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Semi-final success sees Pulis put Wembley woes behind him

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Chris Bevan | 23:39 UK time, Sunday, 17 April 2011

Wembley Stadium

Stoke City boss Tony Pulis laid to rest most of his Wembley ghosts in some style by putting Bolton to the sword in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, and victory over Manchester City when he returns for next month's final would be a fitting way for him to finish the job.

It was a famous comeback from the Mancunians that saw Pulis's previous visit to the national stadium, as Gillingham boss for the 1999 League One play-off final, end so traumatically that he did not step foot inside it again - in its old or new incarnation - until last week.

Twelve years ago the Gills led Manchester City 2-0 until the 89th minute, but ended up being beaten on penalties, a defeat that Pulis admits not only haunted him to the extent he had not attended a Wembley game since, but also helped make him into the manager he is today.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis

Pulis' Gillingham team threw away a two-goal advantage against Man City in 1999 - photo: AFP.

When the subject of THAT defeat was broached in Pulis's post-match media conference after his much happier return visit on Sunday, he replied, and only half in jest, "Why have you got to bring that up?

"Gillingham played really well on that day and didn't deserve to lose. But I tell you what that game did do, it made me a much stronger person. You get things out of defeat, as well as victory, and you have to pick yourself up after it."

It is telling that Bolton boss Owen Coyle had uttered the same sentiment about how he would recover from his own Wembley nightmare when he put on a brave face for the media minutes earlier, although the big difference was that the Scot admitted his side's display was not worthy of anything but a heavy defeat.

Stoke led 3-0 after just 30 minutes of a one-sided semi-final and two more goals after the break by Jon Walters meant, this time, Pulis was in no danger of being on the wrong end of a fantastic late fightback.

If his side play as well as that against Manchester City in just under a month's time, it would not be rash to suggest Stoke's long wait for a second piece of major silverware - to go with their 1972 League Cup triumph - could finally be over.

Not that Pulis is getting carried away with that sort of talk, despite a decent record against City that has seen Stoke remain undefeated against Roberto Mancini's men in four meetings since December 2009 and knock them out of last season's FA Cup in the fifth round.

"The players embraced coming to Wembley like nothing else and they will look forward to coming back," said the 53-year-old Welshman. "This win will give them the confidence on 14 May to give it a good go but we know we will be playing against some great players because City are a club that has had a lot of money thrown at it. It will be tough for us, but we will give it our best shot like we did today."

There were plenty of reasons beyond the actual win to give Stoke's players encouragement. Their free-flowing football and rapid counter-attacks against Bolton made a nonsense of their reputation for being a one-dimensional side that is reliant on set-pieces and long throw-ins to get their goals - none of the five they managed against Wanderers came via that route.

Stoke City's Jonathan Walters

Jon Walters scored twice against his old club - photo: AP.

Pulis does not think that will pacify the purists and change public perception of him or his side, but then he does not care too much what other people think. One of the things that he has developed since that play-off final defeat is a thick skin.

He has also picked up the fine art of psychology, with his players and also with Stoke's vocal fans, who lived up to their billing as their side's '12th man' at Wembley.

With the squad, the approach is often subtle - it was noticeable before kick-off on Sunday the Potters players loitered on pitch in tracksuits, while Bolton sported suits that are usually saved for the final. Apart from giving his squad a tour of the stadium last week, Pulis was keen to treat the tie like any other game, talking about bringing his players down to earth and saying: "We only came down to London on Saturday and we just did our normal routine beforehand."

The supporters have been played with a heavier hand since the club's promotion to the Premier League three seasons ago, and responded in kind, something Pulis is proud of.
"One of the things we have done at this club, which is pretty unique, is that we have actually made them part of us," Pulis explained. "We have made Stoke into a community club and they have bought into that from day one.

"From our first game in the Premier League in August 2008, when we lost to Bolton and a national betting company paid out on us getting relegated, we have worked very hard to instil the mentality in our fans that we are the underdogs and that nobody likes us, but we don't care."

Lifting the Cup and taking Stoke into the Europa League should bring recognition of Pulis's qualities but he says he has more pressing concerns first.

Despite being without a trophy to show for his 19 years as a manager, Pulis has always said it is more important to him to protect his more desirable record of never having been relegated either.

That looks unlikely this season but Stoke's away form in the league means they are only five points above the drop zone, and with Wolves, Blackpool and Wigan amongst their opponents in the run-in, not to mention Arsenal and City, taking their foot off the gas now could be fatal.

Not that Pulis will let that happen if he can help it, and his response to a question about his side's focus in the next few weeks shows his priorities still haven't changed, even with the Cup within touching distance.

"It will mean a lot to me to lead the team out for the Cup final," he said. "But if we get relegated I will be devastated."

