BLESS ME FATHER: A COAT THAT JUST WON’T GO AWAY

Posted on November 23rd, 2016 by

BLESS ME FATHER: A COAT THAT JUST WON’T GO AWAY

Block 23, under the sacred turf, just off the playing area. Right in line with where his seat was…….that’s where he now lies. I’d like to think he’s giving loads of grief to visiting goalkeepers or haunting left backs. Whilst wearing his beloved big coat……

Me, best mate Brad, and Dad. Before the last ever game at the Victoria Ground 1997

Me, best mate Brad, and Dad.
Before the last ever game at the Victoria Ground 1997

Unlike most football fans, I can’t really remember my first Stoke game. My first clear memories of watching us were against Middlesbrough at Vale Park and then having a season ticket in 1977 in the Butler Street Stand. Relegation, inevitably, soon followed.

So, basically, I was introduced to the Potters after a visit to our strange, poorly dressed rivals and then being forced to sit in probably the only roofless stand in Britain at that time, and watch us go down……….But am I grateful that my old man grasped my eight year old hand all those years ago and walked me to those turnstiles? What a daft, rhetorical question.

Dad’s are often the Nigel Gleghorn of families. Often unfussy and unnoticed, often steering the ship in the right direction, but with touches of class. And they often have a quiet, unassuming style all of their own. Dad loved watching Nigel Gleghorn play association football.

My father was Peter William Bunn.

And for four years now I have had the stomach-churning task of writing or talking about him in a different tense.

Because dad sadly passed away on 24th November 2012, just an hour after watching the club he worshiped, Stoke City, beat Fulham 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium. That he did so at exactly 5.59pm, just as Radio Stoke’s Praise and Grumble was finishing, isn’t just ironic, it’s fate. Talking about Stoke City was one of life’s joys for dad and he loved wobbling his head at, and listening to, the post-match radio phone-in. Because that’s what blokes do best: we are ace at talking about putting the world to rights. That obviously includes going five in midfield when you’re one-down or picking a nice, safe away pub when taking your little lad with you to the game.

It’s also fate, not irony, that dad was aged 72 when he died. It simply couldn’t be any other number for a Stokie, could it? (19)72 being the year we won our only trophy in over 151 years of trying.

Add onto the fact that he went quickly, and relatively painlessly, to sleep on the shoulder of his very best mate, Terry (my uncle, who was driving), and that they were in the car within a Greenhoff volley or Sir Stan mazy dribble of the Victoria Ground, simply makes me smile and actually think that if Carlsberg did ways to pass away……

Perhaps I’m looking for fate when there’s simply none there? But whilst football is never “more than life or death”, it gives me huge comfort that he passed away on such a seamlessly brilliant Stoke City Saturday afternoon.

The analogy with Nigel Gleghorn was given careful thought. As we know, Gleghorn played in the early-mid 90’s at Stoke and was a player my father admired – a flashback to players who loved their football. He had a wand of a left foot, and always seemed grateful to be playing the working man’s ballet and to be playing for our club. He also scored a most memorable goal in front of me and my father – no, not the second goal at Vale Park that sealed a vital derby win or the only goal against Plymouth at the Victoria Ground to seal the deal on promotion in 1993.

It involved another Victoria – this time it was Victoria Park, the home of Hartlepool United. It’s one of my favourite awaydays of all time and dad can be vividly, easily seen on the telly on Central Sport a day or two later– to the right of the goal, jumping up and down as the 90th minute corner came in, not in anticipation of Gleghorn’s late winner, but because his bladder was about to explode thanks to his pre-match refreshments, after an unbelievable Usain Bolt-like sprint from coach to public house at 2.25pm!

It had to be in that 92/93 season, didn’t it? So many great memories for Stokies, so many days when me, dad, Terry, Brad, Owen, Andy, Bryn, Tim and a few others, would descend on football grounds the country over, watching Lou Macari’s team.

That day, for some reason, it was just me and dad. The 20th December 1992….a dad and his son celebrating their team’s last minute winner, together, on the road to promotion, stood on an open terrace. Heaven.

No-one was prouder of Stoke City or Stoke-on-Trent than Peter William Bunn. When on holiday he’d nearly always be spotted in a Stoke sweatshirt or t-shirt, it was like a privilege, a badge of honour. He saw it as almost ‘representing’ his city and club in foreign climes. An unofficial Cultural Attache for Sneyd Green.

So many ace times, we had. I vividly remember Wembley in 2000, and after beating Bristol City 2-1, we giddily went back to Harrow-on-the-Hill where the (I think) Knypersley and Biddulph bus was parked.

We went into a huge pub full of Arsenal fans watching their team’s live game at Leeds. As we flooded into the pub, high on winning a trophy, no matter how small, we were given the usual small-club-northern-idiots jibes from the deluded, self-admiring, self-loving Gunners, looking right down their noses as we entered.

Half an hour later, as the coaches were due to leave on the journey back to The Potteries. Dad had had enough.

Sorry, but I’m not letting them run Stoke down. Back me up, lads”, he announced.

Then, as the assembled Stokies prepared to depart, and at the tender age of 60, he stood, arms outstretched on a chair, and shushed the pub, before leading a huge, proud ‘Delilah’ that finally shut those of an Arsenal persuasion firmly up.

Whilst dad’s ashes are scattered at the Britannia Stadium, his heart and soul will forever remain with his family, and at the Victoria Ground.

