Everything about Stoke City irritates me: their constant brutality, defended as the actions of ‘an honest group of players’; Tony Pulis’s insistence on Stoke always being the underdogs and his ridiculous baseball cap; but most of all their primitive anti-football.
Their whole game is based around aerial bombardment and keeping the ball off the grass as much as possible. To this end, they’ve assembled a group of treelike mutants, narrowed and shortened their pitch to smaller than UEFA standards and surrounded the pitch with towels for Rory Delap to wipe the ball on before hurling it to one of the planks at the back post.
Their method of scoring is hoofing the ball route one from the back to the lead mutants up front – normally any two from Crouch, Jones and Walters; passing it wide to Pennant or Etherington to hoof it onto the head of one of the lead mutants, or hoofing/hurling set-pieces onto the head of one of the lead mutants.
For this tactic to work, they don’t actually need any central midfielders, which is a good job as Pulis seems to play six centre-halves at any one time. There is no finesse to their game, just a desire to batter and barge their opponents into submission.
I can’t stand anything about Stoke, so victory was made even sweeter by Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor using the Delap towels to eat up some time and annoy the crowd by grinning when doing so.
Well, Simpson grinned, Raylor generally plays football with a look as if someone’s farted just under his nose, but he played well here and you can’t have everything. The icing on the cake was Pulis moaning about our Delap towel use and speaking through gritted teeth about why hat-trick man Demba Ba failed his Stoke medical.
Get in there! Bugger not getting carried away! We are third!