Highlight of the season:
This was an incredible year for us, brimming with amazing things: convincing home wins in the Premier League v Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle and a joyous run in the FA Cup to reach the final for the first time in the club’s history. The final was a wonderful occasion, but seeing as we lost – and performed nowhere near our best – the match of the season has to be the 5-0 win v Bolton in the semi-final. A 1-0 victory by a scuffed shot in extra time would have represented dreamland, but to see us plunder five majestic goals against a decent Bolton side was otherworldly. To cap it all, not one was from a throw in or a corner. All right, maybe the second was, sort of.
Moment that just about summed it up:
Tony Pulis’s fierce devotion to the club was never more evident than during our home game v Aston Villa. We’d lost our first three Premier League fixtures and were 1-0 down to Villa at half time in the fourth. It seemed the season was imploding before it had begun, and we looked incapable of doing anything about it. Pulis hadn’t come to the game because he was grieving following the death of a family member. Then suddenly, just after half-time, Pulis appeared from the dug-out in his baseball cap and the crowd roared. His own mum had just died, for Christ’s sake, yet there he was back on the touchline yelling to the players that the game could still be salvaged. It worked, because Kenwyne Jones headed the equaliser after 80 minutes, and Robert Huth stabbed in the winner with about five seconds left. We were up and running.
Best moment involving a player’s mum:
I made a banner in tribute to Stoke’s German defender, Robert Huth, for the FA Cup semi-final. It contained a reference to John F Kennedy’s famous speech when he was in Berlin, when he told the crowd, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (I am a Berliner). My banner said: Huuuuthhh! “Ich bin ein Potter.” Amazingly, I was stopped by Robert Huth’s mum on the steps of Wembley Park tube station, who wanted a photo of me and the banner, alongside members of her family. I was hoping to bump into Kenwyne Jones’s mum at the final, but it never happened.
Ricardo Fuller is a wayward genius with a chequered Stoke career that has included a driving ban, a red card for clouting a member of his own team, and a hurried return to his family home in Jamaica after it was burned to the ground by a rampaging mob. Every now and then he produces goals of mesmerising skill. Against Birmingham he skipped round two defenders by the touchline and then curled a beauty round Ben Foster. Jon Walters’s second against Bolton at Wembley, when he unleashed a 20-yard shot after a run from the half-way line, is also a contender. And Walters scored a similarly brilliant goal at home to Chelsea in a 1-1 draw.
Season ticket shredding moment:
Things never got quite that bad, but there were fleeting moments when, through utter ignorance, we cursed Tony Pulis’s name. During a February home match versus an out-of-form West Brom Stoke took a 1-0 lead in the first half and thereafter played a 10-0-1 formation, with John Carew standing utterly alone up front. Our remaining players booted the ball high in his (very general) direction and waited for him to do something. It was a long wait. We eventually drew 1-1, but deserved to lose.
Player of the season:
It’s difficult to choose a player of the season because there have been so many outstanding performers. Over the last three months Jon Walters, Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennant and Kenwyne Jones have all been superb. Ryan Shawcross has been excellent all season, but the vote probably has to go to Robert Huth. Not only is he one of our leading scorers, he’s also been virtually flawless in defence, turning in a good show week after week. If he’d been playing for Arsenal this season they would have won the title.
Players we need to sign:
A full-back or two who can support the attack, a central midfielder who can run with the ball and deliver a killer pass, and a couple of new strikers to provide competition for the excellent pair of Jones and Walters.
Most inspired chant:
Arsene Wenger is highly regarded for his managerial skills by most fair-minded Stoke fans, but we know too that he is a very bad loser. He has likened us to a rugby team, and so it was particularly pleasing to shout “2-0 to the rugby team”, when Jermaine Pennant scored the second of our goals in a recent 3-1 win. Loud refrains of the England rugby anthem Swing Low, Sweet Chariot echoed round the ground.
Got the right manager?
Yes, we have.
Best laugh of the season:
John Carew’s harsh lesson that you should never visit a tattoo artist who can’t spell. He’d wanted a the phrase ‘my life, my rules’ in French, but his tattooist screwed up the last word, giving a translation of ‘my life, my menstrual periods’.
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