It’s been a hectic day for forefingers, eh?
Social media both is and isn’t the best place to see supporter reaction. Its immediacy can sometimes mean that supporters type before they think, but it also lends itself seamlessly to a spontaneity that you don’t get from any other form of media. But it can also mean you put yourself in one camp or the other; dangerous territory if you quickly nail your colours to the mast over an issue or decision.
But it’s always a very decent barometer of supporter feeling – from the young lads in block 19, to those of us of a certain age in the Family Stand; and from wind up merchants to members of the national media – although that may well be one and the same thing, eh Robbie?
Twitter has been gold dust all day today: humour, anger, bitterness, surprise, disbelief…..mostly negative emotions in the main, and you can’t blame folk can you, when the news broke this morning? A week of expectation and hopes over certain names and potential targets…..I’m sure that nine days ago Paul Lambert wouldn’t have been the name on many Potters’ lips And I’m sure our new manager would understand that, too.
Disappointment in the magnitude of the appointment has probably heightened due to being linked so heavily linked with managers with a much bigger name and/or pedigree. And that is to be expected. If Stokies were asked two weeks ago whether they’d like us to sack Mark Hughes and replace him with Paul Lambert then I think the vote would have been very split. That we didn’t get that absolute cool as **** lad from Espanyol or the motivational/rollocking Eire duo is no fault of Paul Lambert. At least he wanted the bloody job at Stoke!
January is a graveyard for moving clubs. Rarely do you see top players or managers swap clubs in this month. Clubs are halfway through the season and probably still looking up or down with fear or hope, and you simply don’t see the deals that you do in the summer. That’s why the timing of sacking Mark Hughes was so critical – we limited and narrowed the field massively to those candidates not good enough to be in a job, or those who are doing well enough in a job that their employers wouldn’t let the leave. The field available to us wasn’t as extensive as it could or should have been. That’s why I believe that Hughes should have been relieved of his duties – and sincerely thanked for his work – after walking around a 19/20ths empty bet365 Stadium after the Arsenal game last May.
But we can look into the why’s and wherefores all we want – it does no good. All we can deal with is the here and now, and where we go from here.
As stated above, at least Paul Lambert actually wanted to manage Stoke City. Others didn’t, and they can sod off and rot in their respective roles for all I care. And whilst his managerial pedigree might not be what Stokies wanted or expected from our new manager, all we can do at the magazine is wish him well and sincerely hope he does an amazing job for us.
Support, for me, is unconditional. I supported Stoke just as vociferously under Alan Ball as I did with Lou Macari in charge; and as fervently with Joe Jordan as I did with Tony Pulis. Why? Because I can’t affect in any way, shape or form who our manager is. So, I have two choices – I back whoever is in charge or I don’t. Each and every new Stoke City manager has my backing and always will do.
For me, not supporting Stoke City at full tilt isn’t an option. At the end of the season all I can do is look myself in the supporting mirror and know I’ve backed the lads during matches. And by god, do they need backing until mid-May.
The big word today has been ‘underwhelmed’ and I’d be a liar to say I was any different. But wasn’t that the key emotion and feeling associated when Messrs Pulis and Hughes were first appointed? Whilst both had their faults, between them they got us promoted, to an FA Cup final, into Europe, three consecutive 9th place finishes, League Cup semi final….and so many great memories along the way. Surely that is why we have to give Paul Lambert a fair crack of the whip and our full backing.
Lambert has inherited a mess, and a side plummeting towards relegation. I don’t think he can manage our squad any worse than how it’s been managed this season, I really don’t. All I want him to do is get us organised and get us motivated. As I’ve always said – THAT is what I want from a Stoke team. if he does that I’ll be happy and we’ll have a chance.
I won’t lie: Yes I’m anxious, yes I’m a bit angry, and yes I’m a bit confused – but I am a Stoke City fan, and I will be there on Saturday doing my level best to spur the lads on in a massive, huge game. Yes, we’ll have a moan after a game and in the week, but once that turnstile clicks on Saturday then so does a device in my heart and soul that makes me give unconditional backing to The Potters. And I would love everyone to do the same.