You can follow me throughout the season on Twitter @chrisbevan_bbc


  • Comment number 1.

    Hope they go on to win it.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a Port Vale fan, I'd like to congratulate Stoke at reaching the final (my brother supports Stoke, and it would be churlish of me not to). However, when the final comes round, I'll be cheering for the other city. Sorry. =)

  • Comment number 3.

    This is a really strange article that makes you think whether it has any link at all with a semi final between two Premiership sides that played a semi final for the F.A. Cup and the final score was 5-0, while it could easily be 7-0 / 8-0. Starting with Gillingham and finishing with a question asking what if Stoke get relegated, leaves a reader speechless for good reasons.

    Bolton were the team that is supposed to be playing the beautiful football, but they were reduced to seeking the long ball (see Allardyce), a brand of football that many purists also fail to realise that it's not the football Stoke play this season. A Bolton weakness was exposed blatantly: Sturridge has proven to be their great link in attack in the second half of the season but, even he, is a loaned player.

    Many may have been expecting Stoke to play defensively, with "hoofing the ball up front" as Arsenal fans love saying about Stoke and using Delap's throws. Those people won't listen to arguments that Stoke have two excellent wingers, speed going forward, new blood in their team (in Wilson and Walters) and some threat up front.

    I listened to the commentator, when the match went 2-0 saying that Pullis must be jumping up and down from unexpected joy and then I read a good follow up with this article.

    It wasn't only yesterday that Stoke scored beautiful individual goals.
    It wasn't only yesterday that Stoke used the wings to perfection.
    What happened yesterday is that one of the 5 (five, you know) goals was scored in a similar manner of the goal that City scored the day before and their fans believe their team is God's gift because of that - yet, another four were scored yesterday, while the Stoke defense never was under real pressure really.

    Ending the article with relegation fears?
    Wasn't Stoke last week that should have beaten Chelsea at Britannia?
    Relegation when the last 5 teams on the table "see" winning 3 points potentially only when they play each other?
    "Long ball hoofing" accusations by Arsenal when someone needs to sit down and think how many matches it took them to score 5 goals, in their latest matches?
    Would I be wrong if I argued that football specialists and so called purists have no clue about football and live in imaginary dizzy worlds?

  • Comment number 4.

    I hope Stoke City wins the final.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've followed Stoke all my life and yesterday was probably their best performance ever. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have Wembley as a frequent destination on my Sat Nav.
    Mancini Money Boys here we come.

  • Comment number 6.

    #3 this article was primarily to do with Tony Pulis rather than Stoke as a whole.

    I have read several articles on Stoke (on this & the Guardian website), which in a much more coherent manner make the points you have.

    Now if you knew anything of Pulis you'd know that 2 things make up his career & they are the 99 Play-Off final (as a Gillingham fan it like Pulis brings back awful memories & that was the season Pulis entered the radar of a number of Championship clubs) and the fact he has never been relegated. So it seems perfectly reasonable that the article begins, especially as it was a Wembley game, and ends on these 2 points.

  • Comment number 7.

  • Comment number 8.

    as a villa fan from stoke born and bred congratulations to stoke reaching the final.
    the city is buzzing again and with the times we live in the football team has lifted most of the people around here. the fans have been through an awful lot of bad times and if any team deserve the good times it's stoke. well done and enjoy the biggest day out in your history as i know you will.

  • Comment number 9.

    I have been a Stoke City fan since 1972 and I live in Singapore. I believe Tony Pulis has done a great job. First he got Stoke promoted to the Premiership and then for the first time in 148 years, the FA Cup Final. No other manager with the Potters have done this much is so little time. Going to the Final in itself is a great achievement. Winning the Cup would be the icing and a great bonus.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ 6 C Payne,

    I was just surprised by the content of the article.
    It was also "knowing" surely some of Pulis's thoughts that he let be known in his pre-match Times interview. Pulis's personal thoughts surely had no Gillingham but his mother who died recently and had been his biggest supporter and worst critic whenever Stoke were having a bad game. Surely many times she came to his thoughts. But Gillingham?

    Every good manager, after a great result points to the next game right away and to the tasks ahead, so that players will not lose their mind with euphoria. Pulis did the same and we all knew it. Actually, what he mentioned was Stoke's target for this season is to end up in the right half of the table - nothing relating to relegation fears.

    Yet, this article should not be about the manager's career but about the team, accused of avoiding to play football (you know the drill), a team that made the entire nation to take notice yesterday. Having a wife from the area, you can understand I know a lot about Stoke City and Tony Pulis.

    Having been surprised that, prior to the match, the BBC made a blog only about Owen Coyle and not both managers, I could not be more surprised by the structure of the post match article. I don't think, in the Coyle article we read anything about inner fears about some old match he played once upon a time.