If the truth be told, dad never really took to the Britannia Stadium. For him, the lack of a proper matchday routine has never really been replaced, even after 15 years at our new stadium. Dad’s routine was drinking in the Gardeners Retreat or Michelin Club, both close to Campbell Road, and a five minute brisk stroll at 2.40pm to the ground: Campbell Road – Nicholls Street – Lime Street. He loved holding court with tales of Sir Stan leaving the ball by the corner flag and his marker also leaving the ball and simply following him, or the time he kept a pub from rioting at closing time as the assembled Stokies wanted to see the FA Cup semi final goals on the telly on their way back from Hillsborough.

I hope the tales he told were true, but if they weren’t, we loved listening to them anyway: How he came back from Ajax, days late, and simply went straight to Stoke’s next game; or how he moved his wedding day to a Sunday to avoid a cricket match; and how he got a lift home on the team bus (and drank ale with the players) after his transport conked out on the way home from Spurs in the 70’s (all of those are definitely true!). He told his tales time and again, but it didn’t matter. Our group loved nursing a pint of ‘Peddy’ and watching the glint in his eye as he told them.

Proper Werther’s Original stuff.

And he loved his big coats. Be they official Asics ones or whatever: hands tucked into the front pockets, chin tucked into the upturned neck…….he always walked so quickly, too. The jacket I will always associate him with is the Henri Lloyd one pictured here. It originally belonged to my brother and I always liked it, and coveted it. My brother, unbeknown to me, gave the coat to dad one day! The first I knew was when he turned up in it at the match…..

Phil’s got one just like tha………”, I seethed.

bdr

The big coat

I wore the same coat, three weeks ago, as we ventured down to West Ham for the 1-1 draw at The London Stadium. I’m not one for collecting or hoarding stuff: When we had our house fire we were told by the insurers and fire brigade to try to find things that were personal to us, that meant something to us. I pulled out a pair of New Balance 1500’s as my wife scrambled around on her hands and knees amongst the burnt photographs, certificates and keepsakes.

But this coat was different. It was the only thing of dad’s I kept.  It was a symbol of some brilliant and dreadful times. But they were times that we shared together. Even going matches that you lose are often ace – as football is about so much more than the ninety minutes.

By the time of dad’s death I was sat in block 32, the Family Stand,  whilst he was still in B23 with Terry. Three days after dad passed away, Stoke played Newcastle United at home. I’m glad it was them, as I’ve always had a deep respect for the club and fans. A night match, at The Brit, in chilly November. Brilliant. And I was never not going to go. And I was never not going to sit in dad’s seat, in the coat worn by him and my brother.

Some may see that as morbid. I didn’t and I don’t. It made me smile. 

Stoke City were brilliant all through the process, and still are. Whilst mum goes to the ground tomorrow to pay her respects, I’m at work. We visit the spot where dad rests every so often, and when we/she does, we are reminded just what a brilliantly beautiful football club we support. A club who made such a difference to dad’s life. They go out of their way to make sure we can visit – even when once it was on a Sunday at an unsociable hour. I can’t thank them enough.

I’ll wear the coat tomorrow, but it’s gone past its sell by date now, but I simply can’t get rid of it. It would be like finally saying goodbye to the football side of him. I can’t do that yet, and doubt I ever could. It will be there, hanging forlornly, as a reminder of a man who I’m indebted to for taking me to see our football club together.

Strangely, what makes dad unique is that he’s just like any one of us.

Sounds daft that, yeah, but does anyone who doesn’t follow their football club truly know what it means to belong to something so special? How can they ever replace taking their kid to watch their city’s football club? How do they ever feel what we feel? Can their bond with their father ever be as emotionally watertight as ours is with our fathers who support the stripes?

I don’t really know.

All I do know is that me and my brother probably realised afterwards, what we had and what we’d lost, and that it would be a dream to be even half the dad he was to our own kids. The hundreds of Stoke games we watched together and the hundreds of times he watched us, his lads, play football and cricket seem to have decreased in number as advancing years and grey hairs dim the memory. But deep down, we know he was always there, and for the past four years we have had to get used to the idea that he no longer is.

But isn’t life also about what you leave behind?

If so, this proud man that me and my brother were honoured to call ‘dad’ has left something of more value than any lump sum of money ever could – he left us with the same standards as he had, a love of sport and the friendships this brings, and he left us to truly cherish our families.  He did so in a beautifully understated manner, too. He never moaned or shouted. Good men don’t have to, do they? He was a true man of the Potteries: a proud Potteries man.

For me, my football club is part of my family – it’s such an integral part of who I am, and it was to dad, too. That’s why, at 12.01am November 25th, – I wanted it to be the day after his death – I posted about my father’s passing on a Stoke forum.

I still don’t know truly why, to be honest, it’s just that dad’s family always seemed to include every single Stoke fan. The 14,000+ views and hundreds of messages meant more than anything to me and my family. Blokes who had been the game with dad in the 50’s onwards contacted us; strangers who knew of dad and had funny stories emailed me; even Port Vale fans set up a thread on their own messageboard, which was a fantastic gesture.

What it means, and this is so clichéd I know, is that those who watch football really are one family. We feel what everyone else feels, we drink from the same pint pot, no matter the strip we wear. Whilst staunchly parochial, we all have a respect and give a knowing doff of the cap to those who go through the good and dreadful times following a football club.

Fenton Bowling Club – watching Stoke win alongside his best mate – three generations of the Bunn’s there at The Brit – going to sleep on his best mate – and 72, that beautiful, beautiful number, 72: It was scripted by the footballing Gods, dad, wasn’t it?

