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.
There really was no doubt that our honourable local owners would make the decision to let Mark Hughes remain as our coach supreme for yet another season.
Yes, we retained our Premier status, but let’s be honest by the ‘skin of our teeth’ as that home win against relegation finalists Hull City was so crucial it took two original Pulis signings to ‘save our bacon’ as they were so up for it that Stoke could have easily been beaten especially how they waltzed out onto the pitch second half giving the impression of not having a care in the world that got up supporters noses that much it made many seethe with anger , myself included and become so loudly vocal that my voice was almost packing in.
This season will have to be extra special for SCFC or else the Championship certainly beckons and it will be deservedly so this time. There is absolutely no room for error this season because trying to get promotion from that league back to the Premier at the first attempt is reminiscent of Arthur not being able to pull Excalibur from the stone. Newcastle are to be hugely applauded and for Brighton it is like all their Christmas present wish list being granted for life.
A mass clear out and reappraisal of the playing staff was the number one summer priority for Mark Hughes. Forget your expensive holiday abroad you haven’t even been worthy of a weekend in Skegnesss or Burslem for that matter, in my opinion.
Out of all the MH signings and wasteful buys, the top prize has to go to imbula for being as an ineffective player to compare to the usefulness of a nine pound note, and it quite worryingly as it looks like Berinhno will follow suit. Bojan was another hallowed footballing god who would grace us with his divine presence and bring excelled Premier glory to the Potteries. Instead, an he’s gone on loan! Shaqiri the superstar one-man micro soccer sensation became SCFC’s answer to Anderton, ending up as a walking sick note.
The success stories of MH’s footsteps in the weird and wacky lower Premier league last minute bargain bucket transfer market have been Messrs Grant and Allen but the latter often looking tired and worn out unable like the remainder of our first eleven to keep pace.
Then there’s our good old top notch striker Marco who missed more scoring opportunities than he converted. Who also is a specialist remonstrator who spends more time on the deck arguing the toss with an official that can’t give one let alone have witnessed the injustice that took place. All resulting, voila, in a usually dire and dangerous goal scoring opportunity by the opposition who have, by now, gained crucial ground by one player not bothering to at least try to win the ball back in his possession.
Which brings me to the subject matter name of the game: to score goals in the opposition’s net making sure that the tally is more than those that end up in ours, which is ideally none conceded at all. Quite a simple task for everyone to understand, you would conclude?
Last season’s goal scoring tally was, put simply, abysmal as was our defensive record. Both were dreadful especially considering the considerable investment bequeathed to Mark Hughes by the Coates family then ridiculously squandered in such an inefficient and ineffective manner.
It is clear that the midfield is more than amply covered almost to the point of saturation so it is blatantly obvious where concentrated quality investment is needed: attack and defence, the two extremes.
A couple of proven Premier strikers are an urgent necessity along with the complete rebuild of our fragile defence, an area in which we were previously renown and feared especially during the Pulis years.
Whilst our passing and possession game, which was a new revolutionary system has gone AWOL, and was pleasing on the eye and relatively initially effective it has not fed the ball to the front then the strikers have just not been capable of putting the ball in the net. Our defence has been an shambles at times when it has alway been strong, effective and protective but now, weak.
The academy? Tom Edwards has broken through,but we need more. I feel that there are an abundance of players in our academy that ‘fit that bill’ who should be given first team experience accompanied in their respective roles by a seasoned first teamer to teach them ‘the ropes’ especially, initially, for the last three penultimate home matches so as to ‘ween’ them in the Premier level culture. I’m convinced that this is the first step in the way forward for the club without wasting millions on players that break the bank and are ridiculously costly on the wage bill with no proven value for money let alone the lack of cost effectiveness with performance poor and not impressive even in the slightest meagre manner.
On the field of play, why so much passing back? This is a recipe for disaster. When the ball is in the goalkeeper’s possession and no compulsory goal kick, why waste the ball by a drop kick that ends up in anybody’s possession, and usually for us in the opposition’s. Why not roll out the ball to the defence and get it upfield and in our permanent possession then on and into the opposition box where our strikers lie in wait to put it into the net.
Is this so hard to digest? Also, use some of the Pulis playing attributes such as long throw-ins and effective corner techniques. At present, we have no player who is capable of an even slightly effective corner. We have gone from being a powerful physical team who had a strong effective defence that scored regularly from set pieces to one that continually concedes from set pieces.
The general calibre of player has also changed significantly under the change of tenure strangely mirroring it even to the point of lack in
If an honest, open appraisal of our competitors is carried out then the investment in youth and early transfer activities have proved to bring stability and success. West Bromwich Albion, as a club that mirror ours, virtually swapped places with us this season, cause for thought eh?
Time is now not on our side with us gradually getting more left behind each season taking back step after back step. We cannot afford any hiccups this coming season especially relying on compatriots’ results to dictate our continuity in the top flight as I do not fancy our chances on an immediate bounce back from the Championship and furthermore do not relish a return to attending matches at Molineux.
At the time of writing this article,it was nearly one month prior to the impending commencement of our 10th season in the Premiership, and as usual in accordance to the Hughes management culture and tenure he has not made any major inroads to really strengthening and revamping the playing squad to deal with the vigour’s and challenges of a new season in the top flight in addition to ensuring that this forthcoming season does not unfold similar to the last whereby relegation was a strong possibility.
The sale of Arnautovic is no surprise and in some aspects, a relief as face it he’s hardly set the world on fire, has he? The sale of Walters has left a bad taste in some supporters’ mouths as he definitely has been a rock-solid stalwart that. The same can be said about Whelan.
The signing of two young talented players to our squad can hopefully gel with Ramadan and Shaquiri to bring some threat to our overall game and be complemented more evenly on the pitch whilst providing a threat to every opposition.
