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FA Cup Final: obsessing about Robert Huth's knee

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Nick Hancock | 11:40 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

Stoke City fan

There's the history, of course. The 148 years without a Cup Final, but frankly, like all history, that's bunk.

The FA Cup didn't even start till 1872, and then you can minus the five wartime finals and the one when Man Utd decided to go on holiday to South America. So in fact, Stoke have only failed to reach the final in 133 attempts, which isn't bad when you think about it.

I think about it a lot, and have done since 1969/70 when Stoke City laid its transforming hands on me and gave me the gift or disease or whatever it is that runs in the blood of football fans the world over.

I think about it every time the FA gets out their balls and velvet sacks (I'm aware of the subtext and stand by it) like conjurers at a dinner dance.

The ghost of the draw that I remember is still there, though the bags only get a cameo. But as I peer past Noel Gallagher in his jeans, I can still see those strange men of old in blazers and eye patches talking solemnly about the Football Association Challenge Cup.

To be fair to Noel, I thought he applied himself with great dignity, even adopting the great Ted Croker's haircut for the occasion.

For clubs like Stoke, for all clubs in fact, the draw is where hope is born and where it can die.

Of course, a 'good draw' is often nothing of the sort and us Stokies have seen enough defeats by the likes of Blyth Spartans, Hartlepool and Nuneaton to explain our fatalistic approach to life.

All football fans like to think they've had it worse than their peers and there's a peculiarly British competitiveness about which club and indeed fan has suffered the most.

The truth is we all suffer, and so we must, to enjoy our day in the sun. Now that the championship (Premier League, if you must) has been sequestered by rich interlopers and their puppet clubs, the Cup is where we mere mortals must look for our reward.

I am 48 years of age, and to quote my wife, 'a miserable old sod who struggles to find joy in anything'. But something miraculous has happened. I am full of excitement and life and optimism.

Stoke City Football Club means more to me and tens of thousands of Stokies than it should, but we can't help that. Football fandom, real football fandom, defies logic. It's deep and visceral and actually beyond logic. That's why we all shout so loudly when something seems to explain our lunacy. "That's why!" we cry, "That's why we go!"

This cup run is one such occasion. Sceptical wives, children, workmates and pundits say 'well done', and we bask in it.

We love the football too: the players, the goals, the tackles, the saves. We love each other: the comments, the songs and shouts and shared passion. To stand (and occasionally sit down) with the massed ranks of Stoke fans on Saturday will feel like the end of a journey (not a short, X Factor journey, but a proper slog over many years).

We'll bear witness to the beginning of something, or the end. I'm not quite sure which.

We deserve this, the players deserve this, the board deserves this, and Tony Pulis deserves this. I cannot let this go - my hours are filled with obsessive thoughts about Matty Etherington's hamstring, and Robert Huth's knee.

I have sleepless nights worrying if lads who stood with me at Millwall in the Full Members Cup, or at Southampton in the Simod, have tickets.

I pray - yes, pray - each evening for the torment that must be eating up Danny Higginbotham and Ricardo Fuller to ease. I neglect my work terribly, permanently distracted, like my teenage self staring out of the window thinking about Farrah Fawcett while Mr Ling fails to engage me in the Corn Laws.

Stoke-on-Trent deserves this. So often the butt of comedians' jokes, it deserves some dignity. I love this city and the people who live in it.

I'm proud to have been born here, and I imagine this is where I'll die, among people I understand. Funny, compassionate, blunt, to the point, and always up for a good time - oh what a party that would be!

I have nothing against Manchester City, but I have no room in my heart or thoughts for anyone but my family, my team and my city.

Supporting a team is like playing a game, only over a much longer period. There's a lot of hard slog, tons of blind alleys and plenty of pain, but every now and again there's something sublime and gorgeous to celebrate. Let's hope it happens Saturday.

Nick Hancock presents The Back End of Next Week, every Sunday at 11am, on 5 live

Related links
Stoke City
5 live FA Cup coverage
5 live blog: a Man City fan's view


  • Comment number 1.

    C'mon Stoke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Put a smile on my face - mainly when you reminded me of one of our rare good days, although we were sandwiched between Blyth Spartans and Nuneaton on that list!

    Still will be supporting Stoke - Man City will win plenty of things over the coming years, Stoke may not so I hope they take their chance!

  • Comment number 3.

    Appropriate that you should name-check Southampton, since a fair chunk of the Stoke team were Saints players at one time. Maybe they just like the red-and-white stripe shirts...
    As a Saints supporter I can empathise with your suffering - we've suffered with the best of 'em, and, like Stoke, have something to really celebrate at long last.
    Good luck to Stoke tomorrow - I'd like to see them turn over Man City, just like Saints stunned the red half of Manchester way back in '76.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree that it does feel very like the culmination of a very long journey. I can't get a ticket but in any event I worry about how weepy I might get just watching the team walk out on telly. Is that pathetic ? So be it. Come on Stoke - do it for Brendan O'Calllahan, for Carl Saunders, for Keith Bertchin, for John Richie, for Souleyman Oulare.

