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.
See also: Guess the Score, be first to get it right and win our great rollover prize … https://safc.blog/2014/09/the-great-guess-the-score-rollover-safc-v-stoke-wembley-bound-again/
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).
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 www.southweststokies.co.uk.
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 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
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