Inject the fuel, Mark now, and spark our resurgence for the sake of the club, the Coates family and most importantly for the fans as our wrath knows no bounds! And our Chairman will be well aware of that as, after all, attendances fill the coffers: lower league = lower attendances, a simple business equation that should be urgently adhered to as SKY parachute money will not last long.
(SENT OUT ON FRIDAY 20/10/2017)
The new issue of DUCK magazine, and we reckon it’s possibly our best yet. If w eget our backsides in gear we may even get some free stickers done, too! *
Inside issue 38:
Dave Regis interview – Orfy talks to a player so underrated and crucial in our promotion winning season on 1992/93. It’s a great interview. And yes, they do talk about that blinkin’ puddle!
Needing a spark – Henri Keuter and Dan Strong join forces to dissect how our manager has performed in recent times.
Crafty – The Beerdman carries on his take on the local ale scene. this issue, it’s that drinker’s paradise and Queen of the Moorlands, Leek.
Desperately seeking something – a peek at what it’s like to be a mid-table team in ST4. Orfy’s search for an identity for Stoke.
Football – Dave Cowlishaw’s superb take on the beautiful game. Short, sharp, sweet. Not Dave.
Get the message – our editorial, and it’s not on football. Who’d a thunk it, eh?
Last night a DJ made my life – Our regular feature about the platters that matter. Sorry for going all 80’s there, but there’s good reason – this issue Rockcliffe Files remembers The Smiths.
The Hex Files – Rob Doolan’s regular two pages. So you know full well it will be ace. This isn’t – it’s really ace! Football and Halloween – and no mention of Iain Dowie.
The Cherry blossoms – our tribute to Glenn Whelan. Yes, about time, we know!
Those were the days pt 2 – The second instalment of Dut’s take on modern football. The lad wears nice coats and can write. That’ll do for us.
Trainerspotter – our monthly look at the trainers we love. This issue, it’s a pack from the lovely Saucony from a year or two ago.
……and loads more inside the glossy, A5 pages.
* we possibly may not have the time to get our backsides in gear
It’s a grey Thursday in April, and I’m sat in the foyer of Holiday Inn, by junction 15 of the M6.
It’s late morning, and the hotel reception and café is full of business types running around: all contrasting-coloured pointed shoes and slicked back hair. They don’t stop to see they’re in the presence of true greatness. They don’t see that the greatest goalkeeper to ever walk this planet has just entered.
Gordon Banks OBE is a true great, a true legend. In an age where these terms are thrown around like confetti, where this man is concerned – believe the hype.
I count myself blessed to have spent around ninety minutes with the great man, who looked in great nick and was on great form……
Tell us a bit about yourself growing up Gordon. What kind of kid were you?
I didn’t like school. I wasn’t brilliant at school at all. I just looked forward to playtime and kicking a ball about to be honest. I left school at 15, and my first job was a local coal round. I was the youngest of four sons and we all had to get a job as soon we left school in those days.
The wagon would come to the sidings full of coal, and we’d be in a lorry and we’d shovel the coal into a bag on the wagon. The bags would be stacked on the lorry and we’d take them to houses and put the bags into house cellars. We got paid next to nothing but we had to bring money into our house.
So how did you got spotted?
I played for my school team and for the Sheffield boys team. My brother, David, got me a job on his building site as an apprentice bricklayer. I was digging ditches, mixing concrete…..crikey!!!!!!
Then, when I was about 17 – I work until Saturday lunchtime to get some overtime. I’d then run home, get washed and changed, and get the bus or tram into town. I’m a Sheffield lad, and used to go watch United and Wednesday when they were at home. It didn’t matter which one, I just loved the sound of the crowd, and all the sights, sounds and smells of a game.
This particular Saturday I missed the bus, and so went to watch my local team on the rec. I was leaning on the fence and one bloke came over to me and said to me “Didn’t you used to play in goal as our goalie has not turned up?”.
So, I rushed home, got my boots and stuff……after game they asked me to play regularly for them.
Walking off the pitch one game, a bloke came over to me and said he was from Chesterfield FC, and they likes me to play for their youth team until the end of season and assess me then. So I did that, and they signed me on as a semi-professional at the end of the season. I was still work on building sites but I trained Tuesday and Thursday nights. It was all so different in those days…….there were only two televisions in our street as folk couldn’t afford them, so kids were all out playing football as there was nothing else to do back then. You rarely see that nowadays.
Why were you a goalkeeper?
Well, when we played five a side no one wanted to be a goalkeeper. So, we took it in turns. I went in one day, and I’m diving about and making saves, and I’m thinking “This is quite exciting”, so I started playing in goal a little bit more.
Ever think you’d have the career you had when at Chesterfield?
Crikey, oh no, no. I played six games at Chesterfield, which I enjoyed, but I never thought I’d have the career I did. I did my national service when I was 18 and afterwards they signed me on as a professional.
You moved to Leicester and were superb for them – then you, you moved to us. Tell us about the transfer……
I’d been playing really well, and despite losing a few times at Wembley, I felt I was at the top of my game. A very young Peter Shilton was coming through the ranks and was highly rated, quite rightly, by them. There weren’t goalkeeping coacjhs back then and so I’d take quite a bit of the coaching duties. Peter looked a really good goalkeeper, no question about that, but stated he wanted first team football. At first, I took no notice, as he was only young and starting his career. But I was playing for England, as well as in a number of finals – including the World Cup Final, and it was a real jolt out the blue when Leicester’s manager at the time came over to me one day and said “Gordon, what would you think about leaving?”.
It was then that I knew – I had to leave. I said “if that’s all you think about me, then yes, I’ll go”.
You had plenty of interest from other clubs – why choose Stoke?
I couldn’t have picked a better club. I was delighted to come to Stoke. Waddo was so charismatic – he really sold the club to me. I knew the fans were great from playing in front of them, but everyone at the club was great, from directors, to fans, to the manager…….different class.
Waddo had a great knack of putting experienced players with younger players. He’d give kids a chance, but he also brought in some great experienced players, too. We had a great blend of youth and experience, and I could see it was a club going places.
