Tag: Stoke City

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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Match Of The Week 2: Bolton Wanderers 0-5 Stoke City

There is something understated about this afternoon’s second FA Cup semi-final between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City. This morning’s papers are full of last night’s Manchester derby and the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, but there is more to it than merely this. Sky Sports and the Premier League have scheduled the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool directly up against this match, as well – proof, as if it were needed, of Sky’s commitment to little more than itself – and there are empty seats at Wembley this afternoon. This in itself shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the combined average attendance of Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City is less than 50,000. This, however, seems unlikely to prevent some from using this as a stick with which to beat the two clubs playing this afternoon, but there are over 75,000 people at Wembley this afternoon. Not bad for a match that “doesn’t matter” in a competition that “nobody cares about” any more. All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others, though. Ironically, this match should matter, if anything, more to Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City than yesterday’s did to Manchester City or Manchester United. City may have bigger fish to fry over the next few weeks and United have hardly been starved of success in recent years. Supporters of the...

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Remembering The Burnden Park Disaster

As Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City take the pitch for their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium this afternoon, we could perhaps be forgiven for believing that there is a slight chill in the air. These are two sides whose continued presence in the game are a solid link with the past, but they are both clubs that have changed with the times. Perhaps the most significant change in the recent history of either has been their departure from their historical homes. Stoke City left the Victoria Ground for The Britannia Stadium after one hundred and nineteen years in 1997, whilst Bolton Wanderers departed from Burnden Park for The Reebok Stadium after one hundred and two years at the same time. That these two clubs should be meeting in this competition, however, should also grant us pause for thought at another of football’s tragedies, The Burnden Park Disaster of 1946. Attendances for football matches had been increasing rapidly in the years up to the start of the Second World War, and the resumption of FA Cup football after the war (the Football League did not resume until the 1946/47 season) was one of the key signifiers that the world might actually, albeit with tiny steps, be returning to normal. With the war in Europe having ended in May of 1945, there was no time to set up a league...

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Match Of The Week 2: Stoke City 2-1 West Ham United

Seriousness versus frivolity. Aesthetics versus the dour practicality of not having the money to be able to spend on the very best players in the world. It has felt this season as if there is a new schism opening up in football. It now feels as if there is a type of football that is artistically, technically and, dare we say it, morally superior to all others. At the one end of the spectrum, the “tiki-taka” style played by Barcelona and Arsenal has come to be regarded by some as the artistic apex of football tactics. At the other end of it, for some people, are Stoke City. Never mind the fact that Stoke City are almost one hundred and fifty years old and have never appeared in an FA Cup final – they haven’t even reached the semi-finals of it in almost forty years. Never mind that Stoke have one major trophy – the 1972 League Cup – to show for their century and a half not out. Never mind, even, that Stoke City battled their way into the Premier League against most odds and have stayed there against even greater ones. Stoke City have become an anti-idea, a counterpoint to the sophisticates, a stick with which to beat those on limited resources for ruining their view. Much of this is on account of Rory Delap’s ICBM-esque throws...

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FA Cup Replay: Cardiff City 0-2 Stoke City (AET)

One of the sure-fire signs of the arrival of the New Year, along with even guiltier than usual looking smokers, piles of reduced Thorntons chocolate reindeer and streets littered with sad looking, decaying Christmas Trees is that January is the season for the annual obituaries for the FA Cup. This annual debate is unlikely to ever be conclusively resolved (the likelihood of Premier League clubs, say, withdrawing from the competition seems remote and the FA deciding to end the competition remoter still) and it is worth remembering that this tournament remains, for many people that are turned off by the largesse of the Premier League and the Champions League, a shining light that continues to represent something almost indefinably magical about our game. On nights like tonight, however, it can be difficult for even the tournaments greatest zealots to muster much of a smile. On this particular Tuesday night, Cardiff City’s match against Stoke City is competing with the humming of transfer window rumours of varying credibility, what may or may not be the self-destruction of West Ham United and the nagging suspicion that, if you flick through the channels for long enough, you’ll find a match from a European league that is ten times as exotic as this. This is the sort of match that looks enticing on paper, providing you don’t look at said sheet of paper...

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