Get the message – my view on Saturday

I was absolutely soaked to the skin. But buzzing, nonetheless.

Three hours of selling issue 38 was both great and knackering in equal measure. I’m 49, and I’ll be honest with you, I questioned what a bloke of my age was doing selling the mag in the middle of all that the beautiful ST4 weather could throw at me. But you lovely folk of an SCFC persuasion who bought the current issue kept me going. Selling DUCK is by far the best part of a matchday – and therein possibly lies some of the problem.

It’s all a bit beige, isn’t it? Whilst I hate players and the team being booed, I feel that  this is far better than silence and apathy. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. Apathy kills football clubs. Booing and criticism shows that people care. And they have every right to express their pleasure or pain in a variety of forms (well, ones that are acceptable).

My stomach churned for Glenn Johnson when he was subbed. I hate to hear that kind of stuff, but I also understood it and those in the ground have a right to voice an opinion. Surely, it’s far more dangerous to simply accept defeat and a sub-standard performances, than to have your say? Although the team (and hopefully) management don’t need to be told when things are poor, but you simply can’t accept Saturday’s performance, can you?

Football matters. Not in the way and to the extent that Shanks said once, but it matters all the same. If it didn’t, I still wouldn’t be fuming now – 48 hours after THAT first half performance. I used to see my dad’s whole week ruined by a Stoke City defeat. But personally, I can take defeat. After 44 years of watching us, it was kind of second nature. We don’t support Stoke City FC for glory: that is never part of the supporting deal. Whatever hand you are dealt, you go with. And those dreadful times turn the good ones into great ones. Every sliver of glory and success a memory for life.

I love winning. But as stated before, if it was all about that I’d support another club. The performance against Bournemouth is what concerns me. yes, the result is what professional  football is all about, but performances give you hope of better things to come. Even if we’d nicked a draw on Saturday, that first half no-show would have left me still seething. Seven days after seven-two, we were told we’d get a reaction. Yes, yet another reaction. Five at the back and two holding midfielders wasn’t exactly the reaction I expected as we lined up. Yes, five at the back is ace when you have flying wing backs, who add to your playing style when you’re going forward. Er, say no more. So, we had a goalkeeper and eight defensive players on the pitch. Whilst I don’t want us going gung-ho, we had three out-and-out attackers at home to a team in the bottom three. That is not the mindset I wanted, nor one to strike any fear into the hearts of Eddie Howe and his team.

And yet with several defensive players on the pitch, Bournemouth still played through at us at will. Let’s get it right: a really good team would have been looking at going in at half time against us with at least another goal or two to add to that 2-0 lead. Even Devon Loch has been at the races more than we were when the ref blew his whistle at 3pm! We simply stood around and watched The Cherries pass it around us at will, until the inevitable free shot from the edge of the area was deposited into our bottom left corner.

And then we kicked off…..

One minute later we were kicking off again.

Quite simply from our own kick off we may as well have turned around, smashed it into our own net, and cut out the middle man. It wasn’t schoolboy stuff, as schoolboys wouldn’t have done it. Blame the captain all you like, but he didn’t kick the ball out from the kick off, then leave two men unattended and let them cut through us with one pass. The game was done there and then, and our body language affirmed it. THAT was the time to change it, preferably the personnel on the pitch…..but whilst we meddled a bit with three up top, the away team were the only ones playing with any sort of coherency.

The second half – we huffed and puffed, and lamped it forward as long and high as we could, as we suddenly reverted back to 2011-mode, but let’s face it, Asmir had hardly anything to do. Bournemouth hardly got out of their half, but didn’t really need to, even after our best forward and best right back scored our only goal. We rarely work goalkeepers, and ended with the sight of only two of our three subs used and Ryan going upfront, as we went even more route one.

Question: when teams are losing at home, why not overload the pitch width-ways by chucking another wide man on, rather than another tall player going up top? Crouch needs the ball coming in from out wide, not straight from a centre half.

We didn’t put the ball in from wide areas as we didn’t have enough natural width on the pitch, meaning long balls straight down the middle. NOT what Crouchy and Ryan wanted, and meat and drink to any decent centre half from the PDSL, never mind the Premier League!

A draw would have masked what we’ve known for some time – despite being unlucky with injuries, we don’t seem to have a clue about our best shape and personnel. Saturday wasn’t a must-win game for me, but it was a must-show we have what it takes to move forward. Our set-up for the start of the game left me and those around me shaking our heads. Uber-negative, uber-slow, uber-ponderous, uber-confusing, and it turned into an uber-dreadful first half showing.

I really don’t want to hear the word ‘reaction’ used this week as we get towards an away game against an upwardly mobile team with pace and passion. I simply want actions speaking louder than words.

I really don’t want to hear that the players have been dragged into Clayton Wood on a Sunday or had a team meal to sort it all out. I simply want it sorted.

Yes, I’ve seen us lose to teams far worse than Bournemouth and in far worse leagues. But that’s not the point. When I see on social media lads half my age getting stick as they “weren’t at Wigan on that grassy bank etc“….who gives a toss? It’s not their fault they weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to be born to see Alan Ball and Chris Kamara ‘manage’ us! They may have only seen us in The Premier League, but like me, they are concerned that may soon be coming to an end. They know we are capable of far better, because they have seen it themselves, with their own young eyes, and they have every right to ask questions and point fingers.

Me? I don’t want cups. I don’t expect wins. I aren’t a mard about Stoke, nor do I ever feel entitled to anything where The Potters are involved. I simply want us to make the best of what we have. 8 wins in 30 games or so is not what our squad is capable of. Cup loses to Bristol City, Hull and Wolves’ reserve teams is not what our squad is capable of.

Get rid of the manager? We’ve been asked this any number of times over the last few days. It’s not up to us to take sides one way or another – so we support whoever is in charge and whoever wears the stripes. But with our support and devotion comes a responsibility. A responsibility, like every football club at every level of the game to become better and to learn from mistakes. Personally, I feel as down as I have for any number of years. And that is solely because we are so much better than what we are. And those that say there’s no one else out there? A massive percentage of managers around the world would give their back-teeth to manager a Premier League club, one with an outstanding chairman.

This is not a blip. I spoke on TalkSport last year, almost to the day that I type this. And I’m saying the same things in October 2017 as I was in October 2016. If I say the same things in October 2018 we probably won’t be in this league. As a player, Mark Hughes struck fear into every defender he came into contact with – and I want a bit of that Sparky to show in the team he’s managing. If he was on the bet365 turf last Saturday, Mark Hughes would have been going mad and flying in all over the shop. I wanted us to show a bit of that passion in the first 45 minutes.

It’s not all about Mark Hughes – we also want our lads in red and white to take responsibility, too. We spent over two decades being out of the spotlight, and whilst this league is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be by the annoying likes of SKY Sports, we really do need to be in it – from a club and city perspective. We have a football the club the envy of many, many others. We do so many things right. But its all about what goes on on the pitch.

For us, it’s time to tuck our chins into our big coats and do what we do best – close ranks and give our unequivocal backing to those on the pitch – as we can and do make a difference. But we also ask for The Potters not to punch above, but rather at, our fighting weight, too. After Chelsea put four past us I was still proud of how we performed that day. We made plenty of mistakes, but we gave it a right go and were rightly clapped off at the end. But we’ve had a few too many performances like Saturday – and that needs addressing.

We’re positive folk here at DUCK, and we love our football club, as you all do who are reading this. Keep caring folk, keep loving Stoke City.

Vis Unita Fortior, as they say in Heron Cross.