What was it like having the (in)famous homegrown back four in front of you? Bloor, Smith, Pejic, Marsh: What a defence that was! They all did their jobs superbly. Hopefully, if you ask them, they will tell you I helped them to play well, too. Modern goalkeepers don’t seem to communicate with their back four. Jack Butland does it, but I’d always be shouting at the lads in front of me if players were unmarked or to make them more aware.
The social side of playing at Stoke……..you know have ex-players meeting on a weekly basis. It’s brilliant to see….
Yeah, you had the likes of my great mate George Eastham living in Sneyd Green (yes, behind The Sneyd Arms, near us – ed) no disrespect to the area, as I love it, but can you imagine Premier League players doing that now! I love the walks, lunches and meet ups that ex-Stoke players have every week. It kind of sums up the football club and the area – amazingly friendly, and loyal.
We loved socialising together. We played and trained hard, but we loved life. Is there another club in this country that does this? I don’t know, but I do know that our friendship and camaraderie is lovely. It would be nice to think the players of this age would be doing the same in twenty years’ time, but I doubt it.
Would you swap your memories for the money around in the Premier League as a player in 2017?
No, not a chance. Never. Absolutely no way. It’s a different game now anyway, and one I don’t like anywhere near as much as when I played.
And how about being a goalkeeper in 2017? No way, ha ha! Not with how much those balls swerve!
So, would you have made the save from Pele with a modern ball, Gordon? Oh, and the answer is ‘yes’ by the way……
Ha, ha. I’d do my best! You’ve seen Asmir Begovic score with those new footballs – crikey, I struggled to get those old heavy balls out of my own ar!
Who was your best mate at Stoke…..
George Eastham. Yeah, we’re big mates, still are…..he’s now living in Cape Town.
Your finest saves…….everyone knows about the save from Pele’s header. What are your choices?
Obviously, everyone talks about the Pele save, but there’s two that stick out. The first one is the save after Mickey Bernard’s backpass in the League Cup Final– as it helped us win the cup, that makes it a really special one. And then there’s the one from Geoff Hurst’s penalty in the semi final…….
Geoff says that my save from his penalty was better than the save off Pele. I just remember his run up……..it was massive. He rarely missed penalties, he was a great striker of a ball. He started from outside the area and when he started his run up, I knew he was going to put it to my right if anything as from his body position I knew he couldn’t rotate and put it to my left. He just absolutely walloped it, just right of centre. I looked up, and I’d pushed it over the bar. Then all I knew I was screaming at our players to stop jumping on me and start marking their players for the corner! I was pushing them off me!
Which leads us nicely to the club’s finest ever day: did it fly by or do you remember lots about it?
I remember most of it. I’d played at Wembley lots of times before and in cup finals. But I knew how important the day was – the chance to help Stoke City win their first ever trophy. So, I was having a joke on the bus and trying to get our players to relax.
It was a huge thrill and honour for me: walking down that tunnel with those players, and seeing and hearing those Stoke fans…..an unbelievable feeling. We were massively the underdogs, with Chelsea being the firm favourites. It was such a thrill. What a day it was!
What did you do after the game? I remember on the Thursday night before the final we went to see Trent and Hatch – the players had a few beers that night, too!
We had a ‘do’ at the hotel in London with our wives there after winning the cup. It was The Russell Hotel, I think. The menu had things like “Soup of Bloor” and the like on. All the courses were named after the players. At least we had a ‘do’ that night – the FA put nothing on for us after we won the World Cup! Can you believe that?
Talking about England – how big a thrill was it to play for your country? The ultimate accolade. Every
Everyone talks about 1966, but did we have a better team in 1970? Possibly, but history states we won it in 1966, so it’s hard to argue that wasn’t our greatest ever team. But we had two great teams back then. Superb players, and we played in some amazing matches. It’s often said by Brazilian players that the day they beat us 1-0 was the day they won the trophy, not the final.
And what about the heartbreak of the West Germany game?
It was amazing. We all ate the same food, drank the same drinks, at the same time, together, every day. And yet I was the one who was violently sick and had absolutely terrible diarrhoea. I couldn’t do anything – the sickness came straight out of me.
There was no way I could have played. No chance at all. I do wonder why it was just me who was that violently sick. I couldn’t believe we’d lost when I was told.
Going back to Stoke, and 1972 (as we love to hear tales about it), and the open top bus………
It was obvious just what winning a trophy meant to Stoke fans that day. Absolutely thousands upon thousands of them lined the streets. I pray we get to see something similar soon. We had a great team then, and we deserved to win more trophies. We were robbed in those FA Cup Semi Finals against Arsenal……
My dad never ever forgot those games, Gordon….
Same here. One thing always rankled me……We never ever played injury time in those games. Yet on that semi final day the huge Hillsborough clock was nearly at ten to! Whilst in the other semi final we had that infamous linesman confusing an ice cream seller for a Stoke player. Twenty yards offside, their lad was!
How come they sold ice cream at football matches?
Ha, ha. They did back then. Programmes, ice creams, the board with Golden Goals…….
It seems to me that your talent and knowledge as the best goalkeeper of all time has been criminally underused by professional clubs and others….
Well, that’s not for me to say. I wanted to stay in the game and help out as much as possible, but that’s probably a question for other people, not me? I did bits and bobs, but I couldn’t seem to find work in the game. I still do the Pools Panel, so I still get to say Stoke will win a game!
Like Stoke 15 Arsenal 0, then? Ha, ha – yes, I’d absolutely love that!
So, come on then, the Pele save, I’ve been dying to relive this with you….
He was a great player, a truly great player. It was the way he headed it, a punched header, so precise. I never stood on my line much, and I was three yards off the line. The pitch was like concrete. The ball bounced all over the place, and I think this is what made it a harder save than it possibly would have been on a lush, grassy pitch.