Whilst it turns my stomach to know he’s no longer here, it swells my heart to know that he went on his own terms and how many of us would want to go like that? I can’t believe I won’t see him in his big coat again, but he’ll always be there, walking with us to the ground come sun, rain, snow, wind or whatever the weather throws at us. A truly wonderful Stokie.

That my dad got to walk down, well, shuffled down as he wasn’t brilliant on his feet for some time, Wembley Way with his family on May 14th, 2011 now means everything to me. That we didn’t win hurts, but it would have hurt more if we’d have won and he wasn’t there!

FA Cup Final 2011 Harpenden station Three generations of Bunn's

FA Cup Final 2011
Harpenden train station
Three generations of Bunn’s with Brad and his daughter, Emily

Because even if we win the FA Cup one glorious day, it will never really mean the same without dad being present: standing still, huge beaming smile, and holding his arms high in the air when we scored, as he always did as utter carnage reigned around him.

Mere memories aren’t enough, they never are. But they have to suffice as he’s not here now. I pray he knew how much he was loved, but being a bloke I rarely said it enough when it was needed and necessary. I hope he could hear me as I stood by him, stroking his hair as he lay motionless, looking serenely at peace with the world, on that dreadful Saturday night at the hospital. “We won dad, we won”, I kept muttering. He knew.

Why am I writing this now?

Well, in the space of the last four years we’ve also lost all family possessions in a house fire (also, whilst I was at a Stoke game!) and had other pretty bad times too. Only now, have I really felt true loss as only now have I had the time to reflect and dwell on my life. Doing DUCK magazine was mainly a way to leave behind something for my own kids to remember me by. For them to say “he did his best, and he loved his football club and us“.

And it’s Christmas soon: so perhaps get that present for your old man that might cost a bit more than normal, eh? And maybe grab an extra beer with those who introduced you to your football team and the resultant years of heartache punctured by occasional shards of real beauty and genuine love, yeah?

The final words?

They have to be from the most poignant, beautiful and apt football song ever written, don’t they? A song dad actually sung on, back in 72, our League Cup Final song…

“We’ll be with you every step along the way. We’ll be with you, by your side we’ll always stay.”

Love you, dad. God bless. But I wish you were still around to wear that coat.

ANTHONY BUNN


“We’ve lost without Glenn Whelan , woooah, without Glenn Whelan….”

Posted on November 20th, 2016 by

“We’ve lost without Glenn Whelan, woooah, without Glenn Whelan….”

Anthony Bunn looks at the crucial role played by the ROI midfielder in ST4 over the last eight and a half years.

I’ve got an 09 plate Kia Ceed. There, I’ve got it in the open.

I’m not into cars. Hell for me would to be bound, gagged, in a room with Lewis Hamilton, watching Top gear on loop. With Miranda telling ‘jokes’. Oh, and Jack Wilshere being there, too. Give me a life in Hades over that, any day of the week.

But my car has been steady for several years now. We’ve paid off the finance, and whilst it doesn’t turn any heads as it chugs by, I don’t really want it to. I want a car to get us from A to B. Simple as that. I also don’t want it to cost me any more money than necessary, either. We’ve hardly spent a penny on it, and it’s done 91,000 miles now. It never, ever lets us down.

And there’s something to be said about not having the ability to ever be done for speeding, too!

Firstly, apologies to Glenn David Whelan for comparing Glenn David Whelan to a Kia Ceed. But I mean it as the ultimate compliment, Glenn. Promise!

I’m sure Glenn Whelan would want to be a roaring Lambo or Ferrari; but whilst every race needs those cars in it, you also need that Kia Ceed in there, too. A car that guarantees you’ll get to the finish line. No fuss, nor mards, no breaking down; just solid reliability. You know exactly what you will get from it.

It’s no coincidence that Glenn has been one of the first names on the Stoke team sheet over the past eight years. It’s no coincidence that managers with diverse and contrasting ideologies as Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes see Whelan as the glue that holds the Stoke City team together. And whilst some Stoke fans can’t, or won’t, see what Whelan offers the team, you only have to hark back twenty four hours ago to see just how much he’s missed when he’s not on the pitch.

“We need an upgrade on him”, is the call from some quarters.

But over the last decade we’ve never really found one, have we? Don’t say Steven N’Zonzi, as he is not the same type of player as Glenn Whelan. But what Glenn Whelan did do was allow N’Zonzi to be the best midfielder I’ve seen at Stoke in the last three decades. Glenn Whelan makes other players better players. He makes our back four a better back four (when it’s a settled back four) and he allows our flair players to show their flair.

He also seems to be like a professional footballer from back in the day. Train hard, play hard, do your job, go home to your family. Players I have always had a huge respect for.

And above everything else, he’s selfless. Putting others first, and the team first. That’s Whelan: It’s about the team and the dream. There’s no ‘i’ in selfless, but there is in selfish.

cover

He came to us back in 2008 as a slightly different type of player. A midfielder who played further forward for Sheffield Wednesday than he would do for us. Tony Pulis gave him the responsibility of keeping hold of the keys to our infamous ‘cage’. And since Mark Hughes has been the gaffer, no one has taken those keys off him. Let’s face it: you do not play games over 250 in the Premier League for two contrasting managers, if a) you can’t play or b) you aren’t doing exactly what the manager wants and the team needs. That just doesn’t happen. And obviously Messrs O’Neil and Keane know nothing about football, as well!

