Stoke 3 SAFC 2 Observed: blemishes on the beautiful game

Mark Eltringham, our Stoke City previewer, is indignant. Why, he thunders, didn’t we mention Lee Cattermole’s great escape at the Stadium of Light? We did, Mark; see “Sorry Stoke, for once we carried the luck“. Salut! Sunderland is an honest sort of site. And Pete Sixsmitb gave another burst of honesty when The Observer asked for his thoughts on yesterday’s match. First, though, the verdict from another Stoke fan …

Chris Baldwin,

We were appalling for 75 minutes, then were pretty good for 15 minutes. It felt like a lucky win but you have to take your luck when it comes. Credit to Pulis, he took off a defender and put Walters on up front. That’s a big risk for him but it paid off. They weren’t pretty goals, but who cares? The wingers weren’t getting enough crosses in early on, but Pennant’s delivery for the second goal was excellent. He played well, as did Carew. I think we’ve done enough now not to worry about getting sucked into a relegation battle – any improvement on last year will constitute a good season for me.

Player ratings:
Begovic 7; Wilkinson 6 (Walters 66 6), Shawcross 7, Huth 7, Higginbotham 6; Pennant 8, Whitehead 7, Delap 6, Etherington 7; Jones 6, Carew 8

Pete Sixsmth,

An early kick-off, rain pouring down and a last-minute winner for Stoke means it doesn’t get much worse. A game we were winning comfortably went horribly wrong in the last 10 minutes as we failed to handle Stoke’s aerial bombardment. We looked good and controlled much of the game but failed to close it out. Stoke played to their strengths but are ugly to watch and they had a lot of help from a poor set of officials. I’d give up watching football if every team played the way Stoke do. But ultimately we have to look at how we defend – seven goals conceded in two games is not acceptable.

Player ratings:
Gordon 7; Bramble 8, Ferdinand 7, Mensah 7; Onuoha 7, Henderson 7 (Malbranque 85 n/a), Muntari 7 (Zenden 89 n/a), Richardson 8, Bardsley 7; Sessegnon 7; Gyan 7

21 thoughts on “Stoke 3 SAFC 2 Observed: blemishes on the beautiful game”

  1. Thanks for your intervention Alec.

    I hate to stretch this out. Sometimes you just have to let things lie and understand that the tendency to argue, even though the case has been overwhelmingly proved, sentence has been passed, and the jury have been released, can be attributed to blind and misplaced loyalty. Because Lord knows, if Sunderland played like that every week, I would not and could not condone it – such is my strength of feeling on the subject.

    And Mark – thanks for the link. In the aftermath of Danny Murphy, I think Steve would be borderline insane if he said anything about the way Stoke played. He is restricted by politics, and the inevitable press onslaught if he made one mild reference to it. But I bet my right ball and a penguin that he agrees with us!!!!!

    I am flabbergasted that I have to explain this to you Alec. But my reference to people on this site being objective and courteous after defeat was said in the context of the argument, to prove to Mark that if we had been beaten fairly and squarely we would have had the sack to say so and to congratulate your performance. If you were to remove your black velvet blinkers for a moment you would understand that I wasn’t crowing about the site, or the people using it. I have yet to meet any of them – I just type my thoughts into a white box.

    However, I stick by what I said – and now I am going to crow about the site because I will never allow some upstart Potter devoid of the courage to take responsibility for his team’s heavy handed, bullying, whack and chase, style-less, appallingly ugly tactics that go a long way towards tarnishing the game we adore.

    There are people using this site that buck the trend in terms of football fan mentality. Mostly, due to savage loyalty, bragging rights, pride in your team or whatever – most football fans fight the good fight and very rarely do you see “objective” sentiment in the aftermath of a bad result – and what could be worse for us than being hammered by the Mags?? Usually it’s hate and be hated, scoff and scoff back. But there was an attitude here that stood counter to the vast majority of global (especially English) football fan reaction. To receive comments from the enemy such as “you guys are a class act” and “you’ll probably beat us next time” etc. that although doesn’t detract from the fierce rivalry, reflects a refreshingly different mentality. Or am I being overly sentimental?!

    Anyway – to the lads that regularly post here. If you were chocolate I would eat you.

