Date: 19th February 2011 at 11:25pm
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After glancing over the opinions of Sports Columnist Patrick Collins on the Mail Online, I thought to myself I`m going to voice my opinion as well, especially seen as our style of play has been attacked.

Fair play to the man, he is a respected columnist and he has a right to his own thoughts. I`m not quite respected or even heard of, but as a fan of Stoke City and football as a whole I`m going to stick my neck out here.

In a brief translation for those who haven`t seen the article; Collins questions if Stoke`s style of play is the ‘kind of football` we want for our leagues and if there is any alternative. He does quote: “they all count … it doesn`t have to be pretty … they don`t give you points for style” however, according to Collins, this is supposedly said with a doubtful tone from commentators at The Britannia Stadium.

He then looks towards the likes of Barcelona and Spain International Xavi Hernandez, praising him and his teammates as they “would present problems which Stoke and Blackburn are ill-equipped to solve”. View the article in more detail here.

Following so far? Ok, so here`s my view:

Stoke City and Tony Pulis have a set formula and it has worked for us so far. Yes it may not be the prettiest football in the world, but its football that’s gaining us points and aiding our steady climb up the table as the seasons go by. That in my eyes is something to be proud of, especially as newly promoted clubs are now looking to do a ‘Stoke`.

What`s wrong with that? Finding something that works and sticking to it seems the most sensible thing do with the common sense we`re gifted with. But obviously Mr. Collins is looking from an ‘entertainment` perspective where the load of ‘pass, pass, dribble, dribble` balls is the supposed set standard. Well there are different forms of entertainment and personally, seeing big passionate lads battling in the box during the dying seconds as that long throw whooshes in like a Peregrine Falcon on Red Bull, for an almighty leap that makes contact with the ball and headers it home, grabbing them 3 vital points is the falling off the chair stuff, let alone edge of the seat!

Furthermore; being deafened by the deliria of 27,000 Stoke fans puts the cherry on the cake for a cracking day at the Britannia Stadium, or in my case, the gravy on the Wrights pie.

There are so many forms of entertainment within the world of football and they shouldn`t be limited to the same style. Variety is key for a decent Match of the Day, otherwise it may as well be Match of the Year where they`d be more chance of a difference. I mean you wouldn`t throw on all dancing acts on a variety performance because it`s pretty? In a sweeping generalisation of my own, those who want pretty football are those who order prawn sandwiches and drink champagne, whereas those who enjoy the competitive and passionate football prefer a traditional pie and chips with a flask of tea.

Of course, the likes of Xavi Hernandez, are fantastic individuals with massive quality on the ball. All respect to them, but I wouldn`t have him at Stoke. I`d rather him play his football in Europe, and us benefit from home-grown talent who isn`t afraid of getting stuck in and putting in the hard graft. Not that Xavi wouldn`t of course. Passion and driven determination is the kind of players we have at Stoke and that’s what the fans prefer to see. Don`t get me wrong if Barcelona offered Xavi to us in exchange for an oatcake then I`d give them the whole Hole in the Wall!

But we wouldn`t risk bankrupting ourselves to put in a ridiculous offer for that one skilful player, who wouldn`t really be fully satisfied with staying in the Potteries for the rest of his career (I wouldn`t know why, after all, we have Trentham Gardens and the Incinerator). Both Peter Coates and Tony Pulis would look towards a player who wants to play for us, who plays with a decent enough quality, and who doesn`t cost the earth for his services. Bottom line: grafters are what we have and what we want and that is what our style is based upon.

Which brings me nicely onto the suggestion that Stoke are “ill equipped” to cause problems. Sorry Mr. Collins, but cue the Family Fortunes wrong answer buzzer. How many teams in the Premier League have the capabilities of causing a threat via the resident human slingshot? And out of that presumably tiny amount, how many of their long throws are as flat, as fast, and as much of a headache as Rory Delap`s? Our survey says Patrick Collins didn`t think it through. We are capable of causing threats and often through an element of our play that is unique and more importantly, hard to deal with. Not that I`m saying we as a team are a one trick pony because we aren`t. We like our set-plays yeah, but we are also difficult to beat in the air and can cause problems when the ball falls to the likes of Ricardo Fuller, Jermaine Pennant, and Mathew Etherington for example.

The players we have are the quality we need, but of course we`d always be willing to add to that quality. But the point is that with those players, we got promoted, survived, and survived again being the second team in history to improve on our first-year points tally (funnily enough Blackburn were the first), and look at this year thinking of a top half finish. That’s what everyone at Stoke prides themselves on. Having the players who give 110% to the red-and-white cause and having something to show for it.

Stoke City and Tony Pulis will always receive criticism about styles of play, tactics and what have you. But a simple question to those who do dish it out is: why do you bother? If you don`t like what we do and how we do it, don`t bother watching us. Simple isn`t it? Of course everyone, including Patrick Collins, has the right to their opinion and I respect that. But it also means that my opinion must be heard too, and frankly I don`t care what others think of our football. End of the day it`s working, and we`re steadily improving as a team. Currently being 9th in the table with a game in hand is a very respectable position.

Also a fun fact for you: last year`s figures show that Stoke City was the only club in the Premier League to make a profit. Just thought I`d throw that one in there.

We have an almighty fan base and they will always be there to cheer on the Potters. We all look forward to a bright future with a club that has a lot of potential. I`ll be there, pie in one hand while cupping my mouth for that extra volume with the other, as we continue doing what we do best: showing up our critics and getting dizzy from the heights of the ever exciting Premier League.


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