I’ve just watched our 3-0 defeat tonight, and my overriding emotion is pride. Pride in our magnificent support, and pride that our new manager heard his name booming out from the away end. That will think so much of us as a support. That is Stoke City. That is what we do. That is what we must do.
Call me a happy clapper, I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is getting relegated and us losing our status, Stokies losing their jobs and the local economy losing much needed revenue. Surely now is the time we see what we are all about – both on and off the pitch? Making Wembley shake when you’re 5-0 up is easy. But don’t we now need to put our big coats on, tuck our chin(s) in, and walk with a renewed vigour and purpose to the ground, to give our superb vocal support to those in the famous stripes that need it?
I don’t see this as the time for questions or recriminations. I see this as a 15 game season within a season. I see this as one of the biggest four months in the history of our beloved club. And I see our support rising to the challenge, yet again. If we can sing Joe bloody Jordan’s name for 90 minutes as we did in his first game against Leicester then we can do the same for Paul Lambert. He deserves and needs our support, as he is the new manager of Stoke City.
Time will judge Paul Lambert. And we really hope it judges him really well. Come the end of the season, let’s not have national media tossers pointing the judgemental fingers at our support and blaming us in any way, shape or form. Remember The Bearpit days? How ace were they, eh? Let’s get that back pronto. It would be great to hear full houses roaring the lads on every home game, and whilst we know that some Stokies are hurting right now, we’d love to see it happen.
This article isn’t to give our opinion on how Stokies should support our club. How patronising and up-ourselves would that be? No, we have no right to do that and we won’t ever do that! We understand frustrations and we are frustrated ourselves. After all, we all support in our own different ways. I’m just outlining what I’m going to do and how I will support the club and team. I fully respect anyone who chooses a different path. This isn’t a call to arms. This is just my own Stoke-supporting manifesto.
Stoke City need, want, and should get our support. And when it gets hard, really hard, we remember those two simply beautiful lines from 1972….
Every step along the way
By your side we’ll always stay.
Aren’t we needed at their side folks, right now? Let’s have it Stokies. Let’s ****** have it! It’s our club – let’s show everyone just how much we love it.
The first issue of 2018, and life really does begin at 40, because this issue is an absolute belter.
Inside issue 40:
Case for the defence – Dave Proudlove’s plea, for leniency, towards TP.
Driven to distraction – Orfy’s mint two-pager about our road trip to Liverpool in February 2016. The start of the end?
Crafty – The Beerdman carries on his take on the ale scene. This issue, he spreads his wings and it’s the bustling city of Leeds.
Leadership – It’s about leadership. And it’s written by Duts. Expect it to be ace.
A cry for Alp – Rob Doolan is one of the best football writers around. Here, he takes in a two-game weekend, in vastly different cities.
From the Stoke End to The Waddington Suite – Mike Richardson’s simply lovely piece about absent friends.
Following the oval ball – Rugby Union? In DUCK? When it’s Andy Stanier’s superb piece, then yes!
Jumpers for goalposts – Ant Sutcliffe and his childhood with his mates.
Sensible Stoke – Part Two of a Ben Cotton’s mint history of Stoke City in the virtual world.
Get the message – our editorial on Mark Hughes, and my support for the club.
Catalan Convertor – a look at the Catalonian capital city. Barca in Will Farr’s eyes.
Trainer Spotter – we look at the adidas Gazelle, one of the three stripe’s most iconic and seminal sneakers.
……and loads more besides!
It’s pretty hard to write this without starting it exactly in the same vein as the piece I wrote on New Years Day about football in general, SCFC, and our manager……so, I won’t bother – I’ll start it exactly the same as I did five days ago!
It was a sunny mid-May tea time, and we’d just dismantled Liverpool 6 (SIX)-1 on the last day of the 2014/2015 season. As usual, I was selling the last few of the magazine whilst my youngest lad was getting autographs, a good hour after the final whistle. It was a surreal afternoon, and a surreal atmosphere. All I’d known since a young, young age was losing heavily to the red half of Merseyside and having my nose rubbed in it by the socially bankrupt youth of Stoke-on-Trent in the school playground the following week.
