6 Things We Learnt From Stoke City v Besiktas

Stoke continued their European adventure last night and though their incredible fans met their match for once the Turkish players let the side down by trying to settle for a point. Big mistake.
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If there’s one nationality not remotely intimidated by the Britannia atmosphere, it’s the Turks. In fact  I suspect they wondered what all this fuss over The Brit was about.  Compared to what we’ll face in December at their place, this was akin to a nice evening round at Granny’s poring over a jigsaw puzzle with a small schooner of dry sherry. It was the Besiktas fans who provided most of the atmosphere especially in the first half, and they were a joy to behold. There’s something genuinely delightful about watching 1500 people bouncing up and down on the spot singing something utterly unintelligible.

Stoke fans listen to the World Service. The best response to the Bouncing Turks was a particularly witty & vociferous  ‘Turkey’s a shithole, I’d rather go Greece’ which showed a hitherto unsuspected awareness of international diplomatic tensions amongst the Boothen faithful.

There are more Besiktas fans in Tottenham than Tottenham fans. We know this from the interminable hour spent getting out of the staggeringly ineptly marshaled car park at The Brit, which was passed counting the number of mini-buses from Tottenham. We got bored and nodded off at 23, but can safely say I’ve never counted that many mini-buses of Spurs fans at White Hart Lane. This could of course be because I’ve never bothered.

The Turks were so comfortable in possession, and so happy to just pass it about in neat triangles while we huffed and puffed.

All the clichés about European football are true. ‘Interesting clash of styles’, ‘whole different tempo’ & ‘they’re far more technical than us’ were all to the fore in this game. But the one resounding cliché brought magnificently to life was the old ‘Johnny Foreigner doesn’t like it up him’. This evening it was Rustu Recba the almost legendary Besiktas & Turkey keeper. Everyone wondered how he was going to cope with the crosses and throws, and the answer was he didn’t. At the very first one he threw himself theatrically into the back of the net before the throw had even been taken as if he himself had been catapulted there by Rory Delap. Thereafter he insisted on coming  for everything, despite rarely getting anywhere near anything. More often than not he was clattered by his own players. But mostly he just lay on the ground after every set piece feigning death, especially in the second half when they’d pretty much settled for a point, in a way that merely confirmed our suspicions that JF doesn’t like it up him, on him or anywhere around him.

Queresma finds the game just too easy. He was fabulous, always threatening from the right wing he took immense pleasure in running Huth ragged. There was one fabulous bit of skill in the 2nd half where, bored of bewildering the Gigantic German, he instead turned Dean Whitehead inside out twice before deciding to spare poor Deano’s blushes with a 3rd humiliation by firing in a shot which looped up off a deflection and hit the inside of the post before bouncing  out and into Sorenson’s grateful arms. Inevitably, this shot was with the outside of his right foot. In fact all his shots were with the outside of his right foot. It’s as if he’s just showing off in a 5-a-side kickabout in Stone gym of a Thursday evening.  Or maybe he just finds the game so stupidly easy, he has to come up with ways to make it harder just to amuse himself. I fully expect to see him playing with one leg strapped up behind his arse in Istanbul. And maybe a blindfold.

You should never sit back and settle for a point at Stoke. The Turks were so comfortable in possession, and so happy to just pass it about in neat triangles while we huffed and puffed trying to get our ball back and then keep it for more than just the odd pass, that you could see that with about half an hour to go they thought ‘we’ve got a point, that’ll do, we’ll just see the game out by lying down a lot with terrible injuries which miraculously clear up minutes later, pottering over goal-kicks like a pensioner in his allotment on a late summer’s afternoon, giving it to Queresma so he can go on a mazy run back and forth across the pitch, and generally fannying about and wondering whether to have the red or the white on the plane home. BIG MISTAKE. As soon as TP sensed this he sent on the human dynamo that is Johnny Walters to unsettle the defence with his hustle, bustle and intelligent movement, and Glenn Whelan to help us keep the ball and add a bit of guile. It worked. We harried them into errors, won a soft penalty, and took the points. All in all, a top night’s entertainment all round. More please!

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