Football’s back. Forget listless England, smarmy but sensational Ronaldo (impossible to like, impossible not to admire as I tweeted after his third), slightly lucky France. Disregard the intriguing battle for supremacy developing at the top end of the Premier. The resumption of proper football offers Stoke vs Sunderland and it really is the only show in town. Our City volunteer is Angela Smith*, former squash pro, broadcaster, lifelong fan. She shares her thoughts on the ‘hard but fair’ Stoke style under Tony Pulis, the fading Sunderland ‘old boys’ factor at the Britannia (with the engima that is our Kenwyne) and the Shawcross-Ramsey fallout ….
From relative comfort to not that far above us in and around the bottom: is the Mark Hughes era an acceptable work in progress or do you already miss Tony Pulis?
Actually, I would have given TP another season as I believe he realised his and the team’s shortcomings and I feel given what he had done for the club, he deserved a bit longer to change certain aspects of our sometimes dour performances. Mark Hughes is now the manager and we need to back him. We are a work in progress, but it will only be acceptable if we are in the Premiership next season.
I noticed your lineup at Swansea had no ex-Sunderland player starting, just Kenwyne and Tommy on the bench and neither used. Is that link between our clubs effectively dead and how do you assess its role, and the contributions of individual players, in recent Stoke seasons?
I think the link between players from both clubs is finished for the time being. Rory Delap, Dean Whitehead and Tommy have made great contributions to our club as did Danny Higginbotham, but he was a Stokie first remember and returned to Stoke. KJ is probably one of the most frustrating players seen at our club. In fact as a youngster on loan many years ago he seemed to show more aggression and passion for the game than he does now. Nicest thing I can say is that he has a mellow approach now. TP always talked about the DNA of players and for the most part, these guys typified the spirit that kept us in the Prem for the first couple of seasons. Rory became known throughout the footballing world for his long throws whilst with us. They were great times.
Stoke take a lot of flak from Arsenal supporters in particular, but also from fans of other clubs, for the allegedly ruffian-like style of football played under Pulis. Misplaced and unfair, or a germ of truth?
To be honest, I feel that we were hard and fair. You didn’t see Stoke players rolling around and trying to get others sent off. You still don’t. I think many clubs couldn’t handle the fact that our players worked hard, got in the faces of the opposition and with the long throw and big men onslaught combination, we caught some of the fancy dans out. I will always remember Arsenal happier to concede corners than throw ins against us in those days 🙂
The Arsenal fans and club in general really have nothing to be proud of regarding Stoke, particularly re the tackle by Shawcross on Ramsey. It is seen as some form of thuggery and even today is top news in some media outlets. The impact this has had on Shawcross’s career has been significant and I am fed up of reading how Ramsey has struggled to recover. Whilst I wish him no harm at all I wonder why the same amount of column inches weren’t afforded to Rory Delap when playing in his first game for us, ironically against yourselves, he suffered a similar fate. Strange that?
Were you surprised at the appalling start SAFC made under PDC or the apparent improvement so far with Poyet?
I was not surprised about the start you made under PDC and I think Poyet will do well. He will have learnt a lot from the PDC situation to help him.
Stoke, like Sunderland, are still in the Capital One Cup, albeit with tough home games to come in December, Man Utd for you, Chelsea for us. Should we both be concentrating on survival or is it healthy to maintain an interest in competitions that are at least winnable?
I think we will both put the Premier League first but we’ll certainly try to beat United! Football for both of us is about Premier League survival
Who are the greatest players you have seen or wish you’d seen (Sir Stanley et al!) in Stoke colours, and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
I saw Stan Matthews play his last few games for Stoke before he retired, though I can barely remember them . I would have liked to have seen him at his peak. Neil Franklin our great wing half, of whom Billy Wright said ” I wish I was half the player that Franklin is” was another I would love to have watched.
We have been lucky at Stoke and I have seen John Ritchie, Jimmy Greenhoff, Mark Stein, Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton, Mike Pejic,Denis Smith, Alan Hudson, Terry Conroy and many more wear our colours with pride and distinction.
Those who should never have played for us Tommy Younger, Kyle Lightbourne, John Clarke ,Danny Collins (remember him?) he was dreadful at Stoke, when you think back, we have loads 🙂
About those colours: how would you feel if, as at Southampton, the owner banished your red and white stripes?
I would be gutted. It wouldn’t be the same Stoke City
And what have been your highs and lows as a Stoke fan?
Winning the League Cup in 1972. Beating Bolton 5-0 in the FA Cup Semi Final and showing the world we weren’t a dour over physical team. Obviously getting to our first ever Cup Final and playing in Europe in the 70’s and after the cup final.
Is there anyone in your current team, Shawcross or another/others, that Stoke fans fully expect to move on somewhere “bigger”?
I think Begovic will move after the World Cup. I don’t think Ryan Shawcross will move. Sadly, if we do go down, like yourselves, many of the players will move on and kiss another badge to stay in the Premiership if they can.
What will be this season’s top four, in order, and – being as brutal as you wish – who is going down?
Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Man United Top 4. Bottom 3 Crystal Palace, Fulham, Norwich
If we or you don’t feature in either list, where will we finish?
Just above and I think it’ll be on goal difference!
Club versus country: excited about Brazil 2014 or too obsessed with Stoke to care much?
I enjoy the World Cup, but Stoke is still more important.
Which aspect of the modern game most inspires you and which one appals?
The speed and artistry of the top players inspires me. The diving and cheating plus the poor standard of refereeing decisions disappoints me.
Name one striking difference between now and when you started following football.
Cost and media coverage
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
[We can assume a “yes” – ed] … 2-1 Stoke in my heart. 1-1 in my head. Yes, I’ll be biting my nails for every one of the 90+ minutes
* 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 7 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.
After we play you, I hope that you do well and stay up because, like us, you are proud of your team, your support is passionate, in fact we are proper fans, not the new brigade that follow for glory!
Interview: Colin Randall
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