Sixer’s Stoke City Soapbox: no joy as Brown sees red

Browned off in Staffs
Browned off in Staffs

Wedgewood and Minton, Doulton, Moorcroft and Twyford. All names associated with the Potteries. Now after his performance at the Britannia we can add Kevin Friend’s name to the list. Not so much pottery but potty. His decision to show Brown a red has been widely criticised by all and sundry – though maybe not Mark Hughes – but even Charlie Adam trying hard not to criticise the ref seemed embarrassed in his post match interviews. Peter Sixsmith has endured some disappointing days indulging in his love of sport but events in Brisbane and Wembley were just a precident to another frustrating day watching the Lads in red and white, even if this time they were in blue and yellow.


Dismal Saturdays at Stoke happen with monotonous regularity.

If I wanted a cheap laugh, I could say every week, but we’ll pass on that one.

Pete Sixsmith shares his thought's on events at The Britannia Stadium
Pete Sixsmith shares his thought’s on events at The Britannia Stadium

The last few seasons in the Potteries have been fairly dismal. There was an awful 0-0 draw last season which was little better than Wearside League football. We won the year before on a day that was so cold that even the long suffering Stokies, accustomed as they are to watching football on top of a hill in a ground with only one filled in corner, had icicles on their moustaches. And that was only the women.

The year before that, on another nippy day, we contrived to throw away a game that should have been wrapped up long before City equalised and there have been occasions where both Fulop and Gordon have frozen literally and metaphorically at the sight of 6’4” midfielders bearing down on them. Not a happy hunting ground then.

To say that our cause wasn’t helped by the ineptitude and idiocy of Kevin Friend is like saying that the Heads of the Co-op Bank and Toronto’s Mayoral Office have nothing in common. Kev played a blinder, aided and abetted by his assistant, who also played a major part in “The Most Ridiculous Sunderland Sending Off Since Michael Turner at Manchester City” episode – a decision which was not only not overturned but earned an extra game ban for a “frivolous” appeal.

The assistant had given a ludicrous free kick against Brown for a non-existent foul on Jonathan Walters in the twelfth minute. The ball had been won, Walters had gone down with no expectation of a free but the assistant flagged for a foul. There was a widespread shaking of heads and cries of “I say, what a strange decision” from the Sunderland fans stuck in the corner, but the die had been cast or, as they probably still say in the Six Towns, “the clay had been placed on the wheel”. Twenty odd minutes later, and a goal down, Brown made the kind of challenge that he has been making since he was a nipper in Longsight and for which he is renowned. He won the ball, caught Charlie Adam a glancing blow on the ankle before coming away with the ball.

Enter the pantomime villain, Kevin Friend. Clearly influenced by the previous “foul”, he looked, thought and then, to the incredulity of the Sunderland team, bench and support, pulled out a red card and off went Wesley. Uproar from the Sunderland connections – amazement from the Stokies who could hardly believe their luck as one of the obstacles to their first win in 9 departed the field. Now, others may say that we were a goal down to a well taken goal that exposed our defensive frailties, so ultimately, the dismissal made little difference to the outcome. Others (include me in this group) would say that 11 v 10 for an hour is difficult.

Giaccherini, who had been playing well, went off and Roberge filled the gap at the back. He had a good game, looked a decent acquisition and could be a Di Fanti success story – although a certain Italian may disagree. But we didn’t really threaten the Stoke goal. They had a solid group of four at the back and a solid group of four in front of them and despite the best efforts of Adam Johnson, who I thought had an outstanding game, there was no way through.

Fletcher did much better when he wasn’t the lone striker and could have put us ahead in the first half after a superb ball by Johnson put him behind Shawcross. He was not able to get the ball down and Bergovic blocked it. That was the first of two blocks by Bosnia-Herzegovina’s No. 1. The second, also involving Fletcher, could have been a penalty, a sending off and an equaliser. Mr Friend gave nothing. TV replays suggest that he was less wrong on that one than he was on his earlier decision.

N’Zonzi, Stoke’s best player, wrapped it up in the 81st minute and we trooped back to the coach with a number of grievances some imagined but most real. We had played well in the opening twenty minutes, continuing the passing and pressure game that we had practiced against City in the previous game. The opening goal showed our deficiencies in that we did not pick up either N’Zonzi or Adam and Stoke probably had the better of the game after that – not surprising as all but 5 minutes of it were played with a man down.

The red card was thrown into perspective when I saw the tackle that Kevin Mirallas made on Luis Suarez. If Brown’s was a red card, the Belgian’s was worth three: it was high, studs up and caught the player, none of which applied to Brown. Phil Dowd may have been wrong but not anywhere near as wrong as Kevin Friend.