  2. Alec: your posting was inadvertently delayed, as you know, but my brief Milky Bar Kid response is that Mark’s point has been answered several times over, at this and other threads. We are obviously never going to agree on what constitutes or borders on being thuggish conduct on the football field. Not liking answers is an entirely different thing to not getting any.

    And you really should explain how it is reprehensible to plead objectivity, and produce relevant examples, when accused of selectively condemning wrongdoing or wrong decisions.

  3. Just a brief intervention to say that if I were as pleased with myself as Martin is I’d hope that a grown-up would have a quiet word with me. This site’s self-congratulation for its objectivity – and, my word, if you were chocolate you’d eat yourselves – would reek a little less of hypocrisy if one of you could compose a sensible response to Mark’s reasonable point, which he’s had the courtesy to make in a calm and polite manner quite a few times.

  4. Martin’s indignation originates from Mr Eltringham’s repetition of the same old line: that he doesn’t like the style in which you play. When it is condemned (and which it has almost universally by SAFC supporters on this site) then he takes umbrage. He remains in steadfast denial that this “style” is characterised by brutish and thuggish beheaviour when it’s there for all the world to see. This was even more pronounced on Saturday when your team was allowed to get away with everything and anything by the hapless and spineless Mr Probert Now is that simple enough to comprehend. We have been very polite about him. Contributors to your site are less tolerant.

  5. Somewhere in Mr Eltringham’s logic offence is being taken at our protests regarding Stoke’s style. Bizarrely and contradictorily he claims (as you have pointed out Martin), that he doesn’t like it either.

    Stoke have about as much style as a sack of coal over a bike, but no matter. If we disabuse ourselves temporarily of the notion that Stoke are “thuggish” in outlook then I wonder what aspect of their “style” (and I want to laugh when I use the words Stoke and style in the same sentence), I am puzzled about what it is that he doesn’t like. To the majority of right thinking football supporters it is the reliance on “thuggishness” and intimidation that separates their “style” from the rest of the division. I think that we can rest safe in our beds tonight Martin sure in the knowledge that Mr Eltringham will return in yet another failed bid to enlighten us.

    I don’t wish to encourage yet another inane and humourless contribution, but sorry to say that I have unfortunately no means by which to prevent it.

  6. Take it easy Mr Eltringham, please.

    Specific examples of rule transgression based on intimidation, bullying, which include barging, pushing, pulling, kicking etc are integral to the way that Stoke City play. They are evident from the first whistle through to the last. I’m beginning to wonder that prolonged exposure to this type of approach eventually renders itself invisible to the observer. I suppose that it must otherwise you’d struggle to attract 26,000 spectators. The examples we are talking about are present in just about every aerial challenge in and around the penalty area, and occur regardless of whether the ball is there or not.

    Your repeated comments about our goalkeeper are really starting to irritate me now. He may not have had his best game for us, but the ploy used by Stoke is to intimidate the goalkeeper repeatedly and prevent him from coming to collect the ball by fouling him. He was coming and collecting crosses early on in the game until your lot stopped him. The referee failed to intervene as we all keep saying. Does it not seem odd to you that you are virtually the only Stoke fan coming on this site to register your indignation about our collective observations which have a high level of consensus and which we have explained to you several times over?

    It’s hardly surprising that the opinion of your fellow fans on Oatcake is not dissimilar from that of the many who have politely responded to your gibberish about Craig Gordon or your beloved Potters. The only difference between us and them is manners. Ours are considerably better than theirs.

  7. What is wrong with you all? How many times do we have to say we don’t all like the way we play. It’s our club and that decision is with the manager. I don’t enjoy it, but I know it is effective.

    No specific examples of thuggery? Still? Come on. Late challenges? Elbows? Trips? Spitting?


    Just making it up based on a lazy stereotype to justify why your goalie can’t catch a ball?

  8. A superb post by Martin which I hope will lay this debate to rest. The defeat midweek by Chelsea was acknowledged here as defeat to a better team (as least in the second half!). We played well but not well enough against the Champions. No sour grapes there. We get the hump when our lads are physically assaulted by the opposition where the referee is as blatant a homer as you will ever see. Stoke are a really horrible team that play the way they do because of their manager. It’s not far short of playing in a way that could lead to charges of “bringing the game into disrepute.” A good friend of mine used to say that Stoke play in a way that “will get the game done away with.” That was back in the 70s and 80s. Thankfully he was wrong, but it’s clear as day that they are still doing their best to!