    Also, a '99 play-off final has no relevance with an F.A. Cup semi final, although I can understand your point.

    Up to date, the highlight of Pulis's career is Stoke City and not Gillingham. They're his biggest achievement, really.
    He brought them to the Premiership.
    He stabilised them in the Premiership.
    Working with the club owner, he builds a side with English players, a beautiful stadium, debt free, full of talent and some of the best England has to offer in club support with all the good elements in it. Thus far anyone knows but one club.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well done to Stoke. Hope you can beat Man C now. Youve come a long way in a few seasons.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ 7, nibs,


    That's what I call "the perfect egg on a face", without wanting to downheart poor Paul Fletcher. But I couldn't believe his choice to make an article only about one of the two semi finalist clubs and not both, as both needed to be praised.

  • Comment number 13.

    Stoke now have 30 million fans perhaps?

  • Comment number 14.

    Really hope Stoke win in the final. Would be lovely to see them lift a trophy with their so-called anti-football whilst the tippy tappy purists of Ashburton Grove end the season with nothing again

  • Comment number 15.

    Stoke had an unlucky start to this season, then in the middle of September Tony Pulis suffered a bereavement but still attended a home game with Aston Villa that same night. He inspired his players, the fans brought the house down and Stoke won with a last minute goal. That was a night when a great manager, great fans and a great club got what they deserved. It happened again yesterday and a lot of us neutrals will be hoping it happens on May 14th. Good luck Stoke.

  • Comment number 16.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 17.

    What I would really like to have read today is something Stoke City deserve with their approach in Premiership football. Many times I encompassed it in a short number of points:

    1. They're a club that has an English local businessman as a chairman.
    2. They have a really beautiful, modern stadium to play football.
    3. They're debt free.
    4. They have a team where the core of the players is very English, in contrast with so many clubs seeking cheap imports in order to avoid the hard route to success.
    5. They have an English manager and they're not known as a club that changes managers like men change shirts.
    6. They follow a sensible approach to building and improving the squad, in accordance to their finances, without putting the future in danger.
    7. They have the loudest supporters in the Premiership who are also never mentioned as trouble makers and whatever attributes we don't want to relate with football.
    8. They are the pride of the Potteries, participating in many functions in the local community.
    (and so on).

  • Comment number 18.

    #17 - I think you'll find Tony Pulis is Welsh actually - rest of the points are reasonably valid.

    Port Vale may diagree with point 8 though

  • Comment number 19.

    @ 18, PetShopBoys_Forever,

    thanks for the correction. Read "British" then.

    Haha.. the strange thing with me is that I have a sweet tooth for both Stoke City and Port Vale and maybe the only man who has lived in that area and likes both clubs :)

    Now, when it comes to (8), I was writing what I've seen with my own eyes. Port Vale are the other side of the coin, with a great history in playing quality football in their leagues, especially in the John Rudge years.

  • Comment number 20.

    I expect a lot of comments along the lines of "I'm a neutral hoping that Stoke (or Man City) will win."

    Well, I'm afraid you aren't a neutral then are you? Reasons as follows:

    For Stoke:
    1/ You don't like Man City and their wealth.
    2/ You just like Stoke as the underdog.

    For Man City:
    1/ You don't like Stoke, or the football they are percieved to have played this season.
    2/ You like Man City (for knocking out Man U!:-)

    Either way, the point I'm trying to make is that a true neutral would want the team that deserves it to win, ie the one that plays best on the day.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 22.

    Another point that tends to not being mentioned is that Premiership clubs using wingers are dangerous and, this season, the Potters have two quality wingers helping their cause and they both came to the club with money being spent.

    All this lets be known is that Stoke City are not a club that sits back and "hoofs" the ball up front, relying on set pieces and long throws but they do try and succeed in evolving their game from the one that let them survive the relegation threat when they arrived in the Premiership.

    I'm wondering what Dalglish's thoughts are about wingers at Liverpool. Seeing him bringing back old values to Liverpool (in Spearing, Flanagan, Robinson), acquiring no nonsense strikers, iron-coating his team to fight til the end (and getting stunning results). With the employment of a couple of quality wingers, Dalglish's Liverpool might put the glasses on all of us, next season (just a thought).

  • Comment number 23.


    Add "3. You're a Manchester United fan" to the reasons people want Stoke to lift the Cup.

  • Comment number 24.

    Stoke will never shake the 'long-ball/long-throw merchants' monkey off their back because people will always perceive them as such. Look at Bolton, who have been playing some wonderful football this year. If it had been a team like Arsenal praise would have been heaped upon them but because they are Bolton some people still label them as a physical, long ball side.

