STOKE CITY FC 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 2
I have deliberately left writing this to give time to think – and the transfer deadline to pass - before commenting on what I saw at The Brit on Tuesday night.
I have to confess to serious disappointment in the way that things turned out. What was most disconcerting was the reaction of the crowd at the end of the match, more on which later.
Stoke have not been at their best lately,albeit in some tough games,but also in some games that appeared to be winnable. They looked fantastic against Liverpool,and most thinking people seemed very happy ( I will exclude those individuals whose sole aim in life seems to be to pull down all that has been painstakingly successfully assembled at the club over very recent years.).We did not look very clever against Southampton, yet could still have won. Entertaining,the game was certainly that.
Swansea away was not much fun, in particular, for those for those who parted with substantial good money to be there. That, and the lacklustre performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup,set the scene for Tuesday night.
Four defeats in a row, a fifth to be avoided at all costs. Having pressured the visitors with lively work from Etherington and Adam, we enjoyed the rub of the green when at a corner, Shawcross was left free to net his first goal of the season from short range,following a Wigan defensive shambles. Shortly after halftime Adam drove at the heart of the the Wigan defence. His strong shot on the run was parried by Al Habsi ,the ball falling to Crouch,who made no mistake,netting his first goal since September. Match done and dusted,everyone in the ground happy, or so it seemed.
Stoke then mysteriously lost the plot, the previously lame Wigan side came to life, took two excellent goals,and looked odds on to win the game. I cannot recall a game in the Pulis era in which I have seen players arguing amongst themselves on the pitch to the extent that I witnessed here, nor can I remember an occasion where players were not sure what they were supposed to be doing.
What we all saw, suggested that 'something was wrong in the camp', even wilder assertions that the 'manager had lost the team', and so on.
Looked at another way, we did not lose and we ended a losing run. We were all disappointed,but needed to remember that Wigan have done the same to teams far better than us!
What we don't need is the mindless booing of players (afterwards some tried to say that they were only booing the manager – sorry folks,but the players would not have known that!) at Stoke at the end of the match. Silence,not clapping,is a much more effective,much less destructive way of showing our feelings.
Through their actions Blackburn fans , in my opinion,contributed in no small measure,to putting their team where they are today. Leave aside the Indian chicken farmers and their doings, in the second half of last season Blackburn – with some good players on the books – the fans created an atmosphere in which players were frightened to express themselves, and in which the players couldn't get off the pitch fast enough. There were other factors too,I know,and fair enough the fans clearly cared,but the ill considered actions they took created a self fulfilling relegation prophecy.
Not suggesting that Stoke are heading that way for one moment.
Remember where we were, remember the stability brought by the Coates family, remember the manager has brought us vastly more good times than bad,remember that we have only lost six games this season so far,remember that we are mid table......what I saw Tuesday was the effect you get when the level of expectation outruns the ability of the team to deliver on the night. We were all frustrated,but show your feelings in a way that will not undermine all the good that has been done so far.
Oh yes, the transfer window.... clearly still building for/insuring against the future,Butland and Shea both potentially good buys. No new fullbacks, but not for lack of trying according to assistant manager Dave Kemp.
Crossroads for the club, maybe....make your own mind up.