We played at midday, over 100 degrees…..it was sweltering. Balls travelled like missiles when they were hit or headed. When he headed it, it was going to bounce a yard or so inside the post which was going to be hard, and also I needed anticipate how high it would bounce off the pitch. As said before, balls were bouncing far higher than they would over here on our pitches.
(Gordon mimics the save now – unbelievable stuff. Goosebumps everywhere) So, I got the top of my hand to it, and I honestly thought it was a goal, I really did. By now, my body was hitting the hard ground, and the momentum saw my head turn and I glimpsed that the ball had gone over the crossbar and behind the goal. I won’t tell you what I called myself – it did have the word ‘lucky’ in though, ha ha! Bobby Moore then came over and with a big smile on his face said something like “Banksy, try to get a hold of those, for Christ’s sake!”, ha, ha!!
Brazil were the hot favourites that year, but we played just as well as they did that day, created just as many chances as they did, but they grabbed the one goal of the game.
What were your main strengths as a goalie? My positioning was a major one. I only dived when I needed to. I watch some goalkeepers nowadays and they seem to dive for the sake of it, for the cameras.
Your thoughts on Jack Butland, Gordon?
Cracking goalkeeper, and it’s lovely that he said he’s in awe of me even though he’s too young to have ever seen me play. He’s a lovely lad with a great attitude, and he’ll go all the way, make no mistake about that. He’s got it all.
And keepers you rate nowadays in the UK? Jack Butland, without a shadow of a doubt. And one I really like is Kasper Schmeichel. He earns his teams points and I’m amazed another club hasn’t come in for him.
I’ve spoken to Jack about goalkeeping, but it’s not about technical stuff – just talking about keep training hard and keep being positive. Jack will come back from the injury well, I’m sure of that. He does the right things, he has a great attitude, he’s a lovely lad. He’ll be fine!
You have never left this area, like so many of the players that played for us in those great Stoke teams. Why?
We love the people. We love the place. Everything we need is here. My grandkids and great grandkids are big Stokies, and it’s simply a great area to live in. I’m so honoured to be Club President – I have a real pride in Stoke, and have never seen any reason to leave.
Oh no. To have a career like I’ve had, and the experiences I’ve had – no, no regrets.
What makes Stoke City FC so special? It’s obviously not cups, trophies, glory, or awards. It’s the same as what makes our city great – the people. As the second oldest club in the country we have a trophy cabinet that is hardly the envy of many. But pick an All Time World XI, and we’d probably have numbers 1 and 7 sewn up. That’s some going for a club of our size.
One of those players is (obviously) Gordon Banks.
Banks is a son of Sheffield. But he’s also an honorary Stokie, one of us. To see him using salt cellars and the like to discuss zonal marking was one of the most beautifully surreal moments of my life, as was greeting him by a sign in the hotel saying ‘The Gordon Banks Suite’.
He’s also a man who played 37 games in the North American Soccer League (NASL) for Fort Lauderdale Strikers five years after losing the sight in one eye. That he then helped his team win the league and was named NASL Goalkeeper of the Year shows just what the man is all about.
Gordon Banks is a gentleman and a legend. As we all know, he’s not been particularly well recently, and I’m immensely grateful that he gave up his time to speak to DUCK.
Gordon is backing United Against Dementia campaign (www.alzheimers.org.uk) launched by the Alzheimer’s Society, with three of his World Cup winning team mates now living with the condition. DUCK will be making a donation to this superb charity.
COPYRIGHT: DO NOT USE SOME OR ALL OF THIS INTERVIEW WITHOUT GAINING PERMISSION FIRST!
This unique ‘pop-up’ venue returns to City Centre for 4 days of extraordinary shows and entertainment
Following the summer success of The Big Feast 2017, local arts programme Appetite, led by New Vic Theatre, is bringing another season of exciting new shows to Stoke-on-Trent this autumn, in unique pop-up venue, Roundabout by Paines Plough.
Paines Plough is the UK’s national theatre of new plays and Roundabout is the world’s first ‘pop-up, plug-and-play theatre’ which flatpacks into a lorry and pops up all over the country touring world class new writing for the stage.
On its third visit to Stoke-on-Trent, and as part of a national tour across the country, Roundabout returns to the city from 19 to 22 October with a line-up of superb new shows for Stokies to enjoy, this time in a brand new location outside the newly built No. 1 Smithfield in City Centre Hanley.
Paines Plough said “We built Roundabout because we’re really passionate about new plays and we wanted more people to see them. We can’t wait to return to the Potteries to do just that! The audiences in Stoke-on-Trent are fab – they’re always up for seeing something new, but are also completely honest. We can’t wait to share the three new shows with them and see what they think.”
Direct from a sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Black Mountain by Brad Birch is a tense edge-of-your-seat thriller about betrayal and forgiveness following a couple who run away to an isolated house to try and save their relationship. Out of Love by the award winning Elinor Cook is a funny and tender tale of friendship, love and rivalry told over thirty years. Larger than life story of family, friends and fitting in, family show How To Be a Kid by Sarah McDonald-Hughes follows 12 year-old carer Molly and features dancing, chocolate cake and an epic car chase. Following their premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe all three headline shows have received superb national reviews, being championed by The Guardian and Time Out magazine.
This year not only does Roundabout feature three new headline plays but will also include comedy with stand up from TV’s Hardeep Singh Kohli as seen on The One Show. Plus, there’ll be performance from Staffordshire University’s Performing Arts students, in powerful curtain raiser Almost Nothing, and many more events to be announced very soon.
Tim Hodgson, Appetite Creative Producer (maternity cover) said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing Roundabout back to Stoke-on-Trent with three smashing new shows. Alongside psychological thrillers and heart-warming stories, we’re excited to be presenting nationally acclaimed stand up from Hardeep Singh Kohli plus some more surprises to be revealed very soon.”