Look at yesterday’s Stoke team……possibly the most attacking line up I’ve ever seen from us. Even the two holding midfielders – Adam and Allen – are a huge goal threat. It was a team that many would have picked. Yet first half, we were all over the shop and lucky to still be in the game. We were crying out for Glenn Whelan (or Geoff Cameron). It’s no use having half a dozen flair players if you haven’t got the ball!

But what I love about Whelan is that he always puts the team first. He never, ever hides. His worst game for Stoke? For me, like many other players, it was at Blackburn in the FA Cup in February 2015. Yes, THAT game. He couldn’t do much right that day, Glenn, but he went up so much in my estimation when he absolutely laid into the team on the pitch and in the media afterwards.

Here was a captain being a brilliant captain. He could have said nothing and hidden behind the disappointment of the result and his own performance. He didn’t. He showed selflessness and huge leadership qualities by putting the team before himself. He knew he’d get stick, but that wasn’t on his radar. He said what needed saying and had the guts to do so, despite knowing that the finger would be pointed at him.

“There’s Whelan, having a right go at others when he’s been rubbish”. I heard that in the away end at Ewood Park that day and over the next week on social media and websites, too. But that is exactly what I want from a captain of Stoke City Football Club. He didn’t care about the stick he was getting, he put the club first.

whelan

You don’t see too many kids with Whelan 6 on their shirts, do you? And you never really hear kids going mad when they open their Match Attax cards and Glenn’s face comes into view. Shame that. But that’s probably because of the glamour players we now have at the BET365, how modern football is, and because he doesn’t look for the headlines, either. He’s simply been a bloody good footballer for Stoke City and one who is probably underappreciated and underrated by quite a few. And his sublime through ball to Sobhi for our second goal against Swansea was probably the assist of the season so far, too! Glenn Whelan can play.

But tellingly, not by players and managers past and present. And that’s a clue as to why he’s been one of the best signings Tony Pulis ever made for us.

When you have a plethora of players capable of 10/10 performances – or at the same time 4/10 – you need that steady 7/10 player. A player who at 2-1 up against Swansea throws himself at the ball to block a goalbound shot and then get the team going afterwards. You need a Glenn Whelan. And I must admit, I hate to hear Stoke fans having a go at our players, any of them, never mind who has sweated blood for the red and white stripes. Glenn Whelan has been an intelligent, crucial player for Stoke City. He still is. When we’ve been dreadful over the last thirty years or so, we’ve been crying out for the likes of a Glenn Whelan. Now we’ve had one for almost a decade, and got for an absolute steal of £500,000, have we really appreciated him as much as we should?

“Everybody needs a Whelan in the middle”, goes the song. Yesterday probably proved why.

I really hope my Kia keeps going and doing us proud for a while yet.

ANTHONY BUNN


THE DUCK ‘Subbuteo homage’ tee – limited numbers

Posted on November 16th, 2016 by

THE DUCK ‘Subbuteo homage’ tee – limited numbers. Order by 23/11.

tee

How decent is it? Well, the first batch sold out in quick time, over 18 months ago.

How decent is it? Now some good and knowledgeable folk want some more making! 

How decent is it? Well, ages ago, when we checked with Subbuteo themselves about bringing it out their main man actually ordered one!!!!!

But these are only on sale until next Wednesday. So you have a week to order one. Ace stocking fillers, or a treat for yourself, these are £18 including free UK p&p!

GET THEM AT:

http://duckmagazine.bigcartel.com/product/duck-subbuteo-t-shirt


DUCK 29 ON SALE NOW!

Posted on November 13th, 2016 by

DUCK 29 ON SALE NOW!

cover

EXCLUSIVE JOE ALLEN INTERVIEW INSIDE!

You don’t want to miss this as we chat to Joe about life at Stoke, the Euros, his Welsh Xavi/Pirlo nicknames, those 3 envelopes, how he moved to Stoke, music……and so much more!

Also inside:
We chat to Carl Dickinson
Every step along the way: October
Rob Doolan looks at the icon that is Gerry Taggart
Abusing my religion
…and absolutely loads more!

It’s our best issue yet. We love it, and hope you do, too.

OUT ON THURSDAY 17TH NOVEMBER

ORDER IT HERE: http://duckmagazine.bigcartel.com/


London isn’t calling

Posted on November 10th, 2016 by

London isn’t calling

It was in September, 1990. I met my brother, Phil, in Hertfordshire. About 3pm it was, and we made our way down to the game about 4.40pm, stopping only for a beer and a burger in Soho.

We got the tube to Upton Park and walked to the away end. I was 22, a young looking 22 though. It didn’t matter as we weren’t going to go in a pub anyway. Burger stalls, fanzine sellers, the smell of ale and tobacco, badge sellers….and eyes. Yeah, the eyes. I felt like we stood out like sore thumbs as we ambled to the ground, trying to make sure we didn’t talk to anyone.

We lost 3-0, in a League Cup game. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and we were garbage. We took around 300 there that night, and it was as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. The only fun was giving Julian Dicks some grief, but even though it was a stroll for The Hammers, there was a background noise to the game. It felt,smelled and sounded like a football match.

And whilst at every game back in those days you needed eyes in the back of your head, I always loved away games as you saw the country and the different communities, all whilst following your team. I was both a coward and relatively bright enough, to avoid any mither at football, as most did. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I loved going to football grounds that stood proudly in the centre, and as the centre, of the local community.

Narrow streets, terraced houses, loads of pubs, the bustle, and the floodlights. Ah, the floodlights, standing proudly as a civic beacon. I’ll never lose the buzz of seeing the hazed splendour of four proper floodlights in the distance.

