Opposition view: Stoke City

By Ric Turner, Wed 21 December 2011 09:05

Opposition view: Stoke City

Ahead of tonight's game against Stoke City, Bluemoon caught up with Smudge from the Oatcake fanzine, and Shafter (our own resident Potter) for the low down on the opposition...

Who are Stoke’s key players?

Smudge: To be honest, we're more about the team than key individuals. Having said that, we do rely heavily on the non-stop and tireless efforts of Jon Walters in attack. Also, if we're to be at our very best we need to get Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant into the game - they provide so many assists for our goals.

Shafter: I'd say that our key players this season are our two wingers, Etherington and Pennant. It adds a bit of width to our game compared to previous seasons when we've been totally one dimensional.

Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

Smudge: We were happy to be honest. The money spent on Cameron Jerome isn't looking the best of investments at the moment, while the acquisition of Wilson Palacios has yet to have the impact we were hoping for because of ongoing issues over his fitness. The signing of Peter Crouch is looking a good one right now. £10m is a serious wedge of money but the player has thrown himself fully into the work ethos of the team and is making a genuine contribution.

The main thing for us though was that we have a local family showing their commitment to our club and backing their manager. We are being run by people who sincerely care about Stoke City.

Shafter: Overall I'd say yes. Although Crouch isn't everyone's cup of tea, he will always score goals and I think he will suit our style of play if the wingers can produce the service for him. Palacios was a great signing in my opinion but he's yet to reach peak fitness and hasn't featured much so far this season.

What are your expectations for this season?

Smudge: We do not have any expectations as such, only that our players continue to compete as they have done and play with pride for our club. If they do that then the rest will take care of itself. We're happy with the memorable wins we pick up along the way, and the odd cup runs here and there. We love being in the Premier League and we're not unrealistic enough to believe we have any right to expect too much.

Shafter: Well we've already exceeded my expectations by reaching the knock out stages of the Europa and landing a great draw against Valencia. I wouldn't mind another FA Cup final and a mid-table finish again to be honest.

Are you happy with the manager?

Smudge: One of the favourite pasttimes at Stoke is doubting the manager and thinking we could do it better. Time after time after time though he proves everyone wrong and as a result the club keeps on improving. With my hand on my heart I honestly can't think of anyone I'd rather have as the manager of Stoke City.

Shafter: It's a funny one with Pulis, although I'm not always a big fan of his tactics (especially away from home), or his style of play, I have to love him for what he's done for the football club. We see slight progression every season and I never thought I'd see the day when we'd be an established premier league team. What I like most about Pulis is that he doesn't suffer fools and if you don't give 110% for Stoke City then you don't get a game.

Are there any rising starts in the squad that we might not have heard of?

Smudge: Not too many to be honest. Our youth policy has not been overly successful in recent years. The one youngster to come through is Ryan Shotton - a local Fenton lad who can play anywhere down the right and at centre half. Earlier this season we sent him up front to make a nuisance of himself in the final few moments at West Brom and he scored an injury time winner!

Shafter: Ryan Shotton. A local lad who's crept into the first team this season and is making a name for himself with some great performances. One for the future.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

Smudge: For me personally it would be David Silva. The bloke is a genius.

Shafter: Balotelli. Say no more.

What is your perception of City as a club?

Smudge: I suppose most of us still look at Man City as being Man Utd's poor relations. It's probably going to take a few trophies and not just a 6-1 win to remove that perception. In all honesty there is also some negative feeling about Man City as we all used to look at your club moaning about Man Utd buying success, only to then delight in being the play-things of some mega rich middle eastern businessman. That said, I suppose none of us would complain if we were in your shoes.

Shafter: Well what can I say, you must be in dreamland. I don't think anyone saw this coming but it looks like the investment has paid off and you've got it together. I think you'll win the league this season and then press on from there into the champions league next year. Always had a soft spot for City mainly because I've always likened your club and supporters to ours. Until recently you, like us have always been the underdogs but supporters even now have always remained grounded, which gets my respect.

Likely Stoke starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

Smudge: We have a suspension or two to deal with and a couple of niggling injuries so I can't really say what our team will be, though I'm praying fervently that we don't try Johnathan Woodgate at centre half again!

As for a score prediction I'll go for 0-0 or The Potters to sneak a crazy 1-0 win. That's not me being silly or cocky, but if we don't believe in our own club then who will?

Shafter: Begovic

Prediction: Man City 3-1 Stoke City