Red and white stripes – but not ours …
What a difference a new season makes. Last time round, we had a devil of a job persuading any Stoke City fan to contribute a “Who are you?” piece before we played them. This week, we’re spoilt for choice. But since Simon Northwood – also known as Northy*, who runs the Rip Roaring Potters fan site and is pictured above – and Julian Boodell*, the one City fan who did agree to take part last season, answered the same questions, I though it would work to run them together but in two parts. The second will appear overnight …
Stoke City did ever so well last season, winning friends with the exuberance of their home performances in particular. Were you surprised?
Northy: You say we won friends but a lot of the comments I read from other supporters still seem to be very negative, angry even, over our perceived style of play. I think true footy fans developed a fondness for the Potters because of our in your face performances which spoke volumes of pride and passion. I wasn’t surprised that the atmosphere inside the Britannia and also away from it was widely praised because it was red hot 90% of the time. Even away at Blackburn in a shocking performance there was a constant wall of noise from the Stoke end.
In the main yes I was surprised we were everyone’s favourites to go down, Paddy Power famously paying out on Stoke’s relegation after our first match a 1-3 defeat at Bolton – what do they know. Stoke’s home form kept the side in the Premiership, and the fans were quite rightly lauded as their team’s twelfth man, a fact which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hull City’s Phil Brown who has put a bid in for him! Phil Brown for the uninitiated is of a tango coloured disposition but more importantly he is linked with every single player that Stoke have been associated with. It got ridiculous when at one point he heard Tony Pulis was in for a penny and in for a pound and made counter bids only to be yet again snubbed, adding them to a list which included Michael Owen and Sunderland’s own recent signing Fraizer Campbell. Sky Sports measured the fans’ singing at all Premiership grounds and Stoke were the loudest, at times it has been quite breathtaking, the hairs on the back of your neck fair stand up! A Boro’ fan even claimed Stoke were using the PA system to boost the noise – a fact which is untrue but goes some way to understanding how loud we really are. Unlike the morgues that are Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Highbury.
How important were the noise generated at home and the long throws of Rory Delap?
The throws of Delap were massively important for a variety of reasons. Firstly they were reported throughout the world and gave the club a greater exposure. Secondly they produced some important goals and thirdly because the sight of Delap warming up for a rocket basically caused mass panic in opposition defences and that can only be good for Stoke. A lot of the time though nothing came of them apart from wasted attacking opportunities which was the worrying part of the phenomenon. The support as I have said above was vital, who wouldn’t give their all for the shirt in an atmosphere like that.
Julian: The fans support was memorable and definitely played it’s part in Stoke’s home record (we conceeded less goals than Arsenal) and only lost to Man Utd, Chelsea, Everton and West ham, we’ll need that sort of form this season too. Rory Delap was responsible for about a quarter of Stoke’s goals neting versus Spurs (H) and Chelsea (A) but his throws caused havoc up til November, then the better sides sussed how to defend them (wouldn’t like to give anything away here as how to defend them) as he’s already hurled the ball into the net via a Burnley player (who is currently our joint top scorer with defender Ryan Shawcross. The best throw in moment last year was Delap’s hurling of the ball directly into the far side of the net (sadly without the dimunitive Wigan keeper touching the ball) he did his damdest but it sailed over his head)
Despite that spirited support, Salut! Sunderland struggled – as Julian will recall – to find Stoke fans to preview the games, and the rebuffs were sometimes quite sharp. No other Premier or cup opposition club gave us the same problem. Were we just unlucky?
Northy: Unlucky to get me maybe! I’ve no idea, as far as i am aware there is no bad blood between the two clubs so maybe you just picked the wrong folk on a bad day.
The fanzine’s forum does have a percentage of younger fans writing on it’s board, but we aren’t all cut from the same cloth – hence this scribe’s willingness to pen some prose.
Grizzled, unorthodox but strangely watchable. That’s how the Sunday Times summed up why, if Stoke City were a movie star it would be Gene Hackman. A compliment or an insult?
Classic question that. It’s a compliment to me although some stokies might see it as an insult. I can’t really argue with it. I love watching our grizzled and unorthadox style but it needs fine tuning this season for sure.
Julian: Having seen all but four of our games last season it’s fair. As someone who was brought up watching the skills of Hudson (in his prime twice capped for England whilst at Stoke – never whilst at Chelsea) Greenhoff, and Chamberlain more latterly, and 24 seasons of mediocity, I was of the opinion that we would never return to the top table, we broke the £1m transfer barrier as recently as Jan 2008! you get what you pay for in life, and we are now able to compete financially and it is starting to show.
Were you surprised at how badly Sunderland fared, desperately lucky to stay up in the end?
Northy:I wasn’t really surprised to be honest, i think there were a few teams last season who were one or two quality players short of concentrating on the top half. I think you have addressed this with the signings of cattermole, bent and the other guy you’ve got who’s name i can’t remember.
Julian: No, I felt Sbragia was never up to to the job as manager, and it gave me hope that The Black Cats would finish beneath Stoke. I appreciate Ricky has other talents and is appreciated by the Sunderland fans and Board and it’s good to see you’ve held onto his services. However you have one of the better English managers now, and your Summer signings have been good, I fancy Sunderland to be in the shake up for a Europa League come the end of the season.
What do you make of each club’s pre-season transfer activity? And Darren Bent’s public snub to Stoke?
Northy: Bent’s snub was a bit disrespectful but that’s the way of the world nowadays, washing your dirty linen in public. As i have just pointed out i think bruce has made some astute signings and he will do well at your place, good manager. Pulis has found this window hard, he’s going after players who probably class themselves as being out of stoke’s league and he’s got to convince them mentally and financially to come to the potteries. I am not happy with the fact that we have made one major signing so far in dean whitehead from your lot, we need more to compete this season, other teams have improved and we need to do so too.
Julian: Chalk and cheese, the only player we’ve signed is Dean Whitehead whom I am told is a box to box player (typical Pulis player) but unable to score, he was also your captain which suggests he is a person of gravitas (again a typical Pulis signing) he goes for positive personaliteis in his dressing room. Dean hasn’t covered himself in glory so here’s hoping he performs against his former employers. Darren Bent is a great signing, he is a proven goalscorer in the Prem, and he’ll get great reception from those vociferous fans of ours who (yes are quite to the contrary) are able to read!
Northy on Northy:
* Born is Stoke and have supported the Potters all my 36 years. I started going in 1980 and throughout the late 80s and the 90s was a regular home and away. I only go when I can now as I work in a concrete factory and have to do some Saturdays but I’ve done my time trawling the country watching Stoke and I bloody miss it to be honest but nevertheless I get to games still. I’m full of passion for the boys which is why I do this site because it’s got to be set free somehow. I live in Nottingham and my other passions are my missus and lad, punk rock, roots reggae and other musical delights.
Julian Boodell on Julian Boodell:
I AM a recruitment consultant and still manage to go to most home games. I once went 16 years without missing a home game and five without missing a home or away game (sadly for me that included watching all 42 games in 84-85 (three wins five draws and 35 defeats!). Gloryhunting is obviously my life. The kids are aware we “always beat West Brom” and we have a good friend who is a London based Mackem who brings tales of Sunderland on a regular basis.
My first game was in 1967, a 3-2 win over Leicester City with Terry Conroy making his debut. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1977 and seen Stoke on over a 100 different league grounds – a real gloryhunter whose watched Stoke through thin and thinner. Now based in the Cotswolds having moved from Kent via London to be closer to what really matters. We now have a burgeoning Supporters’ Club in the South West so if you would like to join us to follow Stoke home and away just click on the South West Stokies website.