No-one wants a return to the days of football being used as an excuse for, or environment for, hooliganism. Whilst a lot of football in my youth was ace, seeing blokes wallop other blokes in the name of their team wasn’t one of them.

So, I’ll repeat what I said just: no one should want a return to that. And I was glad that any fears I had for my own and mates’ safety yesterday were unfounded.

So, as we’re on about returns, here’s another: I wouldn’t give two stuffs if I never return to The London Stadium ever again.

Why?

How long have you got?

dav

The walk from Westfield

West Ham, whilst a club I’ve never really liked, were always a community club. A club that proudly represented their area. As I walked through a huge shopping centre to West Ham’s new stadium yesterday, past hundreds taking photographs of what looked like a huge red sex toy (or so I’ve been told!) and a stadium, I thought we were going to a theme park.

Key word in the above paragraph, stadium. Because that’s what it is. It’s certainly not a football ground, in any way, shape or form. And I doubt it will be anytime soon.

I really had big reservations about there being mither yesterday. I’d visited the place for an AC/DC concert in the summer, and said back then that there would be trouble at that place. Unfortunately, I’ve been proved right so far this season. Thankfully, I was wrong yesterday.

But the problem is that West Ham have now lost so much of their identity, so much of their community, that it didn’t feel like we played West Ham at all yesterday. I’ve been to Upton Park several times, and the whole demographic of the home support seems to have completely changed. And those we spoke to yesterday, really hated their new abode.

We soon saw why.

The queues outside the ground were pretty big even 90 minutes before kick off. Surely after what has gone on this season they’d want folk inside asap, rather than standing in unsegregated areas outside the turnstiles? We spoke to those who came on the coaches – they said they’d parked up a mile or so away from the ground. And as we know, those who go on official coaches often include many who find it hard to walk to the ground from their transport upon reaching their destination. It’s just not good enough, is it?

Inside?

Others commented on the concourse being without a roof, tiny toilets, poor signage and the like……..Our group stood amazed, at a football game, as cleaners sprang into action as soon as a sachet of tomato ketchup was dropped on the concourse floor. I’m all for cleanliness, but this was massively surreal.

And then there’s the away ‘end’. Or ends, separated as they are by what appeared gigantic maroon trampolines. We sat at the top of the upper tier – to say I’ve never felt so detached watching a game of football would be an understatement. Even the nearest goal seemed to be in another postcode, there was zero atmosphere to talk of, and it took us a few seconds to even work out we’d scored. We spent most of the game chatting, and talking about how each other’s kids are, and what we were doing for Christmas etc. There was hardly no engagement with what was happening on the pitch at all.

dav

Eye test

There couldn’t be really. We could hardly see After the game? I’m sure the authorities are praying for draws at West Ham this season. We duly obliged. There was little to get worked up about during the game and it was very quiet outside afterwards. But despite a big police presence in places, I’d not like to walk back through the Stop/Go human traffic light system if we’d won with a last minute winner, to the train station. For a start, it’s a fair way without a crowd. Factor in tens of thousands of football supporters…..

Stoke fans were in good spirits after the game, and we all know folk like the stewards are just doing their job as best they can in testing circumstances. But it was the strangest exit from a football game I’ve ever seen. Indeed, the whole experience wasn’t really a football match at all.

West Ham fans, those cast iron (geddit) West Ham fans deserve better. They deserve their club to be the beacon of the community it once was.

Brad makes it through

We all want better things in life, but sometimes biggest isn’t always best, the most expensive isn’t the best. I never, not once, felt like we were at West Ham yesterday. Indeed, I never felt we were in the East End, or even London for that matter. The word ‘London’ was on everything – like they were trying to convince themselves. The Clash rang out just before kick off: An angry, parochial rallying call of a song sounded like the theme tune from Strictly Come Dancing in this environment.

And as for the ninety minutes, I might as well have got a stream on my phone and watched that.

The London Stadium is not a patch on, for example, The Emirates. Whilst that isn’t what I’d call a real ground, it had so much more personality and character from day one that The London Stadium has, four months into its lifetime.  Indeed, give me the Bet365 over it, any day of the week. I really hope that Hammers fans eventually get the sense of community they got from their old ground at their new one. But I doubt it. Yesterday seemed like visiting a glorified fruit bowl sat in the middle of nothing.

Thirty seconds to get the ball back every time it goes out, bubble machines, scoreboards that seem to flash every so often and startling everyone, an away end in two distant sections, managers needing a taxi to get to their technical areas….and guess what we didn’t see all day? A car. Yes, a humble car. It was as if we were playing on the moon, not in the capital city, and certainly not in a vibrant East End community.

I’ve ‘done’ The London Stadium now. It felt like something to tick off a tourist list, and that’s now been done. It’s no wonder there was so much fuss about leaving Upton Park – their new gaff is the footballing equivalent of going in a brothel and asking for a hug.

I really wanted to love yesterday, to love going to West Ham again. I didn’t, but at least it’s only once a season for me. Hammers fans deserve better.

ANTHONY BUNN


4MIDABLE: West Ham (away) 5/11/16

Posted on November 9th, 2016 by

4MIDABLE: West Ham (away) 5/11/16

1. Pieters and glee

It’s only fair that when you give a little bit of a negative review of a player’s performance that you are balanced, and praise when that player has a good game.

As stated in the last 4MIDABLE, I felt that Erik Pieters had a poor game against Swansea. So it’s only right that he gets the plaudits for a very solid game at The London Stadium last Saturday. His man rarely if ever got the better of him, and he and young Sobhi down the left were a solid pairing all game.

