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Stoke City v West Ham United

Filed: Saturday, 14th May 2016
By: Preview Percy

And so we make our last visit of the season to the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered where your host will be Preview Percy. In the absence of our getting anyone good to write for us, he'll be back next season, no doubt with a new work experience kid in tow, so make the most of the break. We intend to......

And so the season comes to its inevitable close. After 11 or so months that saw us visit Andorra, Malta and Romania we find ourselves in the Potteries where we will be hosted by Stoke City. On the whole I preferred Malta. Kick-off this Sunday is at 3:00pm, which is, I suppose, halfway to being good and proper.

Trains and boats and planes look ok but you know the rules: check before you leave in exactly the same way as Man Utd didn’t.

Ok Stoke then. I think mid-table mediocrity is the phrase that leaps to mind. 10th place with 48 points from the 37 matches played so far. If they win they could go all the way up to 9th. If they lose they could drop all the way down to, er, 11th. Last outing saw them go down 2-1 to Palace in (spit) Croydon despite taking the lead on the half hour through Adam.

The work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles tells me that their failure to convert that lead into a win means that they have now gone six without a win, picking up only the two points in the process through home draws with Swansea (2-2) and Sunderland (1-1). In between those two draws they did have a nasty little spell where they conceded 4 goals in 3 consecutive games against Liverpool (a) Spurs (h) and Man City (a) with only Bojan’s goal against the scousers adding to the “goals for” column in that period. So, in short, the end of their season is vaguely reminiscent of the way ours ended last season.

In goal England custodian Jack Butland was probably looking forward to a trip to France. However, in winning his fourth cap in Berlin against the Germans he fractured an ankle which brought his season to an end. A bit of a shame really as he was having a fine season and was looking to establish himself as a credible alternative to Joe Hart should the dandruff problem keep him out. Boss Hughes had been dithering between Given and Haugaard between the posts but a groin injury for the Irishman will probably see the Dane given the nod.

The work experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles tells me that they made just the one signing in the winter window, that being the arrival of Frenchman Gianelli Imbula. Born in Belgium Imbula has been capped at age level by France, where he grew up. However the defensive midfielder has indicated that he would, on the whole, rather be Belgian after all and the paperwork is in with FIFA to effect the change. He also qualifies for the Congo through his parents but it doesn’t look too much like he’s interested in turning out for them. Presumably he is not too fond of the local soft drink.

Top scorer is Austrian Marko Arnautovic. This has been by far and away the best of his three seasons in a Stoke shirt. He has hit double figures in the league for the first time since his arrival from Werder Bremen. Eleven of his twelve this season have come in the league, which is in sharp contrast to last season, when he notched just the once in the league in 29 matches.

They had another injury blow in midweek as the aptly-named Irishman Stephen Ireland was ruled out for this and much of the following season with a double leg fracture. Ouch. He wouldn’t have been going to the Euros anyway having long since burned his bridges with the hierarchy in Dublin. Having naused off Brian Kerr as a kid he found himself out in the cold when Kerr took over the full side, Kerr confirming that the player wouldn’t be selected whilst he was manager. Ireland then gained notoriety by taking compassionate leave for the death of his grandmonret. No not her, the other one. Who grandad married after his divorce. Since then, despite the odd dropping of hints here and there, Ireland has not represented his country,
Readers with any sort of sense of justice might like to skip the next few words: Ryan Shawcross has an England Cap. Mark Noble hasn’t. Just saying.

Us? Well that was quite a night wasn’t it? I’m not going to dwell too much on the events that took place outside save to say that both Liverpool and Man Utd supporters have behaved in the same manner to coaches carrying visiting teams this season. For some reason you won’t have read a dicky-bird about that in your papers. The Sun, the paper written by the hard of thinking for the hard of thinking, had the banner headline “Carnage”. Shouldn’t be too surprised I suppose – the newspaper that readily spread lies over Hillsborough seems to have some sort of vendetta against football supporters. It’s almost as if we are a substitute for ethnic minorities for them. Meanwhile I refuse to be lectured on behaviour by group of people who hacked into a murdered teenager’s mobile phone.

That thug Souness was also quick to sling his tuppence -worth in. “Won’t somebody think of the players” he wailed, oblivious to the irony of those comments coming from someone whose game was based on the deliberate injuring of opponents (check out his tackle on a Steua Bucharest player that was little more than an attempted vasectomy).

The match itself was pretty much everything one might have wanted for a final night at the old place. Reid seems to be collecting winning goals against clubs hated by the rest of football – Spurs must surely be next on his list. All in all a superb game of football in which, despite the second half wobble, had the right result in the end.

The post-match show has garnered criticism in some quarters for being, well, just a bit naff. Nonsense! Frankly, I’d have hated it had it been some super slick production with laser beams and the Queen (gawd bless ‘er) jumping out of a plane. That worked in what will be our new home because it was aimed at a worldwide audience. This, however, was just for us and it was sort of fitting that nothing quite worked as it ought to have done – sort of a reflection in a way of the club’s history to date. It was particularly poignant to those of us of a certain age to hear the public address system cutting out so regularly – it was almost as if someone had read last week’s tribute in these pages to Bill Remfry! If we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered have one gripe it would be that we’d have appreciated maybe a glimpse of Dame Vera instead of the Cockney Rejects. She does a mean version of “Bubbles” I am reliably informed

Injury news is that we will be without Adrian once more. Randolph will deputise again. Other than Jenkinson and unlike most referees we will have a full deck to play with. With decent money and a Thursday Night League place up for grabs I wouldn’t expect to see too much in the way of personnel changes from the other night.

So this boils down to whether Tuesday night has drained us overly against whether or not they can be bothered to try and shift up one spot. Overall I reckon we’ll have just a bit too much for them so I’ll make my last hobble down the road of the season to Winstones The Turf Accountants to place the £2.50 I was going to contribute to the Manchester United Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome fund on an away win. 2-1 to us ought to settle it I reckon.

Enjoy the game and whatever you do this summer. If you like.

When last we met at the Britannia Stadium: Won 2-2 (November 2014) . 1-0 down at half time to a goal scored by Victor Moses of all people. 2-0 down shortly after the interval to Diouf. Valencia and Downing restored parity by the end. It was windy. What else do you want to know?

Referee: Michael Jones. His performance in the same fixture in the FA Cup a few years ago was an absolute disgrace and, in any other walk of life he would have been sacked and probably prosecuted. Instead Avram Grant got fined for saying what everyone knew as the FA and refereeing authorities showed exactly what utter contempt they have for the game.

Danger Man: Marko Arnautovic Top scorer and will be off to the Euros in the summer with Austria.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter Of The Week: Slash. Not actually born in Stoke (it was Hampstead despite what you might read) he did spend his early years in the Potteries. He is not as good a guitarist as he and his fans like to make out and that hat he wears is stupid.

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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