FA Cup: Stoke City v Bolton: The Nightmares Of A Stokie

It’s 39 years since Stoke City last appeared in an FA Cup semi-final and were cheated out of a place in the final by a combination of dodgy refereeing and some classic Arsenal gamesmanship. Plus ca change, as they don’t say in the Potteries. Bring on Bolton…
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It’s 39 years since Stoke City last appeared in an FA Cup semi-final and were cheated out of a place in the final by a combination of dodgy refereeing and some classic Arsenal gamesmanship. Plus ca change, as they don’t say in the Potteries. Bring on Bolton…

It’s 39 years since Stoke City last appeared in an FA Cup semi-final and were cheated out of a place in the final by a combination of dodgy refereeing and some classic Arsenal gamesmanship. Plus ca change, as they don’t say in the Potteries. Bring on Bolton…

In the intervening years the overall cup record of Stoke City has been nothing short of disastrous. In fact at one point I think we had the second worst cup record in the whole 92 club league. We’ve been utterly humiliated by Blythe Spartans, Nuneaton, Telford and Hartlepool amongst others, needed a replay to beat Bath City and, prior to last season’s quarter final appearance against Chelsea, we’d had only a single 5th round defeat to Coventry under Mick Mills in 1987 to relieve the unrelenting woe of the FA Cup.

Two Autoglass Trophy victories at Wembley were scant consolation but at least provided brief respite from the unremitting pain, but only in the way two paracetamol might relieve a migraine. In fact, including the ’72 League Cup victory over Chelsea, we were unbeaten in three appearances at Old Wembley, but most of us were too young to go to the games that really counted, the FA Cup semi-finals of ’71 & ’72 or the League Cup Final the same year, but we’ve all got older brothers, sisters, mums & dads who’ve talked of little else these last 40 years. Indeed they’ve had little else to talk about.

All of which leaves me with only one question: how the hell are any of us going to cope if Stoke City beat Bolton actually get to the final?

So you can imagine just how much today’s semi-final appearance against Bolton at New Wembley means to the 36,000 travelling Stoke City fans heading down the M6 & M40. But if all you Arsenal, Manc & Chels fans out there can’t quite grasp the quite staggering enormity of our day out tomorrow - and how could you when you’ve never spent 23 years snuffling around the underpants of The Football League - here’s just some examples of what a bunch of lifelong Stokie loving 48 year olds have been doing ever since the Quarters, to try to cope with the mounting excitement: rifling through boxes searching out rosettes, flags, scarves, Evening Sentinel specials and programmes from 1972, especially the commemorative red and white silk League Cup winners scarf that adorned many a wrist throughout the 70s.

Listening over and over again to the Official League Cup Final song, ‘We’ll Be With You’ (penned by Tony Hatch & Jackie Trent of Crossroads & Neighbours theme fame), watching the videos for the Ricardo Fuller City’s Number 10 Song, Que Sera Sera (Shoot The Vale edit) and latest Pottermouth epic endlessly on youtube, wearing a black & white Terry Conroy badge in honour of TC who tragically lies in a coma as I write and whom we all wish a speedy recovery, watching the 72 League Cup Final, Autoglass Finals & Play Off final DVDs back to back, laying every single replica shirt out in the spare bedroom trying to decide which one to wear, making ‘72 only playlists (not one of the great years it has to be said), trying to figure out how to smuggle alcohol onto the official coaches, trying to decide what sandwiches to make, wondering whether every single one of the 36,000 Stokies will be turning up at The Green Man and if so, will they have got enough ale in, and generally not sleeping.

For myself, it’s been dreams. Or more accurately nightmares, some, like Jermaine Pennant being ruled out as a result of being stoned to death in Iran for carelessly discarding a Ferrari outside a Mosque and Rory being unavailable due to having been personally summoned to Tunis by Sarkozy, Obama & Cameron to hurl grenades at Tripoli obviously inspired by falling asleep listening to the World Service. The other one, in which Matty slipped on a thoughtlessly abandoned kebab wrapper in Fenton High Street thus breaking a metatarsal and being ruled out for the rest of season inspired by sheer dread.

All of which leaves me with only one question: how the hell are any of us going to cope if Stoke City beat Bolton actually get to the final?

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