What was good to see was Erik joining in with breaks, and his passing was also far better against The Hammers than it was against The Swans. It was back to the Erik Pieters of pre-Chrimbo 2015, who was outstanding during our good run. As stated last time, I like Erik; he seems a decent bloke, loves winning, is well liked in the changing room, and when on form he’s an excellent left back. I also love a Stoke player with his first name in the team, too. Should be compulsory to have at least one.

He was on form on Saturday. Well in, Ekker!

2. So much more than the 90 minutes

A dreadful card game; a beer on the way down on the rattler; good pubs in London; no mither; watching Si rescue an inebriated, lost Stokie; there’s no such thing as karma though, as Si then lost £30 on the slots in the Euston Flyer; singing Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation at St Pancras; Denis Smith in our carriage on the fast train back…..

No matter what my thoughts are of West Ham’s new ‘ground’, aways, especially London aways, are life-affirming. You’ve had a garbage week at work, you’ve had an argument at home, you’re skint etc….all that disappears out of the window as soon as you set foot on platform 1, get in the car, or on the bus.

3.  The return of El Petit Geni

Great to see the little genius back on the pitch, scoring, and smiling. That’s what Bojan is all about. Look at his goalscoring record – even last season, when many felt he wasn’t at his best – and you can see why many want him in the team.

mt bojan 2

But there’s one big problem – the form of Joe Allen in his position. Long-term, I’d like the Welsh Pirlo to sit in the midfield. Not literally sit. I mean ‘sit’ like all those hipsters with ace beards and craft ales say. Defensive midfielders? In the cage? The water carriers? The Makele role? Pah! They went out with folk liking Borussia Dortmund.

But this is where Sparky earns his corn: Bojan is desperate to play. On form, Bojan should be playing. Can the manager get him and Joe in the team and not lose the massive influence our Welsh maestro has on our team?

4. Turning corners?

Whilst the last month has been excellent, crikey we’ve played some poor teams. Yet the likes of Sunderland and Hull have just pulled two results out of the bag! West Ham were very poor for 45 minutes and were there for the taking. Whilst any point is a great point when you’re 1-0 down with 15 minutes to go away from home, this was a chance for all three. The Hammers’ crowd was restless, their players edgy, and if we’d have scored first I’d have fancied us to add a second on the break.

Have we turned a corner? Yes, we have. But we need to carry on walking down the street by beating Bournemouth and getting something at Watford to put us somewhere close to where we feel we should be with the players we have. We want to enter the next transfer window in a position of relative strength – and get the likes of Bruno and Grant signed up, too!

ANTHONY BUNN

 


London isn’t calling

Posted on November 6th, 2016 by

London isn’t calling

It was in September, 1990. I met my brother, Phil, in Hertfordshire. About 3pm it was, and we made our way down to the game about 4.40pm, stopping only for a beer and a burger in Soho.

We got the tube to Upton Park and walked to the away end. I was 22, a young looking 22 though. It didn’t matter as we weren’t going to go in a pub anyway. Burger stalls, fanzine sellers, the smell of ale and tobacco, badge sellers….and eyes. Yeah, the eyes. I felt like we stood out like sore thumbs as we ambled to the ground, trying to make sure we didn’t talk to anyone.

We lost 3-0, in a League Cup game. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and we were garbage. We took around 300 there that night, and it was as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. The only fun was giving Julian Dicks some grief, but even though it was a stroll for The Hammers, there was a background noise to the game. It felt,smelled and sounded like a football match.

And whilst at every game back in those days you needed eyes in the back of your head, I always loved away games as you saw the country and the different communities, all whilst following your team. I was both a coward and relatively bright enough, to avoid any mither at football, as most did. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I loved going to football grounds that stood proudly in the centre, and as the centre, of the local community.

Narrow streets, terraced houses, loads of pubs, the bustle, and the floodlights. Ah, the floodlights, standing proudly as a civic beacon. I’ll never lose the buzz of seeing the hazed splendour of four proper floodlights in the distance.

No-one wants a return to the days of football being used as an excuse for, or environment for, hooliganism. Whilst a lot of football in my youth was ace, seeing blokes wallop other blokes in the name of their team wasn’t one of them.

So, I’ll repeat what I said just: no one should want a return to that. And I was glad that any fears I had for my own and mates’ safety yesterday were unfounded.

So, as we’re on about returns, here’s another: I wouldn’t give two stuffs if I never return to The London Stadium ever again.

Why?

How long have you got?

dav

The walk from Westfield

West Ham, whilst a club I’ve never really liked, were always a community club. A club that proudly represented their area. As I walked through a huge shopping centre to West Ham’s new stadium yesterday, past hundreds taking photographs of what looked like a huge red sex toy (or so I’ve been told!) and a stadium, I thought we were going to a theme park.

Key word in the above paragraph, stadium. Because that’s what it is. It’s certainly not a football ground, in any way, shape or form. And I doubt it will be anytime soon.

I really had big reservations about there being mither yesterday. I’d visited the place for an AC/DC concert in the summer, and said back then that there would be trouble at that place. Unfortunately, I’ve been proved right so far this season. Thankfully, I was wrong yesterday.

But the problem is that West Ham have now lost so much of their identity, so much of their community, that it didn’t feel like we played West Ham at all yesterday. I’ve been to Upton Park several times, and the whole demographic of the home support seems to have completely changed. And those we spoke to yesterday, really hated their new abode.

We soon saw why.