It wrapped up a dismal day which started as I awoke to hear David Warner smashing the England bowling around the Gabba and continued with Jonathan Trott’s eight ball nightmare as I drove to the coach pick up point. It got worse as New Zealand scored the winning try with a mere 20 seconds left to get to the Rugby League World Cup Final and break England’s hearts. Next week’s final will be an antipodean affair with Australia. Then we heard that Palace had won at Hull and we were back propping the rest up. We are still in touch with the other relegation candidates, but we need to start winning games against them. I would have swapped the wins against Newcastle and Manchester City for similar against Hull and Stoke, both of whom will be looking over their shoulders all season.
And to add to the crushing sense of disappointment, the Football Echo announced its closure at the end of this year. The real end of an era. I suspect there may be a nostalgia ridden piece later in the week.

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11 thoughts on “Sixer’s Stoke City Soapbox: no joy as Brown sees red”

  1. It’s a good point about Colback CSB. I hadn’t thought about the implications of the contract issue, but it has to be sending the wrong message if our longest servant and a local lad is hedging his bets it can’t do much to instill confidence in the foreign contingent.

    Ki is so so. Had a good game against Man City and then back to the anonymous contribution against Stoke. I don’t like loanees and I’m sick of the trend of bringing so many in. No continuity and not team building when you are using players that belong to someone else. It’s another nonsense of the modern game. We should be grateful that we could offload Graham and N’Diaye mind. It’s an ill wind.

  2. I’ve read many match reports stating we were in the ascendancy, prior to and after Adam’s goal.

    Friend’s performance has been well documented, so I don’t see the point in adding my sixpennyworth.

    So, moving on what I found very disappointing was the way in which after controlling possession for (say) 8-10 minutes we then reverted to type and gave the ball away cheaply (probably) 6 or 7 times in the next 2, each on more than one occasion!

    The number of misplaced passes in those periods had me screaming at the TV, which is something I, normally, never do!

  3. Spoken like a true centre half, Ian. Wes Brown’s tackle reminded me of you at Thompson’s Field. Can’t see Steve Winskill sending you of for it. As Lord Kinnaird said many years ago “Let us have hacking”,

  4. Referees and linesman are always in the headlines,years ago you never even gave there their names a look at in the match program,but today they are the talking point at most games.Todays game is all about winning,winning brings in all that money,so no-one wants to lose.Tackling has gone out of our game,all these nanby pamby forwards cant be touched and have all the limelight,whatever happened to the defenders who lifted them into the stand,bring back the good old challenges and tough tackles…..

  5. Have never rated Friend who seldom seems to control a game effectively.If anyone watched the Bradford City v Coventry game on Sky last weekend he had an atrocious game making puzzling decision after decision.The Div 1 lads must be delighted he’s deemed good enough for the Premier League and they are unlikely to see him again.Brown’s red card should be rescinded but I wont be amazed if it isn’t. I seriously feel there is something rank at the centre of football’s management

  6. Am very sorry to hear about the closure of the Echo. Always look forward to the Pink, even though the days of buying it on the way home from the match had gone. I have kept a few special issues. You can’t do that with a website.

  7. For all of our woes yesterday , the gap between fourth bottom and ourselves did not increase.I’m running out of straws to clutch here, anyone got a hidden supply?

  8. I’ve not given up the fight yet William as I think that Poyet can save us from the drop provided of course that we are not bottom when Santa comes down the chimney.

    • Jeremy, I just wonder if the winning mentality and the belief that we can beat the drop is there in the squad. Colback is a fine example, refusing to sign a new improved contract which he undoubtedly deserves, looks like hedging his bets on PL survival. Don’t want to vilify the lad but is it a sign of a greater squad malaise, that the belief is not there in abundance.

      We need reinforcements, especially in creativity in the mid-field. Ki was not at his best at Stoke giving possession away several times, too slow and too predictable with the ball and too anonymous without it. He’s not the man to sort the problem.

      I know there is the old maxim that you are never going to get the right kinds of player in the January window when you are struggling but we better hope that we can buck this trend.

  9. I don’t normally moan about referee’s, on the basis that, generally, they even out over a season. But this was a shocker, and we really have not been well served this season.
    I feel, that as at Hull, we would not have lost this game with 11 men, and might have got three points.
    It is clearly going to be very difficult to maintain our PL status this season, but we have to keep positive and hope that Poyet can strengthen the squad in January.

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