    I especially feel sorry for teams like this because, at the end of the day, playing the long ball and being physical is a perfectly legitimate way of playing football. If you have physical front men like Jones, play the ball up to him and let him hold it up. Isn't that what Liverpool are doing now with Carroll? Also, like previous posters have mentioned, they have great technical talent that often gets overlooked. Etherington, Pennant, Wilson all good players but lost among a sea of criticisms. The teams that most oft complain about the long ball are those most exposed by it, in which case those teams need to look at their own weaknesses rather than complain when opposition teams play to them. Pulis and Stoke deserve a lot more credit then what is currently given to them.

    Anyway, congratulations to Stoke for a truly dominating performance. For obvious reasons I will be backing Stoke on the day, but I have a feeling that, if players remain fit and happy, City may just edge it on the day. But for now Stoke can revel in a great win. I couldn't think of a more deserving set of fans.

  • Comment number 25.

    what happened to Bolton? Well done Stoke. Not the article to be talking about relegation in my view. They just qualified in spectacular style for the FA cup final.

  • Comment number 26.

    What is your obssession with Liverpool Football UK. What has Dalglish or Liverpool got to do with Pulis or Stoke? I love to have a good laugh at your comments as they are always irrelvant, makes me chuckle, thanks for that!

  • Comment number 27.

    23. At 10:33am 18th Apr 2011, SchizOfRenic wrote:

    Add "3. You're a Manchester United fan" to the reasons people want Stoke to lift the Cup


    haha, indeed, that's my point. Basically people will pick the team they hate the least, or see as less of a threat, in terms of the well being or past experiences of the team they actually support. eg Liverpool fans couldn't care less I'm sure about Man U or Arsenal, but they'd much prefer Arsenal to win the league so Man U don't overtake their record number of titles. It stands to reason then that they aren't neutral in that particular contest, they have a vested interest in seeing Arsenal win.

  • Comment number 28.

    As a City fan I was rather hoping Bolton might edge it. Much as I have slight fondness for Stoke we haven't exactly excelled against them in recent encounters. It may well boil down to whether the size of the Wembley pitch negates the effectiveness of Delap's throw-ins (and yes I know Stoke's performances are down to more than just those throw-ins, but it remains a formidable weapon, nevertheless)

  • Comment number 29.

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

  • Comment number 30.

    yet you still feel the need to reply back!

    I understood it but falied to see the relevance of it, like most of your comments. I just think you like to see your name dispalyed numerous times on these blogs rather than add comments of relevance or substance.

  • Comment number 31.

    The link of yesterday's performance by Stoke and Liverpool was a point relating to how more dangerous Liverpool might be next season, if they have a couple of quality wingers on the flanks. Given that Dalglish brings back to Liverpool old winning formulas and values, I wouldn't be surprised if Liverpool, also, have a couple of quality wingers in their team.

    Seeing some "fans" being so touchy even when you praise their team is fascinating.

  • Comment number 32.

    Again you still feel the need to reply to someone who you feel is cheap and vicious.
    Again, I have to ask how do you know Kenny, any of his staff or players? You assume he will buy wingers, i don't recall Kenny quoting this at all. Please provide me a source or link?

  • Comment number 33.

    Come on girls, you're acting as if Tony Pulis or King Kenny might be reading this article themselves

  • Comment number 34.

    #28 - As Delap used to throw the Javelin and can through the ball 30-40 metres I don't think the size of the Wembley pitch will make that much difference

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 28, ozblue,

    It's true that City might prefer to face Bolton in the final, for exactly the reasons you stated there. Still though, you should have Tevez back by then.

    No matter how much I would like Stoke City to win the F.A. Cup (no relevance to being a United fan), I can't see it happening if City are on top of their game.

  • Comment number 36.

    Wembley ghosts with Gillingham? Not been back since?

    Don't over egg the pudding. Also, isn't it annoying how managers and other club officials can get tickets for venue's at the drop of a hat.

    Whinging aside, I think people are far too quick to tar Stoke with a negative brush. In the same way that people seem to think the sun shine's out of Arsenal with their so called pretty football.

    Stoke are a well run club and are developing all the time. They have a passionate, almost fanatical support that really get behind their club.

    And they may well finish the season with something that Arsenal are increasingly looking like they won't have this season. A trophy!

    Good luck to Stoke on their development and in the final. (Though I don't care who wins the final.)

  • Comment number 37.

    #32 - considering in Andy Carrol he has someone with immense aerial ability he would be a fool to not invest in at least 1 winger to supply ammunition from the flanks for him.

  • Comment number 38.

    maybe so but he has other fantastic attributes. The old fashioned winger of getting to the byline and crossing it is dying out. Most teams who play wingers are the new age, wingers who will get to the byline and make a pass or cut inside drive into the box and pick a man.

