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What They're Saying: Stoke City Fully Expect To Beat Sunderland

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Roker Report has come over all paranoid, we’re so sure everyone’s talking about us, we’ve been spying on them. Here’s what Saturday’s opposition – Stoke (their press, pundits, players and fans) - have been saying about the visit of Sunderland on Saturday.

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'Swipe of the week:

There's Only One City In The Premier League?

If you type "Stoke City results" into google, the giant search engine is unable to compute why anyone would care, so instead defaults with Stoke vs Manchester City scorelines at the top of its results. Try it.

Must-win and fully-expect-to-win are the flavour amongst the Stokies ahead of Saturdays 3pm clash, but in truth we're used to that.


The Newspaper

This week it’s the Stoke Sentinel in the spotlight.

Some bloke called Martin Smith is the Sentinel’s token mouthpiece. Sadly it’s not the Son of Pele, just the editor of Stoke fanzine, the Oatcake.

This week he has been vociferous in his outrage that Stoke City are battling it out with Sunderland to be bottom of the Premier League. "Only a win will do" he insists.

Indeed, bottom-place was rather selfishly hogged by Aston Villa for the bulk of last season. No-one else, not even us, could get a look-in. So when we slumped to the foot of the table after the Crystal Palace debacle, it felt rather satisfying to be back there for the first time in twelve months. Indeed we rather suit it and have settled in nicely. If you’re going to be bad, you might as well stink the league out.

It is perhaps wryly amusing that Stoke City are so horrified at being precisely where we are each and every year. So, Martin Smith is adamant the Potters must beat us on Saturday:

And there's really no reason why we shouldn't win. We've consistently shown over the past few seasons that we're a better and stronger team than Sunderland.

Stoke City firmly believe Saturday is a will-win encounter for them, such is the confidence they have in their faltering super stars. Some other bloke at the Sentinel who isn’t Martin Smith, he’s Simon Lowe, has been rabbiting about it in his column since the famous one-all draw at Old Trafford in Stoke's last outing. In fact he’s so confident about this weekend’s fixture he’s predicting big-things:

It is now 17 league games since Stoke kept a clean sheet. There has to be a good chance that record will end when Sunderland visit…the next game is must win, no matter what.

What the Sentinel’s rabble-rousers and their merry band of Stoke followers have failed to realise, is that they’re second bottom of the league for a reason – because they deserve to be. If we’re pleased we picked up a point at home to West Bromwich Albion, Martin Smith is still revelling in Stoke's three weeks earlier:

Our last home game, against West Brom, demanded a performance... and one was duly delivered when crowd and players united in common purpose to arrest a depressing run of defeats.

That’s right, when Solomon Rondon headed in from a 91st-minute corner against the Baggies to gain a last-gasp point, it was because of an enormous effort of will from every Stokie body in the ground. What an achievement. Indeed what chance do we stand against such a tornado of power this weekend.

Speaking of which, for those of you heading to the Bet-321 stadium this weekend, you may have to hold on to your hats, literally. But, not for much longer as Stoke City have submitted a planning application to fill in one of the corners at the till-now windy ‘hole on the hill’ as Stoke's home is affectionately known amongst the locals.

Incredibly, the Sentinel actually believes:

One of the major factors that has helped Stoke City HQ gain a worldwide reputation has been a swirling wind which has whistled in from three open corners.

The additional seats will nudge the stadium-with-no-proper-name’s capacity over the thirty-thousand mark. But, perhaps most amusingly, Stoke City’s planning application for approval to complete the work claims it will turn the hole-on-the-hill into a tourist attraction. Contained within the planning documents is this bold claim:

[the development] would enable the Club to invest in its facilities and in Stoke-on-Trent as a whole, securing their position as an attraction not only to football fans but also to tourists visiting Staffordshire.

Yep, forget Staffordshire’s other tourist attractions – Alton Towers for example, and enjoy a day out gazing at the Bet321’s corners.

The Local Pundit

Robbie Earle, Port Vale legend and product of the Stoke City youth system, has been filling his time enlightening the people of Staffordshire since his boot from ITV’s football coverage in 2010.

Earle suspects Sunderland will be in for a relegation battle, "but Stoke will be well clear of it by May".

In words which many will reminisce as representing the banality which has dogged ITV Sport since The Big Match was decommissioned in 1992, Earle suggests:
There will be a nervousness while they are trying to get that first win, but if Stoke put in the work they have the better players and the better team to get through. They have to get all the basics right and then let their quality shine.

Stoke Players

They're a quiet bunch the Stoke lads, thus far only on-loan goalkeeper Lee Grant has previewed Saturday's fixture.

Like everyone else, Grant is still rejoicing in the season-changing point that they gained against Manchester United last time out. Indeed Stoke fans have identified Grant as one for the future based on that performance, and the 33-year old said:

I said it after the game and it hasn’t changed now, you really need to use a result like that to gain momentum.

Just being in the building the last week or so, you feel there’s a bit of confidence being breathed back into the group and that’s great.

And you thought Sunderland clung to every point gained as the beginning of a new dawn?

The Fans

The Oatcake dominates all things Stoke-fan – fanzine, message board and, as above - newspaper. It’s a veritable monopoly of fan-sided views.

But, in fairness to the Oatcake forum, it’s not bad as football message boards go. Stoke fans suffer from an image problem that pervades it though, an understandable feature caused by an unending period of dislikeable managers. Pulis and Hughes – just imagine for a moment [shudder].

Anyway, the bulk consensus about Saturday’s game appears to be, as above, that ‘only a win will do’. But, this comment from a wise elder by the name of ‘benjamin biscuit’ about Sunderland’s perpetual fighting qualities, is our favourite:

Like Mr Dundee they [Sunderland] have fought crocodiles all their lives and while scarred, live to tell the tale.

Question is - do we [Stoke] have the Warriors and Aborigine skills to fight that fight?

The Duck is the other big Stokie fanzine, and we noticed this piece about our last visit to The Bet321 about modern day footballers:

Kudos to a certain Jermaine Defoe, too. Whilst the vast majority of away team players after the game simply put on their massive headphones and get on the team bus, he took the time to not only sign everything in sight, but to open the gates and get loads of kids in for pictures and a chat, too.

Yes, it’s a small thing – and if we were all lucky enough to live the dream, we’d be signing stuff all day – but that was the exception, not the norm. He made people’s day, that day. It didn’t take much – just a bit of thought. Brilliant to see.

Everyone loves Jermain Defoe - except that fella from South Shields who allegedly had his wife stolen twice of course.