  • Comment number 5.

    Stonysaint - Omens dont win football matches ability does and Man City will beat Stoke 3-1.
    As for Carrie just carry on being bitter and twisted it will drag you down,moreso it will make your teams defeat tomorrow even more harder to stomach -- Lol...

  • Comment number 6.

    I visited Stoke once, never again, what a dump of a place,and the neanderthall's I spoke to, no sense of humour at all, your right blunt and to the point, or to anyone else bloody rude. so it's Man City to win for me 3-0. Oh I come from Glasgow by the way, now if you want humour.....

  • Comment number 7.

    DunstableDon: you live in Dunstable (presumably) and malign Stoke. Does irony mean anything to you ?

  • Comment number 8.

    I saw Stoke's League Cup Final win in 1972 on my first trip to Wembley. Unfortunately I am a Chelsea supporter and it was a bit upsetting for a twelve year old. However good luck tomorrow.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ted I'm bitter because I am a Villa fan. But I'm not bitter about Stoke, just hopeful for them.

  • Comment number 10.

    Manchester City are not a football team they are a bunch of massively overpaid mercenaries. They won't give a damn tomorrow - they're all looking to get away anyway.

  • Comment number 11.

    With sheer passion and commitement and togetherness we will stand strong, with our backing and history we will not fail, it is now, it is our time....money buys nothing..nothing..passion drives the heart , togetherness drives families and being strong wins everything...we are Stoke...we Loud...we are proud... We will deliver

  • Comment number 12.

    Echo Carrie's comment and like comment no. 8 from Guy a fellow Chelsea supporter so ...c'mon Stoke! (Plus they have the lovely Robert HOOOooooth - ex CFC) and I hate Citeh

  • Comment number 13.

    Also have quite a soft spot for Rory de Lap (Sp?) shhhhhh

  • Comment number 14.

    comment no 6...I have never visited Glasgow and never will...no intention of meeting aliens that even after millions of years practice can still not be understood

  • Comment number 15.

    Sounds to me as all this wealth at Citeh has seriously affected the mental state of mind of one manc fan on here in particular.
    Have all the manc city fans suddenly acquired this a persecution complex about themselves and the club ? It can't be good can it ? Come on you Potters !!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm a Man City fan til i die, and whilst I don't agree with the 'stoke winning' subtext everything else you say is spot on. Being of the younger generation it might be expected that I have no affiliation for the FA cup but I think I am one of the dying breed who still thinks it's magical. I have also found myself constantly distracted from my uni revision this week as i worry whether Tevez will play and if not just which formation will get the best out of Balotelli. Unfortunately couldn't get tickets for the final but was there at the semi and that proved 1 day can make every other bit of suffering worth wile and no other trophy provides that day to such a variety of clubs like the FA cup.

  • Comment number 17.

    I always associated Man City with the likes of Colin Bell or Big Mal.True blues in every sense.I can't be having with this present and money grabbing lot and the Mercenary City tag they have now.

  • Comment number 18.

    I watched the team bus come home in 1972 and painted the score in gloss paint on the wall of the lounge (I was 8). I was inconsolable when Gordon Banks had his car crash and the team started its long fall into the abyss. I've waited 40 years for this game. It's time. Bring it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick, great blog and best of luck to you Stokies and I hope you beat City and the businessmen owners. As a Latics fan (Wigan) I am with you on lots of fronts other than the fact we have never got to the FA Cup Final!! One last word for what a job Mr. Pulis has done, unreal what a guy. One last last word, up the Latics on Sunday (of course)!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    NH Always well written and puts the emotion of the game into perspective. As a languishing owl I still remember every kick of the four games in '93 and for fans of proper football clubs as yet unspoilt by silly money let's all hope Whelan and KJ bring it home for Stoke. Can you promise 6 points from Warnock next year please?

  • Comment number 21.

    your comment is born out of ignorance. I am a man city fan who currently goes to uni in sheffield and have adopted Wednesday as my third team (chester fc from the evo stick premier are my 2nd) and to read what you said annoyed me because i can't see how can you say our club is ruined considering your team is in a similar position to what city occupied 11 years ago and currently we are living the dream in the fact we are now no longer a laughing stock? We don't currently have any transfer records and I'm not saying we don't spend money but you must understand we have 30+ years of catching up to do and in this day and age that requires cash, I don't necessarily agree with the large sums we pay but that's the system's fault not ours. as a fan I can say we will appreciate every minute of this final as you did 18 years ago.

  • Comment number 22.

    Had the pleasure to watch Stoke from 1970-74 - Micky Pejic where are you ?
    Altho a student at 'The Kremlin on the Hill' aka Keele University, interacting with Stokies was fine and never a dull moment - I was employed at a certain Dept Store in Hanley every Xmas as Santa Claus, who as you may know, wears red & white which explains why today is THE DAY for the Potters, Santa is with you ! Good Luck SCFC !

