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.