    I didn't see much of the 'old fashioned' winger in yesterdays game, Etherington runs at people and looks to shoot or 'pass'. This is what Pulis is trying to get into Pennant's game. When Pennat was at B'ham and Liverpool too often he looked to cross and found no one.

  • Comment number 39.

    Stoke and my club have history, they always spank us, but so what, they deserve this, what made my blood boil was that the first semi-final was on terestrial TV, giving them even more maximum exposure, so I go out to watch the Stoke Bolton semi and what do we have Arsenalv Liverpool....bore off !!

    Therfore Stoke in the biggest moment of their history are deprived of a global audience and it stinks big time !!

    I have 2 great friends who are Stoke, go on and win it lads, forget about all this purist drivel people spout, this is about winning now, real football club with no money nonsense thrown AT it...keep it real best of luck from WBA :)

  • Comment number 40.

    I actually missed this game but wish'd i'd watched it. I leant towards a Bolton win myself because i rate and like Owen Coyle and think there a team that could make progress under Coyle.

    When the scores were coming through though i was amazed and pleased for Stoke, must of been a great day for the fans at Wembley, i don't think anyone seen that coming.

    Brilliant that Stoke have got to the final for the first time ever and i would love them to win it. I think they can because as good as City can be on their day they can be took apart as we proved the other week. I don't think they can match the passion of the Stoke players especially in a final so hopefully that will stop their football from doing the talking.

    Although saying that all that i don't know of the European posistions reguarding the cup and the league spots. If City finish in Champions League or Uefa slots in league then im not sure if Stoke go to Europe or another slot opens up for next team down the league?

    Anyone know, Phil you know? I'm grasping at straws to find a way into Europe!

  • Comment number 41.

    #39 karlwba

    I sympathise with your comment on the broadcasting situation. I'm a Chelsea fan so I get rather spoilt with tv coverage of my team. However, Sky and ITV put commercialism ahead of competition. This then distorts the chance for real competition as, for example, Man U get on tv time after time (see their FA Cup fixtures this season on prime time Saturday ITV and Wednesday Champions League on ITV) meaning they get more money, which gives them the ability to buy better players etc etc and it is a virtuous circle. (Look at what's happened with the Spanish league for an example of how unfair tv rights ultimately leads to a lack of competition.)

    Sometimes, the only way teams can 'compete' is with a so called sugar daddy and then people moan about that.

    ALL tv money should be split equally between participants of that competition and then only prize money is not equal.

    To compound this issue, ESPN are new to the market and have a smaller installed base. Perhaps when the next round of tv rights come up for grabs, Disney (I think) will throw their weight behind ESPN and will start to take some rights from Sky at least. Then, you'll have competition as to which package you buy.

    At the moment, people view ESPN as being something you buy AS WELL AS Sky but perhaps in the future people will view it as something you buy INSTEAD OF Sky and then the game will be afoot.

    It is for this reason that I think that tv money has not peaked. People talk about a bubble bursting but I don't see that yet.

    And the strange thing is, I hope I'm right and wrong all at the same time!

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 41 MrBlueBurns,

    you hit the nail on the head there.
    When I realised how beeped off my father in law was for not being able to watch the game on TV it was when I realised it wasn't on. I got surprised.

    The Bolton v Stoke semi final was also egg on face for ITV too, as the match was the surprise of the day and so many people, long time supporters of the clubs were not able to watch. It's a pity.

    I'm not aware if Bolton and Stoke got a worse deal from ESPN, but if there was a match, by definition, for free viewing, this was the one.

  • Comment number 43.

    I really like Stoke under Pulis, actually. That's quite a big swing for a Stockport fan, because there was quite a bit of animosity between us when Lou Macari threw his toys out the pram because "little Stockport" had no right to knock a bigger club out of the playoffs.

    I've never understood why the so-called 'purists' have a problem with physical, well drilled teams like Stoke and Wolves. Skill alone shouldn't be and often isn't enough to win matches. Heart, courage and passion, tactical nous and clever set pieces are all part of the game and help level the playing field for the less moneyed sides out there. It feels like some fans would rather football turned into purely a spending competition (Man City and Chelsea fans, certainly).

    The criticism levelled at Stoke reminds me of a time when Graeme Souness, during his promotion season with Blackburn, slammed relegation-threatened Stockport for playing "negatively" to grind out a 0-0 draw away from home. Then County boss Andy Kilner said it best: "If we'd gone out there and played tippy-tappy football we'd have got murdered. The difference in quality meant we had stop them playing and get in their faces. We did what we had to to get a result and if Graeme doesn't like it, or his players can't take it, that's their problem."

  • Comment number 44.