The original gloryhunters, the playground wasn’t full of Man United fans back then, but faux-Reds, resplendent in their shiny 70’s and 80’s liver bird tops.
I’ve always hated Crown Paints ever since.
So, here was my moment. We didn’t just hammer Liverpool in Steve Gerrard’s last match that day – we sent a message out to football: We were a player or two off seriously having a go at the top 6 or 7. We saw Bojan hobbling around pitch at the end of the game, and thought to ourselves “put that lad into this team and we are in serious danger of bloody winning something soon!!!”. The lap of honour at the end saw Stokies to a person staying behind and giving the squad and manager a humbling reception. A corner of ST4 owned football that day, if only for two hours or so. Only Peterborough away and Bolton at Wembley came close to how I personally felt that day.
So, I waited. Well, we waited. And waited……
Me, my kids, my mate Brad, and his daughter. Long after all the players had gone. Long after the media had gone. They came out, and I had to speak to them. It was akin to when I used to take the kids down to the training ground in the school hols in our first years in the Premier League, “good things come to those who wait” I’d say to my two eldest, and then he’d appear – Ricardo Fuller, and hour after every player had left Clayton Wood. We’d always have Ric to ourselves so could have a quick chat and as many pics taken and things signed as we wanted. And it was the same with Mark Hughes.
Hughes and his two lieutenants came out….
“Mark, can I just say thank you. Thank you for possibly the best performance I’ve ever seen from a Stoke team, and thank you on behalf of every kid from Stoke who used to get the p*** taken out of them at work or at school. Today means so much to us”.
He was a tough nut on a football pitch was Sparky, but he seemed genuinely surprised and moved by the emotion me and Brad showed that day as we both thanked him. He thanked us for our support, shook our hands, and wished us a great summer. We drove off the car park but would have gladly crawled the six miles home that day.
The key word in the above paragraph is EMOTION. It’s what football is all about and it’s what Mark Hughes was all about when he strode the turf, warrior-like for Manchester United. We hated him back then. He was everything we detested about Manchester United as teenagers. Cocky, classy, tough, and win at all costs – the ultimate passionate s***house, full of emotion and will-to-win.
A press conference or an interview last week, I forget which it was, saw our manager say something along the lines of there’s too much emotion about at the moment when it comes to views on him and Stoke City. That was it for me. Never, ever should emotion be a negative in football. Ever! At times, it’s all that we have as Stokies and football fans in general, have – daft, unremitting hope, and emotion. Because take emotion out of football and it’s not football. What it is, is what those clueless tools on the playground will never, ever know or show: supporting your football club is a bond, an attachment based on total love and belonging. We don’t ask for trophies. We don’t even ask for wins. We just ask for hope and for us to be in a world, well away from the 9-5 grind. We want a world of emotions. Football is just that.
They’re often stupid, totally fact-free emotions mind you, based on blind loyalty and little else. But they’re the greatest kind of emotions. Because for every 500 times they break your heart, you get a Liverpool 6-1, a Bolton 5-0, a Paul Ware free kick at London Road, a Sidibe scrambled winner against Villa…….
So, when Sparky wanted emotion removing from the current scenario he went all a bit Holden Lane Primary School 1978 on me. He made it personal. He was basically rejecting that stupid-yet-100%-honest and cringey, blubbering homage I’d paid to him after what I’d witnessed from his team in the 6 (SIX)-1.
Tonight isn’t a night for saying where it went wrong. Tonight, for me, certainly isn’t a night for celebration or rejoicing.
A manager who did so many great things for our football club has ben sacked. And a man has lost his job. What he earns means little to me, I’m a nice bloke and don’t like to see folk upset!
Hughes’ first two years in charge must mean that he is one of the very best managers in my lifetime of supporting Stoke City. Granted, it’s not got the entry field of a Grand National, but he turned a support that had big reservations at his appointment into one immensely grateful that Mr Coates employed him. His last two years are something for another article, another day.
Tonight, I want to thank Mark Hughes.