The queues outside the ground were pretty big even 90 minutes before kick off. Surely after what has gone on this season they’d want folk inside asap, rather than standing in unsegregated areas outside the turnstiles? We spoke to those who came on the coaches – they said they’d parked up a mile or so away from the ground. And as we know, those who go on official coaches often include many who find it hard to walk to the ground from their transport upon reaching their destination. It’s just not good enough, is it?

Inside?

Others commented on the concourse being without a roof, tiny toilets, poor signage and the like……..Our group stood amazed, at a football game, as cleaners sprang into action as soon as a sachet of tomato ketchup was dropped on the concourse floor. I’m all for cleanliness, but this was massively surreal.

And then there’s the away ‘end’. Or ends, separated as they are by what appeared gigantic maroon trampolines. We sat at the top of the upper tier – to say I’ve never felt so detached watching a game of football would be an understatement. Even the nearest goal seemed to be in another postcode, there was zero atmosphere to talk of, and it took us a few seconds to even work out we’d scored. We spent most of the game chatting, and talking about how each other’s kids are, and what we were doing for Christmas etc. There was hardly no engagement with what was happening on the pitch at all.

dav

Eye test

There couldn’t be really. We could hardly see After the game? I’m sure the authorities are praying for draws at West Ham this season. We duly obliged. There was little to get worked up about during the game and it was very quiet outside afterwards. But despite a big police presence in places, I’d not like to walk back through the Stop/Go human traffic light system if we’d won with a last minute winner, to the train station. For a start, it’s a fair way without a crowd. Factor in tens of thousands of football supporters…..

Stoke fans were in good spirits after the game, and we all know folk like the stewards are just doing their job as best they can in testing circumstances. But it was the strangest exit from a football game I’ve ever seen. Indeed, the whole experience wasn’t really a football match at all.

West Ham fans, those cast iron (geddit) West Ham fans deserve better. They deserve their club to be the beacon of the community it once was.

Brad makes it through

We all want better things in life, but sometimes biggest isn’t always best, the most expensive isn’t the best. I never, not once, felt like we were at West Ham yesterday. Indeed, I never felt we were in the East End, or even London for that matter. The word ‘London’ was on everything – like they were trying to convince themselves. The Clash rang out just before kick off: An angry, parochial rallying call of a song sounded like the theme tune from Strictly Come Dancing in this environment.

And as for the ninety minutes, I might as well have got a stream on my phone and watched that.

The London Stadium is not a patch on, for example, The Emirates. Whilst that isn’t what I’d call a real ground, it had so much more personality and character from day one that The London Stadium has, four months into its lifetime.  Indeed, give me the Bet365 over it, any day of the week. I really hope that Hammers fans eventually get the sense of community they got from their old ground at their new one. But I doubt it. Yesterday seemed like visiting a glorified fruit bowl sat in the middle of nothing.

Thirty seconds to get the ball back every time it goes out, bubble machines, scoreboards that seem to flash every so often and startling everyone, an away end in two distant sections, managers needing a taxi to get to their technical areas….and guess what we didn’t see all day? A car. Yes, a humble car. It was as if we were playing on the moon, not in the capital city, and certainly not in a vibrant East End community.

I’ve ‘done’ The London Stadium now. It felt like something to tick off a tourist list, and that’s now been done. It’s no wonder there was so much fuss about leaving Upton Park – their new gaff is the footballing equivalent of going in a brothel and asking for a hug.

I really wanted to love yesterday, to love going to West Ham again. I didn’t, but at least it’s only once a season for me. Hammers fans deserve better.

ANTHONY BUNN


‘Stoke City through a lens’ exhibition – from 12th November

Posted on November 3rd, 2016 by

‘Stoke City through a lens’ exhibition        – from 12th November

rory

Lucas’ Legacy Charity and the Theartbay Gallery are proud to announce the launch of a unique independent photo exhibition of Stoke City’s Premier League journey to date.

The exhibition consists of 32 stunning images selected and donated by the UK’s leading sports photographers, which showcase and relive the most iconic moments from the club’s first eight seasons in the Premier League.

Match day; the goal celebrations; the pride of the fans; and legends past and present all are captured by some of the very best sports photographers.

All photographs fully comply with copyright restrictions and have been donated to us on the understanding that they will be displayed and sold as a one off image to raise awareness and funding solely for our charity. With the support of Stoke City FC, the players have also signed many of the images.

We are a small, local charity raising awareness and funding for Childhood Brain Tumour Research in memory of our six-year–old son, Lucas Williams, who was a keen footballer and a massive Stoke City fan, who attended 8 matches in the 2014/15 season. Tragically Lucas died in August 2015, just 11 weeks after being diagnosed with brain tumour and four weeks before his 7th birthday.

Our charity is called ‘Lucas’ Legacy’ with the Registered Charity Number 1167650 and since the start of the year, with the strong support of people in the local community, we have raised over £80,000, including a successful bucket collection from the Stoke v Everton game back in February. All proceeds are going to help fund research in the UK that will help to find new and more effective treatments for this devastating illness.

Theartbay Gallery is an independent community-focused gallery and fine art publishers based in Fenton, and they are kindly hosting the exhibition.  We are also working with Sid Kirkham, one of the biggest selling artists in the region, and some of his football artwork will be displayed alongside. All Sid’s football depictions are endorsed by Gordon Banks OBE and sold exclusively through Theartbay Gallery.

Huge thanks to Dicksons Solicitors, Beswick Sports, AFS Wealth and Asset Management, and Malibu Marquees for sponsoring the exhibition.

