No More Sympathy for the Underdog

by Sam Wheatley

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Dean Whitehead has blamed Danny Murphy for his side being targeted by referees, claiming that since the Fulham midfielder’s claims that Stoke are a dirty side, decisions have not gone in their favour. I think Whitehead might have long-term memory problems, seeing as his team have been labelled as dirty since the first minute of their Premier League inception.

Whitehead seems to be intimating that Stoke are indeed a dirty side, but that no-one really noticed until Murphy spoke up. We all know, Dean, we’ve seen your team play, we’ve seen players suffer injuries, get knocked about and even the most technically gifted of players finally succumb to a good kicking.

The man responsible for that is, of course, Tony ‘I won’t buy them unless they’re over 6’3″ tall’ Pulis. His horrible brand of anti-football is a sort of modern-day evolution of Joe Kinnear’s Wimbledon, whose tactics largely revolved around smashing the ball through the air and duffing up as many of the opposition as possible before it landed. Kinnear’s ‘playmakers’, if you will, were the notorious Vinnie Jones and John ‘Fash the Bash’ Fashanu.

Thankfully, for purists (such as myself), Stoke have now lost five on the trot in all competitions. To end the slump, and further to Whitehead’s comments, Pulis is trying to forge a siege mentality to inspire his pretty average set of very tall, very strong players into the form that see them clobber their way to Premier League survival in 2009 and 2010.

Pulis said “We have got to stick together – myself, the players and the supporters. Nobody gives a damn about Stoke except everybody connected with the club.” Although perhaps in many ways he is wrong. I, for one, desperately give a damn, and would like nothing more than to see them return to the Championship, and eternally to the annals of Premier League history, never to come back. As long as Pulis is in charge, that is.

Playing a little rough to ensure survival is one thing, but this is Stoke’s third successive season in the Premier League, and the pitiful lack of ambition at the club is obvious. Pulis will never alter his tactics, will never change his playing philosophy. Presumably, there is another Rory Delap lined up for when the man with the long throw retires. Relying on everyone being tall for goals is a sickening way to play football.

The game has moved onwards and upwards; in fact, it has soared over Pulis’s bald pate. On the continent, when people think of English football, they still laugh at the rubbish that English sides used to play in the 90s, the smash and grab style that achieved so little in such a long period of time. Now, we have Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea playing some of the finer stuff in Europe (yes, Chelsea), and even Bolton have progressed beyond hoofing it up to the big man under the tutelage of Owen Coyle. Pulis remains an anachronistic figure.

Coyle defended the Potters boss, although he did so in a way that suggested that the likes of Pulis, Allardyce and Mick McCarthy are doing what they have to do. He did also call them top class managers, so I’m not sure about the validity of his opinion. One man who definitely does not rate Pulis’s approach is Arsene Wenger, who saw promising young midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s leg broken by an over-zealous Ryan Shawcross tackle. Shawcross was obviously cut up about it, but it’s clear that the manager told him to go in hard. Take no prisoners, all of that. And this is part of Murphy’s argument.

He says managers like Pulis get players far too pumped up for a physical battle. The result is that one over-committed, if not dirty, tackle can break a leg and it means an extremely unwatchable and unpleasant game of football for the fans that he is now calling on to support their side through the struggle.

I can’t do anything about clubs continuing to employ barbarous philistines like Pulis, but I can sit back and watch them fail with an enormous grin on my face.

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  • http://neqsnewsnow swan

    I think your obviously an arsenal fan, no common sense and possibly homosexual. What utter shite your comments are, totally derogatory toward Stoke, possibly your a Southerner too, I really dispise you, you complete glory hunting twat.

  • Gag

    How unbelieveably ill-informed you are. Watch stoke play; they really don’t play football all that differently than a number of teams in the Premier League and due to the massive disparity in bank balances between four or five teams and all the rest, they are literally never going to be able to change their style of play significantly, so get used to it. Oh? Whats that you say? Stoke will go down this season anyway? Well, you may be right, but they’ll be replaced by a team with no premier league class players, who will play a brand of football that you like even less than you like watching Stoke (if you could ever lower yourself to such a level!) or they’ll go straight back down. Time to stop picking fault with Stoke if you ask me and respect all poorer up and coming teams right to exist, even (especially) if it offends pricks like you.