    Can Stoke play great at Wembley twice?
    After their performance yesterday and them knocking us out of the cup last season perhaps they rank themselves as favourites?

  • Comment number 45.

    #44 Stuart_MCFC

    Man City will be favourites over Stoke based on the respective league finishing positions over the last couple of seasons. Also, theoretically, Man City have more talent at their disposal.

    I think there will be more pressure on Man City's players to perform and not because of money. Some of them may be playing for their futures at the club. They will be more desperate for a trophy to justify themselves.

    But, when all is said and done, it's only a two horse race....

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 47.

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

  • Comment number 48.

    No.43 - totally agree with you

  • Comment number 49.

    First, as a Port Vale fan, I've never seen such a lucky 5-0 win in my life.

    Second, I'd like to thank Radio 5 Live for giving us extended in-depth coverage of the bore draw at the Emirates, which they broadcast in its yawn-inducing entirety on 5 Live Sports Extra & on 5 Live [with snippets of the FA Cup semi-final on the latter. How far-sighted of them to notice Stoke v Bolton was happening at all. The resentment in Alan Green's voice at being at what was for him the wrong game was as obvious as it was predictable.

    On top of that we have to put up with Football_UK and others trying to hijack this blog by banging on about how we all need to watch out for Liverpool next season.
    House Rules state "We reserve the right to fail comments which...are considered to be off-topic for the blog discussion..." so why weren't these comments removed?
    Anything to do with the number of BBC presenters who double up as LFC fans?

  • Comment number 50.

    #40 - win and Stoke are in Europe. Lose and as long as City are 4th or higher Stoke are in Europe. If Stoke lose and City finish 5th it is unclear as I would hav ethought stoke would still qualify but I have heard that 6th place may get it so that Liverpool can qualify but generally if the winning team have already qualified for Europe the losing cup finalists qualify so Stoke should be in Europe regardles sof result but winning would be the safes t best

  • Comment number 51.

    #41 - MrBB - Problem with ESPN is that it is £10 a month extra for 1 channel and it doesn't have that many games to make itself a viable alternative to SkySports and with Sky increasing prices year on year there is very little appetite for an extra channel as Setanta found out to their cost

  • Comment number 52.

    #51 PSB

    Precisely. That was my point, which I fully understand.

    Setanta didn't have the cash to wrestle anything away from Sky. Disney backed ESPN do and hopefully that will inject some competition into things.

  • Comment number 53.

    #52 - it would be nice if it did but they would be better getting ESPN carried as a standard sky channel to get the viewing base higher before charging as ratings coverage plays a huge part in these bids.

    ESPN obviously have a massive US viewing base but they will struggle in the UK for a while I think

  • Comment number 54.


    To add to that I'd like to thank Radio 5 for giving me Robbie Savage to listen to as I drove home from work Saturday evening listening to the 1st half.

    What on earth possessed anyone to think he makes a good summariser is beyond me.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 49, None Of The Above,

    You can whinge as much as you like.
    Poor old Vale would give anything to be there. ;)

  • Comment number 56.


    Perhaps you'll realise that on Sundays that BBC radio doesn't have the rights to the ESPN games and that they have just had reporters at the games.

  • Comment number 57.

    #50, I think that the goalposts regarding cup winners and European qualification have been moved so that it is the same for both cups. Stoke will only go into the Europa League if they win the cup. If Man City win the cup, assuming they qualify for Europe due to their league place, the place will go the team that finishes 6th in the Prem.

  • Comment number 58.

    55. At 13:46pm 18th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:
    @ 49, None Of The Above,

    You can whinge as much as you like. Poor old Vale would give anything to be there. ;)

    Thanks ever so for giving me your permission to whinge. Rest assured I never would have dreamed of doing so if you hadn't OK'd it. Actually, when I said "I've never seen such a lucky 5-0 win in my life" I wasn't whingeing; I was joking. Joke. Irony. Sense of humour. I don't expect you to understand, but look them up in a dictionary some time. By the way, a dictionary's a book that tells you the meanings of words you don't know. Should come in handy for you.

    What I WAS whingeing about was you & others droning on about LFC. Please go somewhere else & do that where we can't see or hear it. We get enough as it is from Green, Murray, Hansen, Lawrenson & all the other LFC fans, sorry BBC experts.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ 57,

    No. Stoke will be in the Europa Cup, even if they lose the final, assuming City don't lose 5th position on the table which is highly unlikely.

  • Comment number 60.

    @ 58, None Of The Above,

    And what makes you so certain that I wasn't laughing while I was replying to you?

    Thanks for the instructions. Much obliged. I will follow them to the letter :)

  • Comment number 61.

