Cutting our cloth

Demonstrating a much observed facet of Englishness, Stoke City are suddenly every pundit’s favourite: the underdog. Wherever you look you can’t turn for the Potters ‘doing brilliantly within their resources,’ or ‘making the most of what they’ve got.’ Or, most commonly, in the cliché de jour, ‘cutting their cloth according to their means.’ It’s all very well for these Johnny come Latelys who haven’t had to put up with The Pulisball Five Year Plan of driving the beautiful game into extinction. For myself I’m finding it all a bit patronising and tedious. It’s making me feel wan and in need of a lie down.

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9 Responses to Cutting our cloth

  1. AndyP says:

    Quite. I think these sorts of comments are acceptable when a club is skint, a new manager has just come in, and then he has to do his best with what he’s got until able to wheel and deal in the bargain basement during the next window. However as you say Pulis has been there a while, and he has had the largest transfer budget of any Stoke City manager in history. Furthermore rather than gradually building up a team over several years, he has always preferred to start each season with a very small squad of permanent pros (and in this season’s case, even fewer Prem quality members of that squad) which necessitated this season spending over £20m on 10+ new faces just to make us competitive. Not inherited, but assembled by design. For every impressive signing like Ab Faye and Beattie, there’s a disappointment like Kitson and Tonge, or complete dud like Davies. It’s ok for Hansen and Stelling to gush praise on Pulis they don’t have to watch the wretched football week in week out. (Although I don’t tend to these days either as I can’t stand it any more!)

    One of my particular Pulis pet hates is his manipulation of circumstance to his advantage, while thinking we are stupid enough not to see the contradictions. Examples? Well…

    Last season in Championship… Pre-season he moans that he has plenty of transfer targets but no one will come to Stoke. He can’t bring in the players he wants and it will be a struggle with the squad we have. Come the January transfer window and signings start to come in, it’s now rebranded as a stroke of genius, all part of his masterplan and he was merely waiting for the right time to buy them.

    Start of this season he moans at the price of British Premier League quality players and says the club will have to start to look abroad for bargains. He also bemoans the inadequate overseas scouting network Stoke have which disadvantages the club. This comes after years of deliberately avoiding foreign markets, something which reportedly got him sacked! If he had any true vision he would have used Coates’ money to start to assemble the nucleus of a decent squad rather than loanees, and put in place that scouting network we needed with a view to Premiership ambitions. We might have already had a squad of players that could cut it in the Prem, and started the season beling able to spend the £20m on some playmakers to entertain and create chances, rather than using it to bring in the essential foundation building blocks.

    He might have the last laugh. The foundations of a squad he has assembled thus far might stay up and enable next year’s Sky money to be spent on better players. But I am sceptical as he has demonstrated dogmatically his preferred way of playing during his reign at Stoke, and that way is safety first. No matter how much he spends I think his football will always be based on percentages rather than flair, hard work will be a virtue and an end in itself rather than an expected given, and entertainment will be low on the agenda. Furthermore as stated above the money is not always spent wisely.

    I feel better for getting that off my chest even though it is a futile salvo against the now almost universal admiration for the cap wearing dullard!

  2. Stephen Foster says:

    This blog is here to help and offer threapy.

    I have to say, I am having my aesthetic purity tempered by being in crowds celebrating wins. I am discovering that I am a bit callow like that ;–)

  3. OS. says:

    Well said, Andy. But, like winger, I’ve become a pragmatic philistine. The problem (?) with nogger is that it’s not all about the actual football. And therein lies the reason why I’m a pragmatic philistine. A single equalising goal 1 minute from the end cancels out 89 minutes of utter dross. It’s the way it is…despite Pulis. 😉

    M.

  4. AndyP says:

    Football is a beautiful game that needs to be played beautifully. It is very much like life, the way you conduct yourself and arrive at the final position is as important to me as the final achievement.

    OS and Winger – You both make valid points, and there is a satisfaction to be gained from pinching an undeserved point or even win against the odds or against some “bigger” team that you loathe. I accept that results are important but I think fans are being short changed by Pulis’ approach. The home fans have had better value – they have seen victories at least even if the performance hasn’t been marvellous. But I really pity the away fan, often the most committed, who shell out hard earned cash to travel miles to watch a side take to the pitch with a negative approach with little desire to entertain, and little chance of delivering a victory. All this because Pulis veers towards safety first. Consider these two comparisons…

    Stoke go to Old Trafford and adopt a negative approach and get thrashed 5-0. Embarrassing. Hull go there and fight back, losing 4-3. Same number of points gained but their fans will have a day to remember and up to that point that was their only defeat. Stoke go to Anfield, are lucky to have a Liverpool goal ruled out early on, and then battle like the Alamo for a 0-0 draw. Highly satisfying in some respects. However Hull go there and have a real go, lead 2-0 but let it slip to 2-2 but almost snatch a late winner in an exciting game. Same outcome as Stoke a point gained, but surely a more memorable and enjoyable experience?