Paul Williams, spearhead for the City of Culture 2021 Bid said, ‘Events like Roundabout are so important in bringing innovative art to more people and show that Stoke-on-Trent is ready and geared up to be the UK City of Culture in 2021. I can’t wait to see this year’s plays.”
The lineup runs from Thursday 19 October, opening with Black Mountain, to Sunday 22 October, closing with the last performance of Out of Love.
Early Bird tickets are on sale until 19 September with a Standard Adult ticket £7 and family offers available. Tickets can be booked online at www.appetitestoke.co.uk or by telephoning New Vic Theatre Box Office on 01782 717962.
For media enquiries contact Gary Cicinskas on 01782 381 373 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was a kid, everyone wanted to be Jimmy Greenhoff. Adults did, too. And everyone remembers where they were when they heard Jimmy was to leave Stoke City. For those not old enough to be around at that time, it was huge news. A massive disappointment that I have never seen the likes of since.
I was in my nan’s living room in Cobridge. I’d been throwing a woolly, home-made pom-pom against a wall and volleying it when it bounced back into imaginary goals. Guess who I was trying to be?
The news then came on the radio. I was heartbroken. It’s ironic that as we poured Jimmy a cup of tea in an Alsager hotel, Stoke City are now managed by another unbelievable volleyer of a football.
It was an absolute honour to meet and share an hour with the great man.
Tell us a bit about yourself growing up and how you got spotted….
I grew up in Barnsley. I was a good kid, went to grammar school but was absolutely football mad. I supported Barnsley and was the first one in the ground on matchdays. Football-mad I was. I was a right half, or the old number 4 as they called them, back in the day.
I was playing for Barnsley schoolboys, the town team. We won the Schools Shield and so obviously the longer we went into the competition the more chance there was for scouts to see us. Scouts weren’t allowed to contact you until you left school back in those days. Don Revie was manager at the time.
You were successful at Leeds – why did they sell you?
Well, to be totally honest, I wanted to go. It wasn’t a case of them wanting me to go. I wasn’t getting enough game time and I was always the one who I felt wasn’t definitely going to be in the team. So I felt it was time to go – I wanted regular football.
So you went to Birmingham and scored 15 in 36 – yet Stan Cullis said you weren’t scoring enough?
Yeah, that’s right, but I actually scored 12 in the first 9, too. He called me into his office first thing on a Monday morning. I thought he was going to offer me a new contract to tie me up for a few more years, and he told me I wasn’t scoring enough goals. I thought he was joking.
Stan Cullis then said “Jimmy, when was the last time that you scored?” – don’t forget that this was on a Monday and I said “Er, Saturday against Huddersfield, boss!”. As a wing-half I was never going to be prolific as a goalscorer. I’d chip in, but my role and my game was about far more than that.
So, in 1969 you moved to us. Tell us about the transfer.
I’d heard rumours about other clubs wanting me at the time in the papers. Just before the season started, Waddo came over with Albert Henshall and I got the call to go to St Andrews as there were a couple of fellas interested in signing me. I wasn’t told who.
So I went down – I must admit, Stoke weren’t my first choice at the time, but we had a chat and I asked if he’d start to look at putting a younger team out at Stoke. I didn’t want to be bought to do the running for other players. I wanted to play my own game. Waddo said that he would, and we shook hands on the deal.
So I went back home and I’d only been in the house 20 minutes or so and the phone rang. It was a Daily Mirror reporter called Bob Russell and he asked if I’d signed for Stoke. I told him “no” and he said “don’t, Everton are coming in for you. They’re on tour though.” A bit later I got a call and it was Alan Ball who also said Everton wanted me. Managers wouldn’t call you, they could get into trouble for that.
I asked my wife (Joan) and she told me to do what I wanted. I had already shook hands with Waddo, so that was that.
Everton went on to win the league that year, but the great thing about it was that I stuck to my word and Waddo stuck to his. The make-up of the team at Stoke immediately became much younger. Conroy, Mahoney, Pejic and others came in to the team. It turned out to be the best move I ever made.
The club’s finest ever day: You went off with a shoulder injury in the League Cup Final, didn’t you?
Yes. I did my shoulder after about 20 minutes and I should have come off, but what do you do? No way was I coming off that early, as it’s a cup final plus you always think you can do better than whoever is on the bench. I remember falling on it again and I did go off. I wanted to stay on but I wasn’t running too well.
As for the day, I don’t remember the lead up to the day of the final too well, but I remember a lot about the day. Like Micky Bernard’s backpass to Chris Garland – I turned to Waddo on the bench after he brought me off and said to him “if we lose, I’ll never speak to you again!”. But when the final whistle went, I gave Waddo the biggest kiss ever. Indeed, that kiss was on telly.
The players and supporters were closer back in the day, weren’t they?
Correct. We always came out before away games with any spare tickets for the fans. Waddo insisted on it and we were happy to do it. He especially made the point of doing so on your longer journeys, to the likes of Norwich, Ipswich and for London matches.
It was a big thing to Waddo. We socialised a lot with the fans. We always had lunch as a team in the Social Club and fans would be in there, too. It was great.
It’s not about money. We’d still do it now I think. John Ritchie’s night out with us was always going down to the Social Club. He had his own pint pot behind the bar, there. Imagine that now!?
Of all the clubs I went to, it was at Stoke that the players had the greatest bond with the fans. Let me tell you two lads here, we used to play for the fans. Make sure that goes in the magazine, lads – we loved the fans.
When Alan Hudson came to Stoke, we’d speak before games and we just wanted to get out on that pitch and entertain the fans. The one-two’s we did we loved doing, but we know we maybe did a few too many as we always wanted to entertain.
Your on-pitch relationship with Huddy – how brilliant was that?
We were simply on the same wavelength, but me and George Eastham had a great understanding, too. What a player George was. Huddy was telling me that when Waddo went to sign him from Chelsea he told him that he was being signed to replace George Eastham. Huddy said what a fantastic compliment that was, and said it virtually made his mind up to sign for us.
