Angela Smith*, broadcaster, Supporters’ Council leader and former squash pro, is as Stoke as they come, a fan – she says – from birth, so precocious, too. She was quite enjoying the season until recent bad results, and expects Sunderland to snatch a draw on Saturday. Ideally, we need better than that but we’ll see. Welcome back to Salut! Sunderland, Angela. after an absence of two or three years and good luck after Saturday …
Salut! Sunderland: Until heavy defeats v Liverpool, Spurs and Man City, Stoke City had been quietly impressing a lot of people this season, the reward a decent top half position. Are you happy with the way things are going or do the recent setbacks signify serious problems?
Angela Smith: Up until the injuries and our recent bad run, I was happy but as you know, when results go down bank, you get concerned! We’ll be top 10 and a few years ago that would have been seen as brilliant. Expectations change.
And if not dealt with in that answer, is Mark Hughes a popular manager and can he give you another push in the seasons to come?
Hughes has taken us forward but needs a rethink for certain positions this year, the transfer window will be vital for him this year, if he gets it right, we’ll get better.
When you sat in this hot seat in the 2013-14 season, you memorably looked back on Stoke’s style under Pulis as “hard but fair … many clubs couldn’t handle the fact that our players worked hard, got in their faces and caught some fancy dans out”. Have you become more “fancy dan” now?
We are more fancy Dan now with sadly a soft centre. The squad is much more talented but lacks the character of the past.
You’ve a strong squad. Arnautovic and Walters are your top scorers, Butland’s an excellent keeper but who else is key to your form and has Giannelli Imbula proved worth the high fee?
Imbula looks a snip. Whelan has been great again and Afellay has been outstanding, yet another victim of injury this week.
Where do weaknesses persist?
Our weaknesses are defence. Ryan Shawcross has been injured, Johnson too, and the back four has changed nearly every week.
Hand on heart, is low top-half the best you can realistically hope for or do you feel Peter Coates, the Stoke-mad miner’s son who did well, has the resources and commitment to push on?
We have the resources to push on financially but whether players want to come to Stoke when riches are available in London and Manchester is difficult to see, so we will always be looking for players who are maybe rough diamonds or talent that has gone a little wayward.
Who are the greatest players you’ve seen in Stoke colours and what are your best handed-down anecdotes of heroes you’re too young to have seen, eg Sir Stanley, Gordon Banks, Denis Smith (a past Who are You? interviewee)?
The best keeper in the world, Gordon Banks, I have seen in a Stoke shirt. Denis Smith was tough, he actually told the ref he would have to go off about 20 minutes after he had broken his leg! I would loved to have seen Sir Stan in his prime and Neil Franklin , plus a winger called Tim Coleman who scored seven in a game.
Now steel yourself to name the worst duds
The duds, for me a keeper called Gordon Marshall, and Danny Collins didn’t have a great time at Stoke, we’ve had a few actually!
Guess the Score: if you opt for a Sunderland win and it happens by your scoreline, you could win a prize: https://safc.blog/2016/04/stoke-city-v-safc-guess-the-score-not-a-weekend-for-the-faint-hearted/
Your own highlights as a supporter?
My own highlights: winning the League Cup, playing outstanding football in the semi final V Bolton and winning 5 0. Beating Liverpool 6 -1. Playing entertaining football and doing well in the Premier League.
And lowest point?
Lowest point losing to Port Vale and the bad years of being relegated to Division One, feeling we would never get back.
Do you prefer singing the official club song, We’ll be with you, or Delilah?
I prefer We’ll be with you, but happily sing Delilah.
Did you see our problems coming this season or were you surprised we didn’t kick on from another great escape?
I felt you would struggle. In fact I picked Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland to go down, and of course two out of three will go.
This season’s top four?
Top four: Huth City, Spurs, Man City and Arsenal
Sunderland links are fewer now – only Phil Bardsley and Shay Given – but is there any member of our current squad you’d quite like to see at Stoke?
I would love to see Defoe at Stoke City. He’s a natural goalscorer and may keep you up with his goals.
The Vardy incident has again highlighted diving. Will we ever stamp it out, and what would you do about all that pushing and pulling at corners?
The pulling and pushing at corners would stop pretty quickly if penalties were given from day one of the season (apart from only when Shawcross does it?)
Best ref, worst ref in the Premier?
Best ref is the one who gets the decisions right for Stoke. Worst one? Too many to mention – they all seem to ref us!
Wearing your Supporters’ Council hat, identify one step the authorities could take to improve the lot or ordinary supporters.
The authorities could consider fans when they organise the TV schedules, travelling to a midday kick off on Sunday when it’s over 200 miles away or on a Moday or Friday night isn’t great.
Will you be at the match and what will be the score?
I’ll be at the game. I think it’ll be a draw 1-1.
Are you relieved we have no Shawcross/Ramsey question (until now)?
No because Ryan’s England chances have been largely destroyed as a result of that incident and the aftermath.
* Angela Smith on herself: I am an ex-professional squash player, chair of the Supporters’ Council and have supported the club since birth. I am co-host of a show called the Sunday Sports Show on Knotfm which goes out on a Sunday night between 7pm and 9pm and is just about Stoke City and whoever they play against. I’ve seen good times and more bad. I have been lucky enough to see the team play in Europe and to attend away matches overseas. My weekends are not the same when Stoke don’t have a game and if we lose, well I’m not fun to be around. Just your average football supporter.
As chair of the Supporters’ Council I have to wear a rather large tin hat as you can’t please all the supporters all of the time? As a broadcaster it’s easy when you win, but more entertaining when you lose as you have to be on your toes.
Interview: Colin Randall