  9. Mark – you are arguing semantics and splitting hairs, but if that’s the way you want to go, then fine by me. I would argue though that I think you know exactly what we mean by the terminology used.

    The term “thug” can be defined as a tough and violent man, or a member of a gang of murderers and robbers in India who strangled their victims. Now – I didn’t see any Stoke players nipping away to Bengal to practice strangulation, but the former definition isn’t too far off now – is it?

    You fill the box with six footers with neck tattoos, who, (when the ball is hoisted into the box with monotonous regularity) rush the goal like a herd of rabid elephant, ploughing down anything or anyone foolish enough to get in the way. The term “thug” is used loosely and is not intended to be interpreted literally. It pains me to have to explain this to you.

    It’s survival mode at the Potteries, coz any other way of playing just ain’t going to cut it. It’s all hands to the pump, desperation, mad-scrambles, “hit, dash and hope”, making for the ugliest viewing of the beautiful game ever witnessed. Your team is despised for the above reasons and rightly so.

    Are we bad losers, or do we have a relevant point? I can answer that. This season we were thrashed 5-1 by our arch rivals, and played off the park. Despite the gut-wrenching pain in the aftermath of that defeat, the posts on this site were as classy as I have ever seen anywhere from football fans. There was an acknowledgement that we had been beaten fairly and squarely, and had been outclassed in every department by a team that played excellent football on the day, and deserved the victory and the margin of it.

    The point is that there are many that visit this site more than willing to demonstrate graciousness in defeat, and the integrity to acknowledge when we’ve been fairly beaten, some of whom feature in this blog. I don’t see many comments above supportive of the way Stoke play and ultimately win – do you Mark?

    One more point. From a FOOTBALLING perspective, that is passing, interplay and movement off the ball, getting it down and playing the game – you were played off the park. If you think otherwise, get rid of your NHS specs and buy some Raybans.

  10. I mentioned thuggery first so it is probably my job to explain. I actually said this:

    He utterly ignored the bullying of Craig Gordon by the big, hard men – I almost wrote thugs -of Stoke at set pieces. He spotted every Sunderland infraction but missed several from Stoke.

    And I stand by that. In my view, the Stoke tactics bordered on thuggery. It was a little like low level playground bullying. But we should have been strong enough to counter it just as Probert should have been alert enough to take action.

    For me, Muntari’s tackle was rash and bad. Shawcross’s grabbing of Gyan’s shirt was sneaky and bad and would, of course, have resulted in a red if he’d been spotted. I cannot remember whether that was before or after he got away with no card at all for his cynical trip on Essegnon.

    I clearly disagree with Mark on my assessment of those tactics but it is all good, honest debate and he is entitled – and welcome – to stand his ground as he has done.

  11. Watching the Superbowl last night – a game I don’t understand or rate in any way – thinking where have I recently seen a team of giants …………………

    That is not football – how long before we end up with 20 odd on each team – offense and defense – stick a 25 stone keeper in to deal with aerial bombardment throws !!!!!!!!!!!

  12. When Delap played for Sunderland did we just throw long balls into the box? Stoke play a brand of football designed to give them survival they have many Sunderland disgards who kept us up but couldn’t take us to the next level. Stokes tactics are justified when they win but really ugly. The referee made no effort to protect our keeper against what looked like aggravated assault on most occassions and I can see no future for Stoke in the EPL and the sooner they are relegated the better. We talk about their tactics but they don’t actually have any just get the ball in the 6 yard box and flatten whatever you can. I am disappionted by the result and maybe a bit bitter but football should be a game of courage and flair not just a scrap.

  13. So, still no examples of thuggery? Just that we should take throw ins quicker? Dear oh dear.

    You’re not being fair, however much you would like to be. I don’t like the way we play either. Have I said that often enough? But we are not thugs. We are not ‘bullies’ and the scoreline suggest we were not played off the park. Nor do any of the less important stats.

    Worst tackle of the game? Muntari’s on Etherington. Second worst? Muntari’s on Carew.

    Most yellow cards. Sunderland.

    Most fouls. Sunderland.