How much did the Arsenal semi finals affect you?
The semis were heart-breaking.
To be honest, every time Arsenal are mentioned there’s a little bit of a……. <Jimmy pulls his face>. I love it when they come to Stoke nowadays and the crowd goes mad and they’re all doing ‘the Wenger’. I want to do it myself! I love Stoke beating them.
Lucky, lucky Arsenal.
Those semi finals, I wanted to win so badly. We were destined not to beat them in those matches. The thing that was really annoying was that everyone in those days wanted to play at Wembley as they only played the final there – not anymore. You hang your boots up and they start playing semi finals there!
Onto Europe, Jimmy. What do you remember of the Ajax games?
I remember them at our place playing offside all the time. We should have been able to handle it, but by playing offside they stopped us from playing, really.
Over the two legs we were excellent and we should have beaten them. That showed just how good Stoke City were at that time – we should have beaten one of the great European sides!
You were renowned as probably the best English volleyer of a football. Did you practise it a lot?
Yes I did.
It started at Leeds. Every day I practised volleying. They’d say “save your legs and go inside, Jimmy”, but I always wanted to practice volleying and perfect it. Possibly my best one was playing for Port Vale against York. It was a night game and there wasn’t many there.
The famous one for Stoke against Birmingham was a right footer and the one for Vale was a left footer.
I did used to get a bit of stick from some Vale fans, especially one bloke who kept shouting abuse at me. Fair play to Vale’s Russell Bromage, their left back – he went over to the bloke and told him that I was on the same wages as the other Vale lads and to shut up! I played for all three local teams – I never wanted to upset any Stoke fans and hope I didn’t.
We were in the Social Club at the ground for lunch, as usual. As I said before, we were a close bunch and always ate together. I got a message that the gaffer wanted to see me on the pitch. I found it strange as we didn’t have a game.
So I walked out down the tunnel and there Waddo was – in the centre circle, looking up at the Butler Street Stand. I said “Crikey gaffer, what a mess that is, eh”.
Waddo replied “yes it is Jimmy, but it gets worse: we had an emergency board meeting and I was informed that it wasn’t insured and that we need to sell someone to pay for it”.
I didn’t ever want to go. I was told that Sir Matt Busby had phoned and Man United wanted me to go to speak to them that afternoon. I was all confused and so I went over to them on the Monday. I didn’t sign on the Monday, didn’t sign on the Tuesday, didn’t sign on the Wednesday…..that tells you something.
So I called an Extraordinary Board Meeting at Stoke and we were all sat there: The gaffer, me and the directors. I told Waddo and everyone I didn’t want to leave.
“So what’s this all about, Jimmy?”, asked someone
“It’s about me telling you that I don’t want to leave”, I replied
After a while someone got up and said “To be honest Greenhoff, we think you’re past it”.
I was only 30. They didn’t mean it, but it was a way of getting me to go. So I stood up, looked at Waddo and said “I’m really sorry gaffer, I’m signing for Manchester United”.
I never wanted to go. It doesn’t take much looking into, does it? I still live in Stoke – that’s how much the club, the people and the area means to me. I’d already thought that I would finish my career at Stoke. I’d like Stoke fans to know that everything I have said about how I love the club is true. I mean every word.
(we know for a fact that when Jimmy does pre-match speaking at Old Trafford he always says that he didn’t want to leave Stoke and it’s the one football club he truly loves – DUCK editors)
So you had to play against Stoke then?
Yes, the first game I played against Stoke was at Old Trafford. I remember Alan Bloor giving me a dead leg after 20 minutes, ha, ha!
As for the game at Stoke – I was early at the Victoria Ground that day as I lived in Alsager. I met the United bus by the entrance and all the players came off and I met Tommy Doc.
He took me to the top of the tunnel and we looked out onto the Victoria Ground pitch and he said “I’m not playing you today, Jimmy”.
I replied “Why boss?” and he said “You’re not sending ‘em down, Jimmy”.
Stoke were pretty much down anyway to be honest, but I did actually think “that’s one of the nicest things I’ve seen in football, boss”.
The Doc knew what the supporters at Stoke thought of me.
I also remember when I was United’s player of the season in 1978/79 season and the trophy was presented by Sir Matt Busby… at Old Trafford… on the pitch before a game against Stoke City! The Stokies gave me a great reception – they were the loudest in the ground as I received that trophy. That reaction meant so much to me.
Peter Osgood – if he had chosen us over Southampton would we have won the league?
Huddy knew Peter Osgood well, and I saw Ozzie after the deal had been done at a Holiday Soccer Camp. Osgood said to me that not joining Stoke was the biggest mistake he had ever made.
And so to the national team….
I was actually picked to play for England in a midweek game, but I was picked to play for Stoke against Derby at the Baseball Ground too, and that was at a time when you had to play for your club before your country.
I did end up getting picked when I was 34 and at Man United, to play against Northern Ireland in Belfast, but I got injured. There might be a bit of truth in the feeling that lesser clubs, not just Stoke, sometimes get overlooked. But I wasn’t bitter, as I was brought up to think that your club paid your wages every week and were your bread-and-butter, England didn’t and weren’t.
Me and Huddy actually played as over-age players in an under-23 game against Hungary. The crazy thing was that I was played on the right and Huddy on the left! How daft was that?
Do you regret not spending more time in management/coaching?
No, I should never have even really got into it, to be honest. I quickly realised that.
…and that was it. We finished our coffees and teas having a laugh and a joke about how it was HIS goal in the FA Cup Final when Lou Macari whacked it against Jimmy for the winner (“that shot of Lou’s would have spun out to the corner flag if it hadn’t hit me!”) and how after he famously scored in a semi-final he went and kissed a toothless Joe Jordan (“I cringe at the face I pulled after I scored, and then the first player on the scene was Joe Jordan, so I gave him a big smacker”). Jimmy also raved about more current players like Peter Beardsley and even our own Charlie Adam, a player who he really likes (“I could play in the same team as Charlie, I really could”).
