around it, do. It may take a bit more time, but it'll be worth it. I would even consider erecting a fence, 12 foot or above, so that no one can get in, and more importantly, no Stokies can get out.

Clearly the Stoke On Trent head of tourism isn’t that happy in his work. NB There are replies on the “knowhere” website that were even funnier but 1000 words of semi-literate text speak were just too difficult to post even if we hadn’t been laughing uncontrollably at the time!

John NorthcuttStat man John: Northcutt's corner

Bossing It
Our former manager Lou Macari has also been the Stoke manager.

They Played For Both
John Carew; Henri Camara; Clive Clarke; Mattie Etherington; Abdoulaye Faye; Kevin Keen; Geoff Hurst; Lawrie Leslie; Nicky Morgan; Matthew Upson.

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.

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