SAFC v Stoke City Who are You?: beyond Pulis’s ‘hoofball’ (listening, Pelligrini?)

Jake has ways of making them talk
Jake has ways of making them talk

Mike Alderson* was the second Stoke City fan, and the second official of City’s South West supporters’ club branch, to respond to our request for volunteers for the two forthcoming games at the Stadium of Light. We will hear from his pal ahead of the league game a week on Saturday. Mike sees Tuesday night’s league cup tie as just the sort of match our two clubs should take seriously, since league honours are perhaps beyond both. One obvious question we would ask with hindsight: would he be as ready to tip Man City for the title, in honour of their more modest, proper-club recent past, now that Manuel Pellegrini has decided the worst insult he can aim at Chelsea is to say they played like Stoke to grab a draw at the Etihad? ….

Salut! Sunderland: Until the home defeat to Leicester, I had the impression Stoke were settling into a good season. Minor setback or a warning that things are not quite so rosy?

Mike Alderson: Minor setback in my view. The defeat to Leicester was massively disappointing but we were by far the better team and Leicester scored from their only shot on target. If this had happened mid season we would just say it was one of those games but because it is only our second home game and we weren’t impressive in the first one against Villa it looks a lot worse than it probably is.

Mark Hughes has had a mixed managerial record, but there are plenty of Sunderland fans who would have welcome him a couple of years back. What do you make of his achievements so far at Stoke, and of Peter Coates as chairman?

I don’t think one failure (QPR) equals a mixed managerial record. Mark Hughes has an excellent record of getting non-fashionable clubs into the top half of the premiership he has done it now with Blackburn, Fulham and now Stoke City. His football has been a joy to watch compared to the dire negative hoofball served up by Pulis and he has achieved a higher league position, playing infinitely more attractive football whilst spending a fraction of what his predecessor did. Peter Coates (Mark II – he has been chairman before) has been a fantastic leader and benefactor for our football club, and it is because of his backing and leadership that we have been able to rise from the lower depths of the championship to become an established and strong top flight club.

Jake: 'two mugs! Is that instead of paying me?'
Jake: ‘two mugs! Is that instead of paying me?’
See also: Guess the Score, be first to get it right and win our great rollover prize …

The Sunderland Old Boys look of your squad is now pretty much a thing of the past, with only Phil Bardsley and, as what looks a little like third choice as keeper, Tommy Sorensen, as the only direct links. How is Bardo doing and what is your assessment of the others, Tommy and those no longer with you (Collins, Whitehead, Kenwyne, Higginbotham, Lawrenece etc)?

Bardsley has had a steady start, I haven’t seen enough of him yet to have a strong opinion. Over the years though we have had some good servants from Sunderland many of which I think have perhaps done better for us than they did for you. Sorenson, Whitehead, and Higginbotham (who we sold to you before you sold him back) have all been very dependable players who you could rely on giving you an honest hard working shift every time they pulled on the shirt.Liam Lawrence was a bit of a hero, especially in our promotion season and was very popular but Delap is the player who probably made the biggest difference. What a great professional and “that throw” that won us so many points in our first season up, The funny thing is I don’t remember either Sunderland or Southampton taking advantage of this rare skill when he was in their teams (some of us struggle to recall his throw-ins at all – Ed).

Jake: 'is it too early to book my flight for Wembley?'
Jake: ‘is it too early to book my flight for Wembley?’

I expect Hughes will send a changed side out in the Capital One Cup. We’ve each tasted Wembley in recent seasons, each losing to Man City. Do you regret that the cup competitions have become so devalued or is an inevitable consequence of the pressure to stay up or concentrate on loftier aspirations in the league?

I think that both of us should take this competition very seriously because sadly it is one of the few things either of us can realistically win. I think the cup competitions have become devalued mainly because of season ticket culture that pervades these days in the Premier League. The vast majority of supporters of Premier League clubs are season ticket holders and many don’t bother with other games for which they would have to buy a ticket, Back in the day when people paid on the day they were as likely to choose a cup game as a league game, particularly FA Cup games which often attracted the biggest gates of the season.

Who among the present squad most impresses you and where do you still need strengthening?

I have been very impressed with Victor Moses who has joined us for a season’s loan from Chelsea. Generally though we have a lot more very talented footballers now that Hughes has stamped his mark on the squad and he is also getting more from some of our long-standing stars like Ryan Shawcross, Our Achilles heal remains sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Tell us a little about your branch of the Stoke City Supporters’ Club: membership, geographical reach, activities etc, and also how other Stoke exiles in the West Country might contact you

We are the only official branch in the South West, although in theory we cover the whole of the SW peninsula. Most of our members are in the Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset areas. We organise several social functions throughout the year and offer a comprehensive ticket and travel service for our members. We can be found on Facebook and at

What have been your highlights of supporting Stoke?