It’s obvious to anyone just how much affection Jimmy Greenhoff has for Stoke City Football Club. Has a Potters’ player ever been held in the regard that Jimmy was?
The name GREENHOFF will forever live in the memory of every single Stoke fan who saw him play association football. What a player! What a man! What an honour to interview him!
I saw the social media announcement re our new signing.
I greeted the rumours and subsequent signing with joy and hope. It does inspire me that we could do well this season. It shows that we do have the ambition to better ourselves and bring in players that are capable of producing yet more magic as we continue on our Premier League voyage.
For me, the tone of it was all a bit petty and juvenile. Why do we need to respond to what Adrian Durham says? Why do we need to challenge his belief that we lack ambition? It’s all so small-time to do so.
Whilst I listen a lot to TalkSport, I don’t really listen when it comes to Stoke! Plaudits do though go to Durham for generating debate – he has a simple job on a radio station and that’s to get listeners – so the more insulting and/or controversial he is, the more ears he has taking in his show. Why do we continually rile at the comments? Both Durham and Savage are essentially the modern-day reincarnation of shock jocks and 21st Century ‘click-bait’ all wrapped into one easily digested parcel!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I feel that at times that the club’s communication with fans seems to mostly consist of a giant vacuum that the odd stray message emerges from like a waif of randomness. It is human nature to fill this void, hence the popularity of various social media groups dedicated to filling in these blanks – and of course the ever-growing delight of seeing a blurry photo from the ‘man in the bush’. We can also criticize the clubs seeming inability to get transfers over the line or their protracted negotiation tactics. We can carp on about a questionable transfer policy that has seen lots of players depart. It’s all hearsay and opinion to fill the void.
We do though need to have the right mentality.
We are the oldest club in the Premier League. 1863, us! We are in our tenth season at the ‘top table’, despite being hammered at and condemned to face relegation for the majority of that time. We have a proud footballing heritage – yes, it doesn’t have a glittering trophy cabinet but it is still there nevertheless. Our chairman is thought of with fond regards both by us as fans and within the football community. Yes, we’ve been let down by players and the media still hold to the perception of us as an unglamorous team. We, though, have always strived to prove them wrong in the one area that matters – on the terraces and on the field, playing the game in a way that will bring us a degree of success that every professional club outside of the top flight would kill for. We do not though need to petty, juvenile or bitter.
We are better than that!
I’ve been following FC St. Pauli for a good while now…. I don’t recall if the original article that sparked my interest was in When Saturday Comes, or FourFourTwo. It doesn’t matter, it was in the late 2000s, anyway. I grew up watching Stoke City, and when I started going regularly there would be a bloke selling The Socialist Worker paper outside the Boothen End season ticket holders entrance.
So roll forward to 2017, my home town team, my team, forms a partnership with my other team. I’ll level with you, I don’t think you can have 2 teams if they’re from the same country, but it’s ok if they’re from other countries. For me, FC St Pauli are a model for fan involvement at all levels of the club, the club reaches into many areas of the local community, has teams in lots of sports at all levels.
That’s before we even look at the Hamburg club and fans’ stance on hate, they are anti-facist, anti-homophobic, pro-equality. At all levels. They had issues with right wingers amongst the ranks, and they dealt with it at a fan level, they made them persona non grata on the terraces.
Being London based I jumped on the early Tuesday Ryanair flight from Stanstead, took the S-Bahn underground and got off at the infamous Reeperbahn- it was around 11am. I’ve lived in London 19 years, seen a lot of Soho through work, but Soho has nothing on the Reeperbahn: it was eye opening to walk out of the underground and see so many homeless drunks, the stench of stale urine reminding me of the old Boothen bogs. I opted to head towards the ground, find a nice cafe/bar get some food and maybe a beer. I found a great place in a side street just opposite the Millerntor and sat for an hour or so just soaking it up, reading the stickers that were everywhere in the bar. Then I wandered to the ticket office, got my ticket and went in the club shop, where I bought the t shirt of the poster – No Gods, No Masters!
I the took a bit of a wander around St. Pauli taking pictures of the graffiti for a while, went back to the Reeperbahn and just tried to take it all in, McDonald’s next to a very public 5 story legal brothel emblazoned with the price, then 2 doors down, a club shop. Every other shop seemed to be a kebab shop or strip club.
I did a good bit of walking and even ventured into the infamous street they have like in Amsterdam, with the women sat on stools in the window. I politely declined their offers. Carried on and ended up at Beatles Plazer. I’m sure the Reeperbahn is great for a stag do, but I’m more of a nice quiet bar with a pint kinda person these days, so headed back to the place I’d been at in the morning, before meeting up with some other Stokies at The Jolly Roger a famous pre match bar. After that we went to the supporters club bar and experienced true German hospitality, as St Pauli gave all Stoke fans free beer in one of their bars.
In the match, we had St Pauli fans sitting with us, no segregation, and beer being drunk. Of course, there was no trouble, fans mingled, chatted, drank together, exactly as it should be. Obviously our country’s have a shared history, and part of that history dominated the skyline behind the stand to our left. But more of that later.
After the game we returned to the Jolly Roger, drank with St Pauli fans and with European based Stoke fans who were taking pics of their German friends in old borrowed Stoke tops. My evening ended in a kebab shop next to my hotel having an Iskender kebab and another beer.
Although my hotel did breakfast they didn’t do coffee as I like it, so I returned to the same Cafe/Bar I’d been at twice before yesterday. I sat at one of the long outside table benches near a lady in an anti-facist t shirt, who immediately asked if I’d been at the game. She was a St. Pauli fan, and we spent the next two hours talking football, politics, war, history, how WW2 bombs keeping being found……….
