Oh, isn’t social media a great place to be when Stoke City lose a game of association football. We can go from ”by far the greatest team the world has ever seen” to “worst Stoke side of my lifetime, this” in just ninety minutes.
I would say it’s the way of the world, but it’s not quite, is it? It’s the way of football though. Rather than go to the pub and have a pint with mates, or go home and not speak to your family until the next game, as we used to do – we now have instant opinion, right at our fingertips.
Don’t agree? Just have a look around you the next time you go a game – huge numbers on their phones. It’s akin to iPads at gigs: put them away or don’t take them if it means it takes something away from what you’re there to do: See a band/support the lads. And I’m as guilty as most…..mainly about refs, in fairness. I’m in the Family Stand, so ‘tweeting about the clueless ones in the middle’ is the new ‘venting your spleen in block 19’ (make a good flag, that).
So what’s going on with Stoke City? What’s going on with the gaffer? And why do folk think it’s a good idea to put tomato sauce on a sausage sarnie?
To be honest, I haven’t got the answers. Just opinions. No, that’s wrong: I have got the answer to the sauce question, but that’s for another day or issue…..
I’ve waited to express an opinion on what’s going on at Stoke – not to not upset anyone or not because I don’t have one. Locally and nationally, I’ve expressed it plenty this week. I just wanted to sit down and take some time before putting it down on paper.
This is not about taking sides. You can love and appreciate Messrs Pulis and Hughes. There’s no wrong or right here, no lines drawn in the sand. It’s not brown v red sauce on a sausage sarnie territory, this. That is way more important in the great scheme of things! Indeed, I detest it when the crowd turns against a Stoke manager. I get that knotted stomach feeling, and when the crowd does turn (at any club) rarely does the manager get the time to turn it around.
Do I want Sparky to have more time? That’s not for me to guess. That’s for PC. But what I really do want, is for us to show the footballing world on Saturday that we are different – we support Stoke City, no matter what has gone on before. That’s not to say happy-clap. That doesn’t solve anything. But the footballing world and media is EXPECTING us to turn now. They’d love that, wouldn’t they?
So why not do exactly what Stoke fans are ace at, and what winds others up: we close ranks, tuck our chin (or chins in my case) into our jackets, and unfurl a cauldron of support and venom. Why? Because our football club really needs it, right now. And we always tick up for our own in Stoke.
So, before anyone thinks the below is blaming the fans, think on. It certainly is not. It’s just that WE, the supporters, are Stoke City Football Club. We are the constant. So this isn’t a Mark Hughes-based article – that’s for next week……
We do anger so well at Stoke, don’t we? Often it’s bloody brilliant, too: witness some of the absolute caged-animal-like poundings we’ve verbally given some teams, and also some of the backing we’ve given our own team.
For me, atmosphere is not a chicken-and-egg situation. The team and manager on any given day Stoke City are playing deserve and get my support. No, I’m not always positive, and as stated before, I’m certainly no happy-clapper. And I also feel that sitting in the Family Stand also gives me an added responsibility when it comes to giving stick out. Far different than when I was in block 23!
But I feel that support comes first, not the team’s performance. If that was the case, for most of my 43 years watching Stoke City it would have been akin to a morgue. Or even Arsenal. What d’ya mean it has!??!? Pipe down at the back.
No, in my prime supporting years, my vocal backing came before any set piece or thrilling passage of play. Saturday 3pm or midweek 7.30pm (remember those days, eh?) was MY time. A few hours where I escaped the ‘have you put the bins out?’ grind and treadmill of everyday life.
It mattered not whether we were ace or garbage: support was always unconditional, as it took me away from normal life. And by god did I moan: Ball, Kamara, Little, Bamber, Donaldson…they all got it in spades!
So this isn’t a go at the atmosphere or anyone that doesn’t sing. Although in truth, our din has been average-at-best for some seasons now. No, this is my personal supporting manifesto. And I’d love for us to go back, as one, to a time when we didn’t need the team to lift us. A time when we didn’t sat down on a red plastic seat and bloody tweet! Like I do now.
So that’s what I would love to see on Saturday. A crowd who really tries to make a difference, when we are at a low ebb. Why? Because it’s bloody enjoyable and ace when we do, isn’t it? Like I said before: we do anger dead well at Stoke. Far better than we do love. Let’s channel that for us, and against the opposition.
We’ve done things a bit differently at Stoke as a support, especially in recent times: we were the team and supporters kicking sands in the muscle-bound big boys faces in 2008/09; we were the fans who produced one of the best dins to will a team to victory in a game of football I’ve ever heard; we were a support who opposition players actually said affected them and who our heroes loved us doing it; we went on the furthest of far-flung European tour to hostile hotbeds of football and made countless friends; and we were the supporters who stayed behind to shower love on our heroes as they trudged up those Wembley steps in May 2011 and then stay on to clap the victors lifting the cup.
That hurt, that day. But that was class. That was us.
Our support is outstanding. And right now, it’s angry. And rightly so.
But far better we show anger than apathy. Anger shows we care. It shows we are still here. It shows that Stoke City FC matters to us more than most other things in life. I’m not saying be positive for the sake of it and think everything is rosy: that never works and it isn’t right (but personal, vindictive, and ill-thought out abuse towards our own isn’t and never will be an option for me). And please don’t think I’m not as depressed and livid about this situation as everyone else!
But for me, Saturday isn’t about Hughes in or out. It’s all about Stoke City playing their hearts out, and please god, winning. Playing well doesn’t matter – just pass me those three bloody lovely points, ta. And for just those 90 minutes, let’s be with them, every step along the way.
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