  • billy

    sad very sad you should get a life . But still the worst site i have ever seen but don’t worry i might find one. ? but i doubt it

  • Frosty

    You, like so many, clearly don’t watch enough of Stoke to form a decent opinion on the team and their manager. How about you stop reading the red-top uneducated journalists’ comments and form some of your own by actually watching them play.
    Lack of ambition? Yes, signing the likes of Pennant and Gudjohnson shows a major lack of ambition, doesn’t it?
    I would love Stoke to play like Arsenal. Hmmm… wait a minute, how is their disciplinary record under Wenger? Not just this season, but in every season. Let’s also not forget those beautiful fluid players of Adams, Keown, Viera, Petit. Yes, they certainly never went in hard.
    All this anti-Stoke sentiment from so-called football fans is getting very boring. Every week there is some ill-informed blogger or ‘journalist’ that comes out with something about Pulis and his team, and I think we all (not just Stoke fans, but fans of football in general) are getting sick of it now. How about an article on Wenger’s poor disciplinary record instead?


    Thanks for the cliches, I like to hear them once a day.

  • Sam Wheatley

    There is so much evidence out there that suggests that you don’t have to play badly. It’s not a journalistic cliché to pick holes in the tactics of Allardyce and Pulis, especially when they themselves feel the need to defend their style so often. If you want a cliche, here’s one: no smoke without fire.

    West Brom, for example, are making a decent attempt at staying up and are playing decent stuff, and no-one’s criticising Blackpool either (possibly simply because Holloway is a likeable man). Bolton took an age to convert from the Allardyce regime, but are finally breaking through thanks to Owen Coyle, who may have saved Burnley had he not taken the post at the Reebok Stadium. So Gag, you can change your style of play on a shoestring. In fact, Bolton’s squad is more or less the same as when Coyle took over.

    Pennant is not an ambitious signing. Relegated with Leeds and Birmingham, frozen out at Liverpool, poor at Real Zaragoza, his career has seemingly passed him by. At least he can can dink one in for one of the big men, I suppose.

    I think what you’re failing to realise is that other teams that come up can and will play some good stuff on similar budgets. The style of play is down to the manager – not the transfer budget. I suggest you ask why people continue feel the need to discuss Pulis – for example, his ludicrous suggestion that referees should receive ratings at the end of the season and have the worst ones relegated is a phenomenal display of arrogance and foolishness. Don’t be blinkered by your support bias.

    And yes, you’re right, Wenger did inherit a team of donkeys before turning them into a team of flair and finesse. I’ve explained all of this already, and whilst we may not agree I appreciate your comments.


  • Joey M

    Wow, I’m no Stoke fan but this is an awful piece. What a waste of time you are.

  • Gag

    No, the point is Stoke play better football already, but Stoke haters like you will never acknowledge this. People don’t complain about Blackpool as they already have enough scapegoats to point the finger at. Take a look at the stats, Stoke often finish games with less cards than their opponents, more shots on target etc. The point is, that the criticism has always been, and becomes increasingly, unfair. People like Wenger and Murphy shoot off their mouths as if they are whiter than white and people who suffer from hypocritical support bias, like yourself, swallow every word without even bothering to examine the evidence.

    I’ll tell you this much; I have watched Stoke a damn sight more often than you have and I see a committed group of players who play to win, but play a hell of a lot more honestly than Wenger’s diving scum. I also see a team that often plays less physically than Man U, (but I wouldn’t complain about Man U’s physicallity, its something I envy and believe should be part of a sport played by men, and something that guarantees that Arsenal will never be the best team in the country, I couldn’t live with Arsenal supporters if that were the case) but nobody even mentions Man U’s physicality simply because they are beyond reproach, where as Stoke are everybodys whipping boys. But the worst part is that it actually makes me feel bad the way people like you talk about my team, when I know what you are saying is grosly unfair. But you wouldn’t care about offending would you?

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