Hamburg was bombed extensively in WW2, and those towers were anti aircraft gun platforms; so thick is the concrete, they couldn’t knock them down easily, so this one was left. It also stands as a reminder, and St Pauli fans will be the first to man the barricades if the right rears its ugly head again.
I finished my stay by walking down the Reeperbahn again, and finding a small Hamburger place for lunch. It would be rude not to surely! Germans are great people, incredibly hospitable, when St. Pauli come to Stoke, we need to show them the same hospitality they showed us!
Very rarely do you get to watch a quite brilliant game of association football at 11am on a Sunday. Indeed, that time of the week is usually a time for peeling spuds, taking dogs/kids for a walk, nursing a tender head, or possibly setting off for a day out somewhere.
And during football matches, rarely do I want a late equaliser against the team I want to win.
But that was the scenario on June 11th, as I sat with my youngest lad watching England v Venezuela in the Under 20’s World Cup Final. The game was that good, I simply wanted another half an hour of it, even though that would have cruelly denied the Young Lions a cup win.
Those who know me will know that I’m not fussed when it comes to watching England. Yes, I’d want ‘us’ to win, but it often leaves me cold, and I often get over even the biggest of losses in big games in minutes. Contrast that to watching Stoke City, and there’s a marked difference. It takes me all week to snap out of us losing. And you can insert your own “well you must be the most miserable sod on earth, then” joke right here.
I grew up as a kid in Sneyd Green, watching on the telly any number of our ‘supporters’ rampage their way around Europe and the world, ensuring that many who went for the football were fair prey in the eyes of those who sought retribution and revenge. It also meant I wasn’t fussed about the actual game, half the time. I’ve also seen us play what can only be described as, technically, some of the worst football going – this, whilst earning a king’s ransom to be played off the park by countries without a penny, yet who managed to string passes together.
Yup, international football isn’t anywhere near the top of my agenda.
But there was a refreshing naieivity about the England Under 20 team during their World Cup. That’s not to say that the coaching staff didn’t do a fantastic job, setting them up and tactically. They obviously did. But how brilliant I thought it was to see us shooting from distance in injury time of the final whilst 1-0 up, and bringing on attacking subs at 1-0 up, and being very, very open at 1-0 up. It was akin to a game of basketball.
Contrast that to the world-weary ex-pro and England international commentator who noted near the end that we should “take the yellow card there” and “manage the game”. Thankfully, it seems that risk taking hadn’t been drummed/coached out of these kids yet, and I sat there with my youngest lad marvelling at two teams having a right go at each other.
Two teams, trying to win a simply huge game of football. A few weeks earlier, we’d watch Huddersfield and Reading trying their best not to lose one. And therein lies the difference….
I can take Stoke or England losing. Christ, we’ve had enough practice at that, eh? But how many times have you left matches bemoaning us not even having a go? Remember those “bonus matches”? Those parked buses? Remember those hammerings at Oxford and Swindon?
I’m not saying go all gung-ho, as the very best players and teams will simply destroy you. But surely (and no disrespect here) an England team can go to Hampden Park and at least try to play better football than Scotland, rather than nicking a win? Is this what the billions of pounds that have floated round the English game since it was invented in 1992 has amounted to? Scraping a result here? Qualifying, only to then not have a go at the finals, there?
Sorry, and nothing personal here, but when we go to Hampden with a back four and two holding midfielders in front of them – that simply is nowhere near good enough. It’s a coward’s mentality, and ensures we only have four attacking players on the pitch – one of those being played out wide, and out of position.
Again, I’ll reiterate – I don’t want to see gung-ho, losing football matches in the process. But a balance must be struck, as we’re losing the important games anyway. If a group of teenagers can go out in the biggest game of their young careers and play with no fear, then I fully expect experienced professionals and those who coach/manage them, to do the same. That’s why I love Bojan in a Stoke shirt so much. Even when he plays poorly, and he has since he came back from his injury, he still plays with a forward-thinking mentality, and with joy in his boots.
As much as I don’t like Arsene Wenger, I do agree with a comment he made a few years go, about what being ‘brave’ is on a football pitch. He talked about bravery being the ability to get on the ball, make things happen, take risks, expressing yourself, and that bravery isn’t about defending for ninety minutes and sticking your foot in. It’s not about just trying not to lose. It’s about doing your utmost to win. That’s why Spurs are so watchable. Again, there’s a balance to be struck between the two – and that’s possibly why Spurs are so Spursy – but with the money in the game surely there comes a responsibility to play with a little more joy than having Dier and Livermore shielding a back four, against a team ranked 61st in the FIFA rankings, with Blackburn’s centre half at the centre of their defence!
Perhaps the England Under 20’s did far more than win a World Cup? Perhaps they showed everyone why football really is a brilliant sport, and that you can win with a brilliant mentality?
So, what’s already in there?
I know what you did this summer Stoke City’s Marc Muniesa talks to us about his life in Barcelona and Lloret De Mar, getting married and stag do’s, spending the summer with his one year old lad, buying a new house, fitness training in Catalunya etc…..
Pre-season with the pro’s Tampa Bay Rowdies’ and ex-Wolves/PNE/Leeds United/Sheffield United and Scotland U21 international Neil Collins on the ‘delights’ of shuttle runs and beep tests.
The Offside Trust Set up six months ago after British football was rocked by a series of high-profile revelations regarding child sexual abuse. Several former professional players bravely waived their right to anonymity to speak out about their past abuse. The Offside Trust is committed to supporting survivors and working to make sport safer for children. We are honoured they’ve sent us an article.
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ZZ Top An homage to Zinedine Zidane. indeed, a homage does it a disservice. This is simply a brilliant article about an iconic talent.
Football and mental health Why it’s no longer taboo in the game of 4-4-2.
Trainer Potter How to clean trainers, and a focus on the adidas ZX700.
…….and pieces on Carlisle United, Whyteleafe FC, Swindon Town, and Stoke City.
It might be the best thing to land in your infolder all Summer!
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