Funnily enough it’s not all about the Premier League although getting back up to the top flight after a 23-year absence and establishing ourselves has been a definite highlight. However for a moment of sheer joy it would be hard to beat the game at a hostile Ninian Park in the second leg of the League 1 playoff Semi Final. 2-1 down from the home leg we weren’t being given much chance of winning through, however just as the game entered the final minute and their stadium announcer was telling Cardiff’s fans to stay off the pitch because their team would be doing a lap of honour, we scored to level the tie. In the Stoke end it was pandemonium.We went on win in extra time and beat Brentford in the final back in Cardiff at the Millennium stadium.

And the low points?

Spending two spells totalling seven seasons in the third tier in the 90s and early noughties. In that spell it was hard to imagine we would ever be a top flight club ever again, let alone one that would establish itself.

Who are the greatest players you’ve seen, or wish you’d seen, in your colours?

Sir Stanley Matthews, a football genius and a true gentleman, is the one player who has played for us from before my time that I would have loved to have seen live.

What will be this season’s top four in order and who is going down?

Top Four will be same old, same old. I cannot abide any success for the clubs supported by the feckless gloryhunting hordes so out of the teams that can win it I hope that the only club that is not presently followed by these parasites win it (Manchester City, ex of the third tier not that long ago along with us).

Going down I reckon will be West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace.

If not in either list, where will our clubs finish? And will either of us have a decent league or FA cup run?

I am hoping we can go one better than last season and finish eighth. I guess you should have similar aspirations. In reality we will both probably finish in mid table and there might only be one place between us. As far as the cups are concerned we should both have ambitions to lift a trophy but as always it will depend upon the luck of the draw, talking of which I can’t say I was jumping for joy when tonight’s tie came out of the hat!

Will you be at either of the forthcoming SAFC v SCFC games and, whatever your answer to that, what will be the results?

It’s a long long way to Sunderland from the sunny South West so no, not this time. I think both games will be tight and could go either way but you are favourites because you have home advantage. I will be pleased if we can scrape through tonight and get a draw in the league game.

Mike, second from left, with a group of SW Stokies in Independence Square in Kiev before the 2011 Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev
Mike, second from left, with a group of SW Stokies in Independence Square in Kiev before the 2011 Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev
* Mike Alderson on himself: My family are all from the Potteries even though I grew up in Bristol. I started supporting the Potters in 1970 aged nine in honour of my dear Grandad, a miner at Chatterley Whitfield who didn’t live to see the heyday years of the early 70s.

Interview: Colin Randall

Jake invites support
Jake invites support

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7 thoughts on “SAFC v Stoke City Who are You?: beyond Pulis’s ‘hoofball’ (listening, Pelligrini?)”

  1. Two of the greatest players I ever saw wear a Stoke shirt were Gordon Banks and Alan Hudson. Hudson was ahead of his time and at a time when English football had become kick and rush, he was slowing the game down and was fantastic passer of the Ball. Don’t know why but I always think of Matthews as a Blackpool player

    • We do tend to remember him mainly as a Blackpool player, although he actually had more years at Stoke if you combine his two spells.

      Like many other great players of that era, his best years – age 24 – 30 were lost to the war – although, of course he did play some friendlies, and war-time internationals.

  2. On another subject, I was lucky enough to see Sir Stanley, albeit toward the end of his career. A truly great player. He would be a superstar today.

    He went past people easier than anyone I’ve ever seen. He just seemed to drop one shoulder, and away he went. The only way to stop him was to foul him, and that was difficult because he had incredible pace over five yards.

    I remember going to Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea v Stoke at the end of his last season.
    Sir Stanley was 49 years old! He was marked that day by Eddie McCreadie, a Scottish international, and one of the hardest and best full backs of his era.

    McCreadie fouled Matthews with his first tackle, and that was the last time he got within touching distance all day. Matthews made him look like a non- league player. Stoke won 1-0 – and both they and Chelsea were promoted into the old 1st Division.

    What a player! What a man! I don’t think he was ever booked in his entire career.

    I realise that nostalgia can be deceptive, but Stanley Matthews was truly a player for any era.

  3. Liam Lawrence was a hero? Interesting. They must have kept him well away from teenage nymphomaniacs and camera phones then.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Hughes has a mixed record as a manager. He has done pretty well wherever he has been even if he left long before we could determine whether his successes would be short lived or not.

    As stated on another thread, the team that Stoke are fielding now is undoubtedly Mark Hughes in terms of style and tactics. It’s a huge departure from the days of Pulis, who was very effective in getting the best out of his players. There’s a better more considered build up with this Stoke side and they display considerably more of a “pass and move” approach. They are a decent team, made better IMHO when Jon Walters isn’t in it.

    • I think that Hughes would have been a decent fit for us. If I remember correctly, he was in the frame when O’Neill was appointed?
      Think Mr Short got the wrong one [ and I’m not convinced that he has got it right yet! ]

  4. “Back in the day when people paid on the day they were as likely to choose a cup game as a league game, particularly FA Cup games which often attracted the biggest gates of the season.”

    That comment, certainly, resonated with me.

  5. After watching MOTD I thought Stoke played more skilfully against QPR than was evident a few seasons ago. However, I also thought they displayed a thuggish (as opposed to solid) tendency when pressed and this was ultimately their undoing.

    I wasn’t there and don’t want to rely on edited TV. Any Stokies have an opinion?

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