Yes, of course it was the right decision to let him go and many, many feel he has been unbelievably lucky to have lasted this long. But whenever we lose a manager is a sad occasion. It means we aren’t doing very well, and it’s a period of massive uncertainty. And we simply cannot overlook the impact he made when came into our club. The likes of Robbie Savage may just want to look at Hughes’ first two years – and that’s their prerogative. But the bigger picture has been clear to see for a long time, and this has been coming for some time. But we have to give credit where it is due, and I just wish it hadn’t come to the likes of banners and mass shouts of “Hughes out!”.
I feel old. Perhaps I’m getting to the end of my days watching football in the Premier League and seeing what my beloved ‘working man’s ballet’ has become? Seeking contact in the box, having a ‘right’ to go down when there’s minimal contact, VAR systems, fourth officials who simply get bellowed at, hundreds of instant replays putting incredible pressure on officials, SKY Sports News, social media replacing the pub after the game…….the list goes on. I quite like that we still have a chairman who is loyal in a drive-thru world, but I also have my views on when the manager should have gone, too.
You see, I’m confused. The only clarity in all of this, is this: As a supporter of Stoke City, it’s my duty to do my bit to help my beloved club stay in this division. Even though this division often leaves me cold. Economically, this city must have a team in the top league of English football. We’ve walked the walk of 23 long, hard years without top flight football. Tonight, I’m not going to look at the hierarchy, the new manager, or the players – just what can I do, as a humble supporter, to help get my team over the line? Lord knows, they need us. Time to do what we do best, eh?
The ground needs to shake again. Opposition players need to fill their Louis Vuitton pants in the tunnel at 2.55pm again. Emotion is what we do. And we do it so bloody beautifully well. Bring it on.
They say that you should leave it for twenty four hours. To let it sink in and for it to digest. Give yourself the time to be objective and avoid knee-jerk reactions……
But I’ve got work to do tomorrow. Work that takes planning and focus – completely the opposite to what I watched three hours ago in ST4. Sorry, Mark…..
I sat in the car, in the south car park, watching the raindrops trickle down the windscreen at around 5.40pm. ”In fairness, they’re moving slightly faster than our two centre halves today”, I thought to myself as fellow disgruntled Stokies were sat alongside us in the , monotonous queue to get away, get home, and get moody with loved ones when they ask us “how have Stoke gone on today?”.
Praise and Grumble was on, and it won’t be a surprise that the latter easily beat the former. As easy as most teams seem to take three points off our team, to be honest. But one statement stuck with me, from one excellent caller….
I agreed with everything he said apart from at the end of his call he stated that “football is an entertainment business”.
I wholeheartedly disagreed. And if you are that bloke, reading this, then I apologise for disagreeing, but please read on. Plus, I thought your call was ace, mate!
Watching my football club has never been about entertainment. If it was, then I’d be watching another club, or indeed, another sport. No, we don’t choose to be Stokies: Stoke chooses us. And we then strap in and buckle up for a lifetime ride of pain, pleasure, heartache, joy, despair, fear, loathing – and any other of Snow White’s mates.
No, I watch Stoke City for hope, emotion, and belonging. Entertainment never, ever really comes into it for me. If Stoke win, then I’ve been entertained. If Stoke win and played entertaining stuff….then ace. Those days are to be cherished. But I had a more entraining day watching us lose 1-0 at Fulham back in 2009 than beat the same team 4-0 at home a few years later. Because I’ve always seen football as not just about the ninety minutes. Thank God!
Apart from family, nothing comes close to football in how it shapes my life. I don’t buy my season ticket thinking “they’d better entertain me and my kids for the £600 I’ve spent”. If Stoke win, I’m entertained. If I’ve had a great day out with mates, my kids etc…I’m entertained, even if we’ve lost.
Those of my age have seen far, far worse from Stoke City. But those not my age can’t be judged about their opinions on Stoke’s current plight just because they weren’t ‘fortunate’ enough to have been born early enough to watch Swindon put six past us, or to fall down the grass bank at Wigan watching Alan Ball’s team go through the motions. They say it as it is, and rightly so. Thing is, the football supporting goalposts have changed now…..
