Some folk have bottle. This week’s away fan contributor is one of them. I’d had a struggle to find a Stoke fan to preview this weeks game and I suppose given their circumstances, it’s hardly a surprise. However, I eventually found one in David Lee. I’d not quite grasped how bad things were at Stoke. To me they look like they’ve been unlucky in the games I saw against Derby and somebody else (can’t think who off top of my head). They’ve still got some decent players so there is no way I’m getting carried away.
I’m a bit fearful of this one on, Stoke beat us last year when it looked a winnable game on paper whilst we were still in with a shout of the playoffs. I’ve been around long enough to see Forest not only slip on these type of banana skins but stick on a pair of roller skates for good measure. This one will be a test of our seasons credentials; even if it’s to go against the grain of getting our usual quota of shocking results for the season. I’m sticking with my slightly pessimistic result predictions and I’ll go with a narrow defeat as a grounder, 1-0 Stoke.
How is the Stoke season shaping up? e.g, form, style, new manager, signings, etc. What are your expectations for the season?
Are you kidding me?! This is Stoke’s worst start to a season EVER. Official. Worse even than the atrocious 1900-01 season (& for those of us who can still remember that, it was pretty appalling). Worse even than the 1665-66 season when half the team were playing with bubonic plague! Yes, just 2 draws & 6 defeats. As for manager Nathan Jones, it’s 3 wins in 28 league games since he joined in January. So, statistically he’s the worst Stoke manager ever. (I wrote a book about Stoke managers, so trust me here.) Even Joris Bohnson hasn’t lost as often as Stoke this season. Brother Nathan continuously wrote off last season saying “judge me when I’ve had a full pre-season’s training”. Errrrr….Well, that didn’t work. Sure, performances are more organised & “solid”, but it’s still a mess (like Chernobyl only without the infrastructure). Changing half the team every week, changing formation willy-nilly (diamond? What diamond??); oh, and players showing their mettle by lunging in & getting red carded (2 out of last 3 games). You Could’ner Make It Up! (Oh, sorry, that was just the name of my book about Stoke managers.) But you get the idea.
What was the team’s performance like in your last outing?
Are you kidding me???!! We’ve just been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by a side made up of part-time postmen & milkmen. (Which was why there was no extra time, just penalties, as half their team needed to be up at 5am to go to work.) (Ok, slight exaggeration.) (Maybe 5.30am.) Point being is that fans are struggling to think of a WORSE performance by Stoke (worse than Hartlepool, Wigan, Blyth Spartans, The Old Etonians, The Julius Caesar XI…), but, well, it’s agreed this is the worst in living memory. Nathan made TEN changes, whereas Forest only changed six for Arsenal. What does that say? No idea. But two-thirds of the Stoke team were Nathan-signed players, players he said pre-season would be “all leaders”. Leaders?! I think they led us right down the garden path, past the allotments, and into the Trent & Mersey canal. Triffic! (Oh, sorry, that was the title of another of my books.)
What are the key strengths and weaknesses of your team? Who do forest fans need to be worried about the most?
Are you kidding me????!!? Strengths? Well, for one thing, the Forest manager will NEVER be able to 2nd-guess Stoke’s formation. Even the Stoke fans might not be able to work out what the hell’s going on till well into the 2nd half, and the players maybe not at all. Also, I think it’s 5 dismissals in 28 games, so Forest don’t stand a chance of beating us on red cards. And don’t get me started on penalties – I think it’s 11 misses in the last 14. Weaknesses? None. There is nowhere on our pitch where we are weaker than anywhere else. We’re consistently weak everywhere. Players to look out for? Joe Allen & Benik Afobe. One is suspended (fans were unkindly hoping he’d appeal in order to extend the suspension) & the other is on loan AND out injured long term. However, bet365 is still giving them the best odds to influence this game, well ahead of Sam Vokes, Sam Clucas or Lee Gregory, some of whom might actually be playing (although I use the word “playing” very loosely here). And I haven’t room to mention James “Mr Popular” McClean and Jack ”England No.2” Butland. I know, with players like this we should be playing in the…PREMIER! (Oh, sorry, that was the title of yet another of my books.) (Do you think I’m overdoing the book plugging? No?)
What are your thoughts on Forest?
Who do you see as our main threat/best player?
Don’t know, don’t care. I didn’t even know they were in the Championship. I thought Martin O’Neill was still their manager. I thought they still had Garry Birtles up front. I thought they’d gone out the League. (Oh, sorry, that’s the other one.)
What would you give the clubs rivalry with Forest out of 10? 1 – being your 2nd team 5 – being a mutual respect and 10 – your most hated team.
5 – You don’t exist. You don’t have a “presence” like Stoke has. When people think of Stoke, their little eyes light up, and they say things like: “Wow! Stoke City! What a famous club! Really old and bottom of the division! Totally inept! What a joke! But thank God they’re not as boring as…Nottingham Whatsit! I mean, has anyone ever been to Nottingham? Is it near Lincoln? Isn’t Nottingham Forest a fictional place where Robin Hood lived?…” etc etc. You’ve either got it, or you haven’t.
Your most memorable encounter with Forest and why?
I once asked Tony Pulis what it was like when he first joined Stoke in 2002. He sighed & said “It was a shambles”. Several games later Forest battered us 6-0. Pulis told me that was the turning point which led to promotion etc, as he called the (then Icelandic) chairman after the game and said, “We need 2 players now or you can write off your investment.” It worked. We were on our way. And who was Forest manager that day? Only our current assistant manager Paul Hart. Or Mr Charisma, as nobody calls him.
What’s your predictions for the game with scorers?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!????! Of course Forest are going to turn up expecting a 4-0 win…only to lose by 0-2. As we don’t have any actual goal-scorers I’m expecting Forest to score the goals for us. You’ll have to look carefully at the replays to see they’re both actually own-goals, as the whole of the Stoke team will no doubt claim them (even Benik Afobe from his hospital bed in Bristol). I suspect it will make awful television, but Potters fans will later claim it was one of Stoke’s Greatest Games! (Oh, sorry, that was the title of yet another of my books.) (Did I mention I wrote football books?) …
Cheers to David Lee for his thoughts. This preview has set the benchmark for the season. Stoke might be bottom of The Championship but they’re running away with the away fans preview table on this site!
For more irreverent writing about Stoke, buy PREMIER! 10 Years In The Premier League from http://www.impossibledreamers.co.uk.