'A Good Going Rover' with Vital Stoke
First off, let me say that I am back. I have struck down with a mystery illness for the last 10 days so have been very limited in terms of what I can do (yes even more so!).
For those of you that missed me don't fret and for those of you that didn't you are not going to get rid of me that easily I am afraid ;)
Anyway... prior to the big game today I had a little exchange of questions and answers to see what goes on in the mind of a Stoke fan, think of it as a social experiment if you will.
Seven questions were asked and I am pleased to say the same number of intelligent answers were returned -
1) Stoke were famously included in Danny Murphy's famous tirade a few months back which included Rovers as well, did the criticism register over in the Potteries? And on what level?
My personal opinion on Danny Murphy and his five minutes of fame mainly consists of me calling him an utter prune. As for the rest of the Potteries, they more or less think the same. The public criticism didn`t go down well with Potter`s fans, especially as we fully well know that our style of play is not a dirty one. Yes we can be physical, especially seen as we are the tallest squad in the league, but we offer so much more. We are ever growing and ever developing our quality and we as Stoke fans are pleased with what we are seeing. Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant are great examples of our continuing ambitions.
I`m sure you`ll agree that what he had to say was total nonsense and I`ll explain why. Apparently, according to Danny, Stoke, Blackburn and Wolves managers alike send their teams out fired up with 'win at all costs` tactics which are bound to cause problems. Well I say how on earth can he comment on what managers do behind the scenes if he hasn`t even experienced their management styles for himself? He`s never been managed by Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce or Mick McCarthy, so how can he back that statement up? Point is he can`t, so that clearly says to me that he was clutching at straws when he went public with that. Pulis and our players would certainly not go out with the mindset to injure others! We work hard and have an honest bunch of lads.
If I remember rightly, he also commented that it never used to be like 'this`. Well que the big wrong answer buzzer from Family Fortunes. If he studied is history correctly, the likes of Mike Pejic would spring to mind as a hugely dirty player. The former Stoke, Everton and Aston Villa left back played between 1968 and 1980. He memorably (to my Grandad) committed to suicide tackles that would rip the leg off a work bench. Eddie Clamp was also a dirty player. The right back played for Wolves, Arsenal, Stoke, Peterborough and Worcester between 1953 and 1967, and during that time was nicknamed 'The Chopper`. He`d sweep players off their feet, get up and say "I never touched him ref". Back then, tackles were crippling, which makes today`s football injuries look like playground bruises.
He can hardly talk anyway because he can be a physical player himself. He certainly isn`t afraid of going in for the tackle, so how can he comment on being too physical? He can play just as hard when he wants to.
All in all, after that long rant, he made unnecessary comments that riled everyone involved, especially the League Managers Association.
2) What constitutes a good season at Stoke City nowadays?
We`re improving gradually and we will continue to do so the longer we stay in this league. Tony Pulis has done a wonderful job getting us up and keeping us up with respectable positions. We are starting to believe that we are established in this league but obviously we don`t want to get carried away. Pulis has always said that after three years in the league, we will be established so I`m going to agree with that.
So, I reckon a mid-table finish would be a great season for us. I'd like to aim for anywhere that's at least one above last year's finish of 11th. If we can do that then yet again we will have improved by one place.
3) January could prove a pivotal month for a lot of Premier League teams, what do Stoke need to do during the window to improve?
We need a winger. So, we need Jermaine Pennant to become permanent that`s for sure. He has proved to be a pivotal player since joining on loan from Real Zaragoza, and rumors have it that he is very keen to stay with us. We are so close to signing him, but negotiations are ongoing.
An all-round player such as Jamie O'Hara would be a great addition to our squad. O'Hara was outstanding for Portsmouth while he was on loan there, achieving their Player of the Year award as he played in defence, midfield and even up front, before returning to Tottenham when Pompey were relegated. Games are what he needs, especially as he wants to play for Republic of Ireland, and we would certainly give him games.
But whoever Tony sees fit to bring in is fine by me. I have faith in him as a manager and I trust his judgment when it comes to transfers.
4) What have you made of one time Rovers target Tuncay? He seems to divide opinion a bit?
He has, especially with his strops. He has occasionally naffed off home to watch the game on sky, after discovering he wasn`t picked for it. In my opinion, doing something like that is disrespectful to the manager and to team mates. End of the day, the club pay his wages so he should be expected to follow and stick with the team wherever they go.
That said, he is a work horse. He is more than prepared to put in 110 percent for every game; chasing down the opponent, sliding in to win possession, and moving forward to spark off an attack. He also has a brilliant eye for goal, with usually accurate shooting. On his day, he can be a handful, but on an off day, he`s a headless chicken (ed - no chicken jokes please, thank you :)).
Really, I think there are more fans that like his contribution to the team than don`t. I like him, and I think if he is able to have the run of games, his form and performances will be top quality.
5) Always a good one this... Can you make a team of Rovers and Stoke players using a maximum of 7 from one side?
Difficult question I must say because both teams have great players, with individual qualities. But, here goes:
Thomas Sorensen, Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Martin Olsson, Jermaine Pennant, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Dean Whitehead, Mathew Etherington, Ricardo Fuller, Kenwyne Jones. (ed again - I said a maximum of 7 from one side you big biased cheat!)
Slightly bias there but: Pedersen would be a good replacement for Delap, who some say is a bit long in the tooth now. Not only has he got a long throw but he can create a spark of magic with his feet. And Olsson would be a great youngster that our club could benefit from. We don`t have much youth in our first team, apart from Andy Wilkinson and the odd appearance of Marc Wilson, so he could offer quick legs against the pace of wingers.
6) Anyone from Rovers that you have admired from a far?
Morten Gamst Pedersen. I think his ability on the ball is brilliant and I think he could bring that little extra to our squad if we had him. He could easily slot into Delap`s role in the squad, but be apart of more passing and more attacking build ups.
Delap has received criticism about his slight lack of pace and his ever growing age, but personally I think he still has a part to play for us, and not just because of his throws! He`s been a great player for us and will be a hard one to replace. But if we were to replace him, Pedersen would be my target.
7) Finally, its prediction time...
It`ll be tough and a hard one to call. We are both similar in style, passion and perhaps quality so two great teams certainly will battle it out on Boxing Day.
I`ll sit on the fence and go for a 1-1 draw. Maybe Fuller will head it in from a Delap throw to put us in front, but Blackburn could come back to equalize through… ah go for it… Pedersen
Here`s to a good game!