    Most shots on target? Stoke.

    Most corners? Stoke.

    How long do I have to wait for all these examples of ‘thuggery’ I keep hearing about. There must be at least one you can remember between you.

  14. Mark – here’s my take for you young man. I have nothing but the severest antipathy for your team. I hate the way they play. I hate them more than I hated Wimbledon in the 80’s and trust me – that is saying something! Jeremy’s criticism of your team is entirely factual and 100% justified. How can that make him a bad loser? True enough, nobody likes to lose, but to lose in that manner, to those tactics, is hard to take. Your team were played off the park by far superior footballers, and if I was you, I don’t think I would be proud to win in that manner.

    I think you’ll find that the vast majority of regular posters on this site are extremely fair and objective when it comes to opposition teams and their performances. That display yesterday was truly the ugly side of the game.

    It takes Delap an average of between 30 to 40 seconds to take one of his throw ins. They are amazing, but why he’s permitted to use a towel to painstakingly dry the ball is completely beyond me. How much time does he waste every game on his throw-ins?

    However, we should have had the bottle to deal with the bully boy tactics, and we didn’t. Craig looked like he was almost cacking himself! He wasn’t good yesterday, nor was Bramble and Ferdinand.

    The big consolation was Muntari and Sess’s performance. They were outstanding. I’m with you Jeremy – I was gutted. When that 3rd goal went in I felt as bad as if someone had just told me my house is on fire.

    And to lose to that mob of rugby playing thugs in a contest we dominated and shone amongst appauling refereeing decisions was painful to take.

  15. Bad loser. Easy to say that isn’t it when your team scored two goals which clearly should have been disallowed.

    I’ll give you another example. I follow my local ice hockey team as well as SAFC. We had a referee on Friday night who made Probert look like Collina. I was talking to some of the away fans who felt hard done by and rightly so. There was nobody giving the referee more stick than I was even when our side were benefiting from a double power play. One of their fans turned to me and said “I’m pleased you agree with me.” I told her that I couldn’t cheer our goal when it resulted from the referee’s bad decision. So you see, I’m not a bad loser. Just a bad winner. 😉

  16. Maybe you could enlighten me, all four officials and the neutral reporters when all of these incidents of thuggery happened. Nobody else seems to have noticed them and you are coming across as a bad loser resorting to a sterotype to try to justify the defeat.

    As for a ref making a bad decision in a game? My stars. Whatever next? You couldn’t make it up.

  17. I’m not sure if you were referring to Pete’s comments or mine, and in particular to someone’s descption of Stoke as thugs. I couldn’t find that specfic reference to it, but I’m more than comfortable to describe what we saw as “thuggery.” Stoke were allowed to get away with a ridiculous amount of stuff that wouldn’t be out of place if they were playing with another four blokes and an oval ball.

    I know that you don’t play like that every week (and I see a lot of Stoke games), but the way that you played against us yesterday doesn’t endear your club to anyone (and I would include your own fans in that assertion too). That’s just as well as they might as well close the turnstiles if that is what you must resort to in order to win. You wouldn’t get away with it as most officials would clamp down on a lot of the off the ball incidents which Lee Probert chose to ignore. It was a gutless performance from the referee where not one but two offside decisions have cost is three points. It’s understandable that we should feel aggrieved.

    I admire your constitution for watching and defending your club. You might have come away with the points but it’s not as a result of playing football.

  18. I am not indignant about that. I am disappointed – see my own words – that you chose to describe our players as ‘thugs’ when you have no reason to. You can complain – rightly – that the first goal was offside. You can complain – rightly – about the ugliness of our win. But what you cannot do is throw these sorts of words around without any evidence and when the biggest factor in the result was Craig Gordon’s inability to collect the ball.

  19. I was gutted to lose this one. The only consolation was being thousands of miles away.

    Their first goal was as offside as it gets and the second one was possibly one to disallow as well. I’ve defended Pulis and Stoke for the way they play, but that was just horrible to watch yesterday. Probert gave us nothing and Craig Gordon took a battering without being offered any protection from the referee who might as well have been wearing one of their shirts as his contribution to their cause was substantial.

    I’m amazed that you only gave Muntari 7. His passing was out of this world. He barely misplaced a ball. I was huigely impressed with him and Sess.

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