    With so many other things competing for time and money these days there needs to be something to draw me back to watch Stoke City. When I go I mainly get frustrated, bored and sometimes the result just isn’t enough for me. I am sick of seeing the Delap long throw at every opportunity, not excitedly willing it goal-wards like the vocal majority around me. At supposedly the most wonderful point in the club’s history, certainly potentially the most exciting times in the last 25 years, I am left cold, apathetic, and unfulfilled. And I lay the blame for this falling out of love with the club I love at Pulis’ door. Sorry that’s just how I feel. Most won’t agree, but I have a underlying belief that something is not worth doing unless you are going to try to do it well. That goes for pretty much every aspect of my life. I am my own harshest critic, expect high standards of myself, and I guess I apply those principles to people like Pulis who can’t match them.

  5. Stephen Foster says:

    Excellent assessment of what the outside world doesn’t understand Mr P. Every chance I’ll be copying and pasting that more or less vebatim to insert into a forthcoming publication to illustrate the ‘lost’ point of view of the principled individual.

    In truth, it’s awkward: Swiss Tony was ‘like you’ for 85 minutes at Villa Park, but I have seldom seen a happier person at full time. Here lieth the challenge for an authorc**t.

  6. AndyP says:

    Most kind of you Winger. But be careful… you might soon end up with what OS suggested a few weeks ago – a Winger / AndyP joint collaboration! 😉 Not so good for your coffers!

    I’ve said it before but I think Scunthorpe away last season was a watershed moment. Stoke went deservedly 2-1 down late in the game having been largely outplayed by the home side who attempted to play football, contrasted by Stoke’s lack of ambition and aimless punts out of the ground. The Stoke supporters even started rowing amongst themselves. Yet a fluke deflection gets us an undeserved late equaliser and while the stunned home side pile forward looking to regain the lead we pinch all 3 points with a winner in added time. I was embarrassed to steal it and felt sorry for Scunny. It offended my sense of justice! Other than the last 5 minutes the performance was poor, yet the result remarkable. Those there might walk away remembering the shoddy display but forgive it because of the result, while those who didn’t go will just think it was a thrilling comeback and all credit to Pulis! I think if we had lost that game it would have been remembered as one of our worst performances and the run of results at the time might have seen a sea change of opinion against Pulis. But the lucky win turned that around.

    At the moment the influx of “fresh supporters”, who have swelled the numbers at the Brit but have not experienced much of the entire Pulis reign, means that the majority will be happy with him as we are competitive, not “doing a Derby” as expected, and have a good chance to stay up. Many are too young to remember days when Stoke played good football so they have very low standards to compare the current experience with. I think there is a lot to be said for the belief you proposed in “From Working Class Hero etc” that there is a strong “it will do” attitude in Stoke-on-Trent. I think Pulis’ style will be largely unquestioned until (a) the results don’t go his way, and (b) if Stoke establish themselves as a Premiership side, being there is no longer a novelty, and subsequently there isn’t the justification for spending large sums of money the people of that area do not have to watch poor football.

  7. makemeadiva says:

    A really fascinating view Andy. I am not “qualified” to comment on football really but when I do go I love the sense of expectation before a match (in fact it is a Saturday morning thing I think!) and I can see that an ugly win or draw is less satisfying than an honest, attacking game for supporters.

    Is the expectation I sense to do with a win or the anticipation of an hour and a half of entertainment. Of course both but if you could percentage it out I wonder if the supporters of the game would be in the minority?

    Anyway, I follow Hull with interest because of their profile, I have taken an interest in Stoke because of the blog and seem to end up watching a lot of football even though I don’t have any loyalties (apart from the pragmatic one of hoping Arsenal win the Champions League sometime soon!). Sorry to interrupt – I’ll go back to the 2yo maidens now.

  8. Stephen Foster says:

    Pls feel free to leave any cast iron certainties from the 2-y-o maiden markets here:

  9. makemeadiva says:

    lol

    If I could, it’s a cert, I would but work and family life preclude me from sitting paddock-side from now until September blogging (or commenting on others blogs). Life’s a bitch 😉

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