Further background Information

The following agencies/photographers have donated photos. All the ones in bold, I have had email contact with, and the others might be unaware that their agency has donated the photos.

1/ Getty Sport Images – Shaun Botterill, Ross Kinnaird, Dave Thompson Scott Heavey, Jamie McDonald, Mike Hewitt, and Richard Heathcote, Michael Regan.

Alex Livesey and Bryn Lennon don’t have photos in the exhibition but have been really helpful in other ways.

Independent contributors to Getty Sport Images – Dave Price/Arsenal collection, Ian Horrocks/Newcastle Utd collection, Colin McPherson

2/Action Images – Carl Recine

3/ Offside Agency Mark Leech , Simon Stacpoole

4/ Back Page Images – Javier Garcia, Kieran McManus, Ben Queensborough (Contact was office manger Gareth Smith)

5/ AMA – Mathew Ashton

6/ AFP – Paul Ellis

7/ Guardian Newspaper – Tom Jenkins

If you require any further info on the agencies/photographers etc, just let me know

8/ Phil Greig  official SCFC photographer

9/ Richard Pitts from Getty Images (Sports)

The size of the photos vary from A2+, A3, & A4 – the larger one are on canvas.

Thank you for your interest and support of this exciting exhibition.

 

ANDREW WILLIAMS (LUCAS’ FATHER)

 

The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 12th November 10am to 5pm.

Thereafter, opening times are Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays 10am to 5pm and runs until Christmas.

Theartbay

The Bank Chambers, 26 Christchurch St, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 3AD   07809 505244


4MIDABLE: Swansea (h)

Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by

4MIDABLE: Swansea (h)

Four thoughts from our win over The Swans on Halloween……

1. Don’t push the Bards out!

He’s been one of our most consistent players, indeed one of our better players this season in my worthless opinion. Phil Bardsley has rarely let us down. And whilst he’s a player that goes under the radar, I’m usually pretty happy when that description is given for one of our defenders.

Just as Pep Guardiola wants his keepers to be footballers, I want my defenders to actually be defenders. Perhaps someone could tell those that coach John Stones that? Whilst there’s no doubt he’s great on the ball, the trade-of is that Stone needs several sessions with a certain Mr Pulis to become a defender.

I digress, Bards loves defending. There’s a spring in his step when there’s a 40/60 ball to be won, and despite being on his heels for The Swans equaliser he showed exactly the attitude and desire we need by being on the front foot after that.

His contribution for our third goals didn’t go unnoticed by our captain who didn’t go to Wilfried Bony (like everyone else), but ran over to congratulate a player who always gives 100%.

After three….

Who put Rooney on the kitchen floor, Who put Rooney on the kitchen floor, Who put Rooney on the kitchen floor, Super Phillip Bardsley!!!!”

hat

2. Great Scots

Which leads me to the following……just how on earth can Bards and Charlie Adam not even be getting in the Scotland squad? I actually thought both had packed in playing for them, but no. Absolutely staggering by the manager, and if I were a Scotland fan I’d be asking serious questions why these pair don’t get a look in.

Charlie Adam had an excellent game against Swansea. Excellent range of passing and trademark edge of the box strikes galore – just what Charlie brings to the team. The openness of the game suited Charlie going forward, and he was rarely tracked by a Swans team who came with a refreshing desire to make a game of it.

hat

3. Open all hours

Rarely have I seen a game so open from the first whistle since we came up in 2008. Both teams were determined to have a go, and whilst the result was fair, it could easily have been 5 or 6-3, too. Their back four, like Sunderland and Hull’s, were quite frankly dreadful, and until they do something about it they’ll entertain, but they’ll also lose far more than they win.#

Gong forward though, they were decent, and if that peno had been given it could have been a nervy last 10. They seem to have enough to avoid the bottom 3 – and they played some good stuff, despite Sigurdsson (their main man) doing little on the night in my opinion. And if they did go down, I’d have Ki Sung-Yueng off them in a flash. Their best player by a mile.

hat

4. Pieters, not glee

I like Erik. And despite him not having the greatest 2016, there’s something about our Dutch left back that I can’t hep but like. Fearless, loves the club, no one loves a win more than Erik……but he had a shocker on Halloween.

“But their lad Barrow did nowt”, I hear you say – and you’d be right. Thing is, he had a bigger shocker than Erik, who I thought was ball watching and out of position several times. They got in behind down that side too many times, especially second half. And that’s before anyone talks about the penalty incident and the passing/crossing.

Our two centre halves bailed us out quite a few times against Swansea. I felt Erik had got back to somewhere near his best in the last 3 games – let’s hope it was a blip.

hat

ANTHONY BUNN

 

 


THE NEW DUCK BOBBLE HAT – ONLY A HANDFUL LEFT!

Posted on November 1st, 2016 by

hathuddy

THE NEW DUCK BOBBLE HAT – ONLY A HANDFUL LEFT!

This is our collaboration with Football Bobbles, run by Reuven the lad behind the brilliant Sock Council (they did our ace Denis socks last year!).

These bobbles hats are a tribute to a cult 1970s Potters away kit that is still fondly remembered. AND THERE ARE ONLY A FEW LEFT!

GET THEM HERE: http://footballbobbles.bigcartel.com/product/the-duck-mag-cult-stoke-kit-bobble

huddy

The hats were Made in England and are 100% polyester (full details inside the hat) and perfect for keeping your head warm this winter at the match or out and about!

SHIPPING
UK shipping is included in the price of the hat, First Class Signed For.

International shipping options are available at checkout, tracked and/or signed for anywhere in the world.