Stoke Preview: Back to the 70s. And 80s, 90s, 00s

Stoke City fans repeatedly turn up here and tell me I need to ‘get over’ my dislike of their club. Betraying their age, the root cause is deemed to be Ryan Shawcross. I detest the defender, of course, and yes, I bear a grudge for the disgusting tackle. I also dislike the way he hawked himself around the international scene but that behaviour leaves me uncomfortable across all sports. But football wasn’t invented in 1992 when Sky burst onto the scene; my feelings about Stoke have been around for nearly half-a-century.

Back in the 1970s, we were told that Daz got your “white’s whiter”, to try to snaffle market share from Fairy, Persil and Omo, among others. Not in Stoke it didn’t. Maybe it was the red stripes which stopped the whites getting whiter but my mind’s eye tells me not of Jimmy Greenhoff, John Ritchie or George Eastman. No, it was Terry Conroy; it’s always Terry Conroy. I think the image comes from 1971’s League Cup final; flame-haired, socks heading toward his ankle in Nora Batty wrinkles. His mouth is in mid-cry, capturing his frustration in that moment.

But it’s the top. Sweat and rain-drenched,  his shirt has a grey tinge or maybe the red stripes ran in the wash. At the time, it was one of – no, the – most horrifying image this then-young mind had seen. The bogeyman incarnate. Just as future generations had the Candyman or Freddie Kruger, I had Terry Conroy. Or Terry ‘Bloody’ Conroy as he would come to be known.

One Tear

That initial base has been built on down the years. Red and white stripes don’t seem right to me when paired with white shorts. It’s a bit like us using white shorts with yellow tops; the Establishment club was too penny-pinching to buy matching shorts for trips to Roker Park, The Dell and Bramall Lane. Quite why Stoke City’s colour combination brings such distaste, I’m not sure. After all, it’s been around a long time; 1883 if my research is correct, twenty years after the club was initially formed. There’s a bit of history which outweighs my personal feelings, some might rightly argue.

Then there’s 1985. One of the worst top-flight team’s in history, Stoke were relegated with what was at the time, the lowest points total in modern football. They won three games all season: Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United and yes, Arsenal. It’s match indelibly stained in my mind, seared into my psyche. 2 – 0 to a diabolical side. This was a Stoke side which in a run of thirteen games, lost twelve and won one. We went into that game fourth; eight points behind Everton and Spurs at the top, four behind United. And lost.

But I was happy, I suppose, when they disappeared from view for twenty-odd years. I didn’t even mind them returning in 2008 but since 2010, this has been a massive pain in the arse fixture. In this decade, eight visits to Stoke yielded just one victory and three draws. That leaves three defeats plus an embarrassing FA Cup exit. I suspect that we only have a worse record at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. And the nauseating crowing which follows just rubs salt into wound.

The Impossible Idea

I can rationalise that though; I despise our spinelessness in this fixture. We’re weak and given the turnover of players, that stems predominantly from the manager’s psyche. He hates Stoke. Disgustingly abused at Stoke station, wasn’t this the one where he went base over apex with a case? A moment Sky caught in its full glory.

There is no reason for Stoke to be a problem fixture; there never has been. We dealt with Hughes at ‘Blackeye Rovers’ and Bolton, despite their reputation, didn’t take many points off us. Stoke? That’s a different matter. They’ve got under Wenger’s skin and know which buttons to press, elbows to throw and boots to leave in. I’d expect Charlie Adam to appear today, just to make sure he has his full quota of red meat although ours may prove a little off-grey; it’s still fresh though. He’s the football equivalent of Mr Burns unleashing the hounds and we’re the ones who get caught.

Anyway, we’ve got through today without discussing the manager’s future. Instead, once he has finished hoisting the white flag, Ivan is heading off to the MLS so Arsène gets to choose a new boss once again.

Today’s Team

I’d expect the starting line-up to be more in line with the one which finished at St Mary’s as well as resembling jellyfish:

Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Holding; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal; Özil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Personally, I’d say there’s a strong argument for Giroud starting, shuffling Alexis off to the right and Welbeck on the left. It’s an away game and I don’t have high expectations of a strong performance from Mesut in this game. I doubt that will happen though.

Win today and the Great Escape is on. You get the feeling that we’ve run out of games though. West Ham pulled their rabbit out of the hat in beating Spurs, while Middlesbrough won’t do anything other than fold at Anfield; Liverpool will get their six points, no doubt. Three points will no doubt prove our great mental strength and character. Or they will in the manager’s mind anyway.

Finally, there’s a review of Paul Weller’s A Kind Revolution at Dad’s Jukebox, with a playlist of the deluxe edition.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


112 thoughts on “Stoke Preview: Back to the 70s. And 80s, 90s, 00s

  1. I am nearly 100% confident we will win the last 2 games and finish with 75 points. The success of our season depends on whether or not Liverpool drops any points in the next 2 games.

  2. Bill,

    Don’t agree there. Perez or Welbeck could have easily got two AND helped the team around the park. In fact, god knows how many Perez would have got against a pissweak Stoke side.

  3. Th success of our season is not measured by whether we finish fourth or fifth.

    See how we have fallen, how low our expectations are?

  4. The game completely passed Giroud by in the first half, even the Stoke defenders left him alone as he offered no threat whatsoever until his 42nd minute tap in.

    It was much the same in the second half, entirely ineffective until the Stoke players were exhausted after chasing the ball for 80 minutes, when he was gifted a second goal. That genius of a tactician, Wenger, obviously sees something in Giroud that nobody else can otherwise he would have hooked him off much earlier.

  5. consolsbob,

    In past seasons top four was an expectation, in this current season it quickly became a hope and is now only a wish based on Liverpool dropping points in their two remaining games.

    The fact that we are at this moment eighteen points behind the League winners is further indication of how far off the pace we have been all season.

  6. consolsbob,

    It’s only a corporate prize. I for one have lost interest in the UCL participation as it the pattern is simply repeated with no chance of competing to win the thing anymore. We’re just making up the numbers

    I don’t particularly care if we get the money for qualifying. It won’t be invested in a proper striker and Stan will draw some of down as a “consultancy fee”. How they’ve conned the fans into thinking that it’s success on the pitch when it’s just them bumping the club for cash astonishes me

  7. Gee, isn’t this an exiting end to the season!

    We are biting our nails to see if we we fail in a financially acceptable fashion so we can do our usual in the UCL or fail in a slightly less financially acceptable fashion so we can embarrass ourselves in another European competition.

    I’m absolutely spellbound.

    Nicky is sooooooo right, let’s all forget the complete shit we’ve been fed by OGL for the last several years and get all excited for a few games.

    Yes, and I have fig tree growing out my arse

  8. I think the last few posts just about sum up the current state of affairs very nicely.

    We’ve managed it, after all these years of debate and argument.

    You can pack it in now, YW, your job is done here!

  9. MikeSA,

    Aw c’mon Mike, enjoy the moment. A three match winning streak, a leap up the the table from seventh to the giddy height of fifth leaving the shattered corpses of Somnolent Southampton, Uninterested United and Sorry Stoke in our wake. Enough excitement there to bring the AKBs back to life.

    Surely that will get the fig tree flowering. 😀

  10. consolsbob,

    Cheer up Bob, you and I have been around long enough to have seen worse Arsenal teams than the current version. All things, both good and bad, eventually come to and end and the Wenger dictatorship will be no different.

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