Tag: Stoke City

Charlie, Neil & George’s Adventures In Search Of El Dorado

In the modern era, the notion of the professional footballer travelling abroad has become part and parcel of the game, and even Britons get involved. It doesn’t always work out, of course – for every Chris Waddle, who sparkled on the Mediterranean coast for Olympique de Marseille, there has been a Luther Blissett – but more and more players that are unable to find themselves a contract at home are seeking their fortunes abroad, as closely monitored by our friends at Les Rosbifs. Moving abroad, though, wasn’t always as easy as it is now, especially in the era before the abolition of the maximum wage, when players were expected to speak when spoken to and were almost enslaved by the retain and transfer system. That players could wish to up sticks and leave for money was considered, by those in control of the game in England, to be somewhere between an obscenity and an implausibility, yet in 1950, three players – including possibly the finest English defender of his generation – almost completely severed their ties with the English game in search of El Dorado. A generation of English footballers lost at least part of their careers to the Second World War and, whilst the return of the normal domestic schedule at the end of the conflict brought crowds into the game that had never been seen before and...

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Match Of The Week: The 2011 FA Cup Final: Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City

For those of us that consider the Premier League to be little more of a diversion than any of football’s other myriad of competitions, it had been easy to switch off over the last few days and pretend that this wasn’t happening. The full extent of the debasement of the FA Cup by the Premier League and Sky Sports probably didn’t hit home until about twenty minutes before kick off at Wembley yesterday. Lunchtime kick-offs, we might have thought would mean that there would be more than enough room to accomodate both in one day, but there wasn’t. Although the match didn’t kick off until three o’clock, the FA Cup final kicks off a full half hour earlier. How many people, for example, missed the singing of “Abide With Me” because Sky’s reporters were still interviewing Rio Ferdinand on the pitch a Ewood Park? Not, of course, that we should expect any more or any less from the Premier League or, indeed, the Football Association. In the midst of the caterwauling on the subject of FIFA corruption over the last few days, that the Premier League had hinged its support for England’s World Cup bid on the FA supporting their wretched Game 39 proposals while Scudamore was telling the press that “There has never been an issue with the Premier League and supporting the bid” seems to have been...

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Great Expectations And The FA Cup

Either Stoke City or Manchester City will win their first trophy since the 1970s tomorrow afternoon, but Mark Brophy wonders whether the glowing feeling that comes with it may turn out to be more fleeting than they might hope.   The FA Cup Final this weekend will, unusually, be contested by two teams for whom fans under the age of forty will struggle to remember their last trophy win, in both cases a League Cup victory. Those fans of Manchester City and Stoke are most likely building themselves up into an excitable state right now in anticipation of the probable ecstasy of that long-awaited major trophy. But it’s difficult to guess how you’d feel in the event of undeniable success when that is something you’ve never experienced. The reaction to victory might turn out to be a massive anti-climax. Certainly by viewing the reactions of fans of clubs used to success, it would appear to be a case of diminishing returns. I recall watching a Newcastle pub full of student Manchester United fans celebrate clinching their first title for twenty-six years in 1993. Their joy knew no bounds that night. Almost twenty years of continuous success later, I get the feeling that celebrating cup wins and titles has become very routine for the red half of Manchester. It’s not just them. Chelsea and Arsenal have had lengthy stretches of success during...

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Manchester City, Stoke City, Cup Finals And Relegation

When Stoke City play Manchester City on Saturday, it won’t be the first time that the two sides have met at the end of the season. David Mayor reports on two very different sets of emotions. When my team, Manchester City, face Stoke City at Wembley this Saturday, it will, many of my nearest and dearest would say, be the biggest City game I’ve been to. The major opponent for the title of biggest City game I’ve been to was, in my opinion, also a game against Stoke. Many of you may already have correctly assumed that I am referring to the last match of the 1997/98 season in Division One (now The Championship, formerly Division Two, etc) between the two sides which resulted in relegation to the third tier for both. But which is the “bigger” game? And what makes it so? Lots of games get described as ‘big.’ Games against championship, promotion or relegation rivals are described as so, as are derby and grudge matches or, indeed, any that Sky Sports decide to show. A couple of years ago I was at Hearts v Falkirk for a mid-table SPL fixture where I overheard a bloke in the pub beforehand claim what a big game it was with regards making the top/bottom six split. It didn’t feel like what I think of a big game to be but...

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Triumph of the Middle Class?

As another Premiership campaign winds down, most of the attention turns to those pitched battles near the bottom of the table, where clubs play a game of Musical Chairs to see who is the last one standing, or at the top where last gasps are exerted in the pursuit of shiny mugs festooned with ribbons. In a season that might very well end in Manchester United’s remarkable achievement of securing a 19th first division title, the general feeling has been that this was by and large an unremarkable year. Even during United’s extended unbeaten run to begin the season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was slightly derided for winning ugly, being lucky, and in general benefiting from a reduction in quality out of other title contenders. The current behemoths of the Premiership appeared to be decidedly weaker than in previous years. Fielding players who were still a bit tired from last summer’s exertions in South Africa, clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal failed to exude that aura of invincibility when other clubs visited their grounds. As the season progressed, the Anfield outfit improved remarkably from a dreadful start but not quite enough to reclaim its world beater credentials. Arsenal found difficulty in taking full points off sides far down the table, thus obtaining a license to dispense and lid beverages. Carlo Ancelotti obviously lost the ability to manage when he sat his earthquake-proof arse on last season’s title-winning whiteboard as...

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