  • Comment number 23.

    It is many many years since I lived in the Potteries and stood behind the goal as a young teenager supporting Stoke, going home with a sore throat from all the chanting. They have had a place in my heart ever since, no matter where in the world I have been. I have never supported another team and today I am just hoping and praying they will do the deed. They are the best team and they so deserve this.
    I have already got some champagne chilling in anticipation.

    In the 60s the cry used to be led by a huge chap with blonde hair who used to shout at the top of his voice so that the whole stadium heard him
    zigger zagger zigger zagger and we all replied STOKE CITY

    I wonder if he will be there today!


  • Comment number 24.

    Born and bred in 'Castle, walked to Stoke games in the 70's, today in Kiev, work across the former Soviet Union. At Newcastle High, the dinner ladies said "Chicken or sausage, duck?" I always asked for the duck. Received texts from my customers, the Kyrgyz, Turkmen, the Kazakhs, all wishing Stoke well, can't imagine how badly some Stoke folk slept last night. Nick hits it on the head, we are no different from other fans, but today the main theatre is ours. The stage is ready and onto that pitch will be directed such a massive beam of energy in favour of Stoke from all corners of the world. This is our day.

  • Comment number 25.

    What condescending cliche will the BBC commentary team roll out for Stoke...? "And this is, quite literally, erm, their cup final". Stoke are a very good footballing side - a match for the current, disjointed and disaffected New York Cosmos... sorry, Manchester City team.

  • Comment number 26.

    Coming from Glasgow and saying Stoke is bad is a bit rich, been there and not again, miserable city, and people, I will not make derogative comments about them as I do not sink as low as the person commenting on Stoke, shame as a lot of Scotland is wonderful, When a Glasgow team is good enough for the Premiership will be a long long way away. Come on the POTTERS

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Somebody in the BBC censorship dept has decided that a post about Robbie Savage that was directly related to an independent article in a national newspaper referring to his contribution to FA Cup coverage should not be posted in a blog about ... the FA Cup. Mind, it was critical and we can't be having that.

  • Comment number 29.

    jackstumps - I saw your post before it was deleted. You didn't mention the FA Cup, and this thread is not about the coverage of the event. It's about Stoke City.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hasit can you clarify why the likes of Charles Sales Sport Agenda and Martin Kelners Guardian articles are of-topic for this board?

    Looking at the House Rules i cannot see why such pieces would be deemed to be against the house rules?

    For future reference i think it would be helpful to clarify why 5live have probelms with posters linking to such articles.

  • Comment number 31.

    Fedster - links to useful articles are welcome, as long as they relate to the topic of the blog, and the websites don't contain material that breaches the BBC's editorial guidelines.

  • Comment number 32.

    Thanks,Hasit, i would beg to differ though, i usually post postive stuff about 5live, but on occassions i have posted links from the Sports Agends and they have been immediately zapped by the mods, even though they were relevant to the respective blog.

    From an outsider looking in, it just looks like Sport Agenda links are zapped because they contain information which shows certain 5live staff in a bad light.

    However i accept your points, and in future will not link to such articles.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hasit, you are out of control. How can you bad a post providing a link to a story about the FA Cup?

    You do work for "the most democratic station in the country" I thought you would encourage debate not stiffle it.

    By "useful" do you mean agreeable and supportive?

    Jackstumps, it clear must have hit a nerve, looks like an criticism of the "talent" isn't allowed.

    I'm glad Savage need spoil my enjoy of the FA Cup coverage of Stoke this weekend, pity he left the ESPN coverage to join 606 though.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hazit - with respect - read it! It is not about Stoke City. It is about what a poor presenter Savage is - TV and radio.

  • Comment number 35.

    And a very enlightening article too. I particularly liked this line.. "Last week he won an award for radio presenting – which is a good joke, but only if you make Tony Blackburn Footballer of the Year at the same time"

  • Comment number 36.

    ryanw and Jackstumps - you're entitled to your views about particular contributors to 5 live, and you've expressed them clearly in the past, but all I'd ask is that you use the appropriate blog posts.

    As I mentioned earlier, this is a thread about Stoke City and its fans, not the TV/radio coverage on the match.

  • Comment number 37.


    "but all I'd ask is that you use the appropriate blog posts."


  • Comment number 38.

    Hasit, the article mentions your presenter, your radio station and the FA Cup, I've post the link over on this thread as it seems the most relevant.


  • Comment number 39.

    ryanw - the Guardian article can mention whatever it likes, but this is, I repeat, a thread about being a fan Stoke City. Just as the other blog is about Manchester City, and is an equally inappropriate place for comments about a specific contributor who you happen to disapprove of. Both posts are now closed, and all off-topic comments will be removed.


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