Well he's said it in the media, and he underlined his thoughts with his team selection yesterday.Martin O'Neill is a genuine guy,a very astute manager,and for my money a man to be listened to.In recent times,and again this week, he has been fulsome in his praise of the progress Stoke City have made in a very short space of time in the Prem, and the sterling qualities that our management team and squad display.
His team selection reflected this yesterday.Both Carew and Heskey on for virtually the whole of the match.
The conditions,strong winds -Villa had the advantage in the first half,Stoke in the second - were not conducive to good football,but a good football match is what we got between two extremely competitive teams.Take no notice of Gary Lineker's comment at the end of MOTD,that reducing the highlights to just five minutes didn't make the game seem any better.Rubbish!!No goals yes,as the two sides cancelled each other out,but a fine game of football nonetheless.
Plenty of half chances,with Stoke's best falling to Huth.In the 92nd minute he headed narrowly over from a cross from the left......something MOTD editors chose not to show presumably because it would not fit in with their 'forgetable game' narrative.
Starting with Sidibe and Tuncay up front,Stoke did not really come alive ,until the second half when they were replaced with Fuller and Kitson.On this occasion Tuncay took the change with bad grace,seemingly heading off to the tunnel directly,then WISELY coming back to wish Fuller well ,before shunning the manager as he headed for the dressing room UNWISELY.Shame really because he's been looking good lately,but today Pulis was right,the Turk was looking ineffective against Villa's uncompromising defending, well marshalled by Dunne and Collins.
Rory Delap had an excellent game,don't think I've ever seen so many long throws in one game,but Villa coped as well as any team has with the threat that they presented.Glen Whelan just continues to get better.Yesterday,in addition to his normal attributes,he picked out some lovely passes,one beauty dropping in over Fuller's head to give the striker a chance on goal.Fuller has reputedly been ill..you would not have known it as he repeatedly tied Villa defenders (and himself twice) in knots.He was ably assisted by Dave Kitson,mentioned by name by the manager in his post match interview.You wouldn't be surprised to see Kitson get on from the start in the near future.
Whatever defensive combination Tony Pulis puts out we seem to be pretty solid.Good to see that Danny Collins has found a bit more form.Ryan Shawcross will no doubt be back against Spurs but that can be no reflection on the performances our players put in yesterday.
Matty Etherington again played the full 93 minutes,doing very well as he strives to get back to his pre-injury form.
So still 11th, edging closer to safety,and with a full week to get ready for Spurs,and another chance to test ourselves against a team chasing the fourth European Cup place.
Gary L ...... for those of us in the sell out crowd the match proved to be excellent ENTERTAINMENT!!