    As a lifelong Stoke fan, I'm quite happy if everyone continues to dub us as a 'long-ball' and 'long-throw' team. If opposition teams just see us as a threat from set pieces and don't think about the quality players we have at our disposal such as Pennant, Etherington and Wilson, we'll continue to produce results like yesterday easily. Its also a deserved reward for TP. The man has endured so much flak from Stoke fans as well as critics, and he has continued to silence them. Yes, Stoke fans stopped giving him stick when we were on the verge of promotion, but now there isn't a Stoke fan about he wouldn't call him a City legend. Leading us to the Premier League, stabilising us there, and now reaching an FA Cup final. Not to mention the events of the day we played Aston Villa at home, where he raced from Newport back to Stoke after the death of his mother to be on the touchline, thus overseeing a 2-1 comeback win with the winner in stoppage time. Quite frankly, the guy is amazing. Long may he lead Stoke onwards and upwards and in my opinion, there would be no more fitting reward than to win the FA Cup against Manchester City at Wembley, whilst also securing Stoke as an established Premier League club by keeping us in the top-flight for three seasons.

    Tony Pulis, I doff my cap to you sir.

  • Comment number 62.

    If Stoke wins the FA Cup this year they will be making history. The first rugby team to win the cup.

  • Comment number 63.

    Stoke were brilliant yesterday and Pulis has done a great job there and they deserve all the plaudits. They still play to there strengths which may not be pretty and is certainly horrible to play against but they have also added a little bit more flair and quality to there game over the last couple of seasons.

    Stoke are similar to Bolton who may have changed there approach slightly quicker under Coyle but Stoke cannot be knocked for the way they play there football and use the crowd to give them a edge the way Wenger and Ferguson try to use officials.

    When Stoke first came into the Premier League there aim was surely just to survive? They have now reached a cup final seem comfortable in amongst the Premiership big boys which is progress and all that fans can ask for.

  • Comment number 64.

    7. At 08:43am 18th Apr 2011, nibs wrote:

    What an inspired choice of preview blog.

    Have to say I was delighted by the result after all the prematch fawning over the wonderful, magical, amazing job that Owen "Moses" Coyle has done in taking an already established Premier League team in Bolton oh-so-far during his time in charge. Bolton were playing in Europe as recently as 3 seasons ago. 3 seasons ago Stoke were in the Championship.


    Pulis 4eva.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 62, soccerlover,

    is it rugby, american football or long-ball hoofing?
    please explain, as I'm standing confused :)

    I know a premier league club who, if Stoke go on to win the F.A. Cup next month, will run out of words next time they play Stoke at Britannia, attempting to influence referees before the match starts and their angels start showing how far they've gone in learning that thing called "physical game".

  • Comment number 66.

    58. At 14:03pm 18th Apr 2011, None Of The Above wrote:
    55. At 13:46pm 18th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:
    @ 49, None Of The Above,


    didn't you know none of, that Football UK had a unhealthy obssession with LFC. That was my point to him as well, it was irrelevant rubbish from him.....again!

  • Comment number 67.

    Man Utd fan in peace.
    Stoke your money on May 14th and stay at home,Man citeh have already won the cup! I kid you not!
    Well,if you happen to live in Cottonopolis,you would see people wearing a blue shirt for the first time in their life...and after they beat us on Saturday,the cup is as good as won. The common theme is that the hard work has already been done and the little matter of Stoke won't be a problem.
    Good god,some of them have already celebrated the victory parade.
    Our local paper, The Manchester Evening News is already awash with bitter fans with the prospect of the 35yr banner being taken down from the Stretford End.
    At least the FA Cup could still have Red and White adorning it in May
    Needless to say..good luck in the final.

  • Comment number 68.

    #57 - Stoke still qualify as losers if City finish 4th or higher. I think they have changed if City finish 5th though as they wanted to fix it so the so-called BIG CLUBS could qualify

  • Comment number 69.

    62. At 14:20pm 18th Apr 2011, soccerlover wrote:
    If Stoke wins the FA Cup this year they will be making history. The first rugby team to win the cup.

    I though Billy Bremner's Leeds United and George Graham's Arsenal already had.

    They were far more physical than Stoke ever were (and quite fond of route 1 football as well)

  • Comment number 70.

    Really delighted for Stoke, and hope they go on to win it! I get sick and tired of all this "bad football" and "rugby" rubbish. All people prove when labelling Stoke that way is that they haven't got a clue. Stoke play good football when they win games. "Pretty" teams like Arsenal play bad football when they lose. They are contrasting styles, both can be called extremes, and both could do with a bit more of the other, but the tone that I hear from far too many people towards Stoke and Pulis is very unfair on them, while people go far too far in heaping praise on Arsenal's style.

