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What Stoke City Are Saying: Defoe Reminds Denis Smith of Keegan, & Hughes Wishes He Had Him

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Roker Report takes a spy on the opposition each week. Today it's Stoke City as Mark Hughes prepares to bring his team to the Stadium of Light tomorrow. The Potters boss has bemoaned his lack of a 'Defoe'; whilst Denis Smith has compared Sunderland's hitman to Kevin Keegan and Lee Chapman.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The Manager

Mark Hughes has his own injury crisis to rival his Wearside opponents tomorrow. The Stoke City boss is down to just eighteen available senior players for the trip to Sunderland.

Hughes was in front of the cameras this morning and revealed defender Marc Muniesa and former Sunderland man, Phil Bardsley are available for selection. But, Jon Walters is out, as is Middlesbrough target, Bojan.

Stoke's main problem is goals with top scorer Joe Allen weighing in with five from midfield - two of them coming against us in October. Hughes has returned to Peter Crouch in recent games who signed a 12-month extension to his current deal last week.

On the subject of attackers, Hughes has lofty ambitions for the number of goals he is expecting any new recruit to weigh in with, but he is ever the master of the under-statement on his prospects of finding one:

We have been looking for a striker who can score 20 plus goals for some time now. They are a little bit scarce on the ground. If a player becomes available we will be in the market for them, but so are a number of other clubs.

But, like most clubs battling for Premier League points, the Stoke boss longs for a hitman like Sunderland's:

Jermain Defoe always scores goals and he is clearly a guy who thrives off opportunities. He can create chances himself too.

The Pundit - Denis Smith, "Jermain Defoe Reminds Me Of Kevin Keegan"

Former Sunderland boss and Stoke legend, Denis Smith, says Jermain Defoe is a defender's nightmare and that he reminds him of Kevin Keegan and Lee Chapman.

Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, the man who managed Sunderland for over four years, has described Defoe's movement and goal-scoring prowess as reminiscent of Keegan, and his shooting accuracy the equal of Chapman in his heyday.

Kevin Keegan of England
Kevin Keegan scores for England

Smith, now aged 69, said of Jermain Defoe:

He's one that sits on your shoulder and looks to run in behind you, which no defender really likes, because he's forever stretching you and isn't in front of you where you want him.

And the man who took charge of Sunderland in 229 games during his spell at Roker Park draws parallels with Lee Chapman, who he recalls from his Stoke City days in the late 1970s:

Defoe has also got a nasty habit of always hitting the target when he goes for goals, even if he scuffs the ball. We had one like that at Stoke. I remember I did some coaching after I had smashed my arm and was out of action. I was taking the youngsters and there was one called Lee Chapman, who I thought was pretty hopeless to begin with.

But then when we did shooting practice, he was hitting the target every time, even if the ball was sometimes trickling towards it. It's amazing how many goals you can score if you're always working the goalkeeper at the very least.

Lee Chapman of Leeds
Lee Chapman during his Leeds days in the early 1990s

And Smith believes that despite their woes - especially during the early part of the season - Sunderland still have the right man for the job in David Moyes; but he has a warning for the man who currently sits in the Wearside hot seat about the importance of keeping everyone in the region firmly behind you:

David is good at getting the crowd on his side and that's crucial, they are fanatical and desperate to see their team do well. As I found out myself, if you can also get the media up there on site, then you've got a chance of cracking it.

The Fans

The Oatcake forum - a delightful place, I'm sure you'll agree - is currently in turmoil.

With their side sat in a catastrophic and devastating 11th in the Premier League table, many fans are just about on their last straw with Mark Hughes and some are predicting that a loss this weekend could spell the end of his tenure at the club.

You can imagine, then, that their morale isn't exactly what you'd describe as 'high'.

Take this post from a user called Why Delilah, replying to a Sunderland fan asking for their thoughts ahead of the game:

We're absolutely shit right now. We've only been capable of beating shit teams in the league all season. Luckily for us, we're playing a shit team.

I'm still not convinced our shit team can beat your shit team though.

Are things really that bad for the team from the Potteries? Apparently so - this mindset seems to be the consensus of the user's of this particular website.

Another poster, called Kustokie, commented:

I am hanging onto the fact that Sunderland are much worse.

It will be mayhem on here if we don't get at least a point.

Many are also convinced that, with Mike Dean as referee, they've already lost the game - it seems that they aren't the only set of supporters that balk whenever his name is mentioned in public.

Here's another - are you sensing a pattern?

Get ready for an Oatcake board meltdown at the FT whistle. We've never won at the SoL in the league and seem to make hard work of games against Sunderland at the best of times.

We are in poor form, not playing well and have no pace to counter them with. The only surprise to me will be when Stoke fans are surprised we get beaten in this match.

Nailed on 2-0 win for Sunderland.

The poor souls.