1992 wasn’t just the year we won the Autoglass Trophy. It was the year that football supporting changed forever. It was the year that conceived entitlement and smacked-arsesness, and a plethora of bedwetters who use rulers on TV screens to see if a lad’s left patella is offside. The working man’s ballet that has now morphed into a sport that applauds ‘seeking contact in the box’ and ‘being entitled to go down’ under a challenge. It’s all a bit shit really, isn’t it?
The money sloshing around in football since 1992 has turned it into a new sport. A better one? You know my opinion on that, but I can’t change the world, nor football. It is what it is.
Back to The Potters – What I want to see off any Stoke City team – no matter the division we’re in, the price of the players etc – is a plan, a set-up, a focus, a desire, and an effort that gives me hope. Performances that stir my emotions. I don’t expect entertaining football. I want to see Stoke City do their very best. To see Stoke City give themselves the very best chance of reaching its potential in every game. Entertainment is an added bonus, not the raison d’etre.
We apparently play in ‘The Best League In The World’. A league that has transfer totalisers every six months allowing clueless, grinning whoppers the opportunity to twice-yearly gurn orgasmically as totally crap players get transferred (for around £18 million!). They sell us this 24/7, despite us having the context of being at games like today’s and watching with our own eyes multi-millionaires struggle to control or pass a ball. Entertainment – pmsl!
And then they get the stats out: pass completion, heat maps etc – to try to tell you a crap game you’ve just watched wasn’t crap. It’s simply one huge patronisation exercise, but it really is the place to be. Because if we aren’t in the Premier League come August, then we will see local people lose their jobs and the local economy take a massive hit.
And that’s before we get on to the football bit of it…….
Let’s get it right, that game today was hardly First Division standard, was it? Yet, Newcastle fans, quite rightly, would see it as entertaining. Winning is entertaining. And if we go down, I’d wager we would not finish in the top half of The Championship with this squad. As I type this, Coventry City are 5/1 to win on Saturday. Not one Stokie I know thinks it will be a shock if we lose at The Ricoh in five day’s time, not one.
Entertainment? No! I want a Stoke team who will give their all for every minute between now and mid-May. Silky, attacking football? No! I want us to shithouse our way to wins and park the bus to scrape points. And I want a manager who will get a team organised to do so. The current one has displayed time and again over a number of months that he now cannot do it.
I watch Stoke City as they represent me and my city on that beautiful couple of green ST4 acres. And whilst I personally will never love the league we are in, it kind of is the only place to be. We need to stay in it. We have to stay in it. It took us over two decades to get back in it, and we have been sleepwalking our way out of it for almost two years now.
Today was simply shambolic in so many ways. But it’s the latest in a long, long shambolic list. The likes of various national media bods like Robbie Savage will never know what we know, as they don’t ever see what we see. You see, Stoke City are nowt to him, but everything to us. I go crazy when I hear him and his mate ask “just what do Stoke fans want, what do they think they can do?”. Patronising crap, so beautifully put in it’s place twenty months ago by Leicester City, a club he ironically played for.
I’ve been on local and national media in recent weeks, praying for the manager to turn it around. he hasn’t and indeed, it’s getting worse. The stats are damning – and even more pertinent, performances are even more so. Of the games we’ve won, only Swansea and possible Watford were merited. Team selections, tactics, set-ups are seemingly done at the behest of whichever way the wind is blowing as it scatters the Match Attax cards across the manager’s desk at Clayton Wood. It’s desperate stuff. And it got beyond desperation as we lost yet another six-pointer to a very poor team who were simply better organised, hungrier and pacier than us.
Football is nothing without hope. Mine has been all but sucked out of my soul for this season now. Football is nothing without emotion, yet all I feel is bitterness and anger. And football is nothing without belonging. That is what will never leave me, as it’s mine and our club. Those three in themselves are what entertain me, and always will do. Football isn’t a product, it’s not a consumerable. For something that relies on points, tables, and statistics – football supporting is ALL about feelings and emotions. Yes, entertainment is one of those – but it will never be the sole reason for watching my football club, for me. And in the state we are now, it’s the very last thing on my supporting mind.
Happy New Year.