    Stoke have made unbelievable progress in a short period of time, and should get huge credit for it. I like their in-your-face, hard-working and passionate way of playing, but also how they are run as a club.

    Rory Delap hurling throws in at a Wembley FA Cup Final will be a great spectacle!

  • Comment number 71.

    The fascinating thing in this semi final is not one football expert predicted a comfortable Stoke win. We, the fans, can be excused because we don't make our dough out of football, but not one?

    And in all this mist, the BBC asks us, if we have any football question, to ask Stephen Fry to answer it. Goes hand in hand with many things regarding to how English football is promoted here.

  • Comment number 72.

    I'm sorry 'soccerlover' but seeing as u don't know want the sport we're talking abouts called, I can't take anything you say seriously... Soccer, purlease

  • Comment number 73.

    Arsenal fan here - Good luck to Stoke i say.

  • Comment number 74.

    @72 . djcstokey
    The word soccer is an English word , originating from the highest bastion of the langauge , Oxford University , it is derived from the word asSOCiation , it was used in response to "are you going to play rugger? " the qiuck thinking fellow replied no soccer , and hence the word was born . Gaining popularity in the heart of the OED and derision from people who think themselves purists of the game .
    For that fact maybe Football_UK has an Uncle in Oxbridge land who is known as Soccer_UK ;)

  • Comment number 75.

    @ 74, murry1975,

    You were close. :)
    In fact, Soccer_UK is my first nick on these blogs which I chose in order to have a unique looking nickname. It reminded me too much of USA and Glazers though and changed it this season. I also kept it no secret.

    Thanks for the advertising :)

  • Comment number 76.


    Soccerlover may be way wrong about the way Stoke play, however, "soccer" is exactly what the game is called by many throughout the world, thanks to an Englishman coining the term in the late 19th century. Why should people not use a perfectly legitimate, long acknowledged nickname for Association Football, as opposed to Rugby Football, Gaelic Football, American Football, Canadian Football or Australian Rules Football? It is pretty lame trying to invalidate a person's viewpoint based on their terminology (much the same as the "oh, you're American, what do you know?" that I see all the time - and no, I'm not an American, I was born in Carshalton. I just live in the US).

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

    Just one important point for all of you 'purist' people to think about:

    Who are the 2nd oldest football team? Stoke! That means we have been playing FOOTBALL for the last 148 years. This fake stuff that 'purist' seem to think is 'real' football has only really been a part of the game for the last 10-15yrs max?!? The stuff which stoke play is the same that has been played throughout the divisions throughout the last 148 years, its effective, it works, its attractive on the eye at times, we have a city of fans whom enjoy watching it and Gordon Banks approves or it with Sir Stanley Matthews looking down and guiding Etherington and Pennant down the wings. In Pulis we have a manager who WANTED to be stoke manager. Applying 3 times before getting the job. We have a local manager who has turned the club around from being in the red to being in the black. We have passion, desire and talent. We dont take any game for granted, every game as a stoke fan is a special occasion where I personally enjoy incase we dont get it again. I remember the bad times and enjoy the good times. Being a Stoke fan is a bigger honor and fills me with more pride than the top 5 can buy combined.

    We are stoke, we play REAL football as it has been watched and enjoyed by BILLIONS over the last 148 years. We are loud and proud, We are as one. Win or lose you will hear us.

    p.s. really dont know why first version of removed. Its not breaking and visable rules and merely me being passionate.

  • Comment number 79.

    Stoke for the cup. Ricardo Fuller to score the winning goal. That would be fantastic. Pulis has done a great job, as has the chairman. They are progressing, in season 1 they needed to survive and played accordingly. Now they have established themselves, they are bringing in better players and playing better football. Stoke in the Europa League next season, that would be pretty amazing!

  • Comment number 80.

    Hopefully Stoke win the final, and as for their style of play I find it far more enjoyable to watch than that of Arsenal as they play direct attacking football, and they play to their strengths. Compared to Arsenals endless passing, often trying to go one more than is needed, which partly explains why they have drawn so much this season. Also, it would be nice for City to go another season without winning anything, proving money doesn't always buy success.

  • Comment number 81.

    As a Spurs fan I hope Stoke win the cup else we may well find a situation where come the last day of the season (when Stoke play Man City in the league), Man City need a win to get in the Champions League - and Stoke need Man City to qualify for the CL so that they can qualify for the Europa. ie - it's in both teams interests for Man City to win the last game of the season. That league game MUST be rearranged to before the cup final else it's open to corruption.

  • Comment number 82.

    Stoke will beat City.

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 81, WHL_N17,

    Although it's an extreme situation, I can see where you're coming from.
    I think the date of the Premiership match has much to do with the Champions League semi finals. It could be a decision based on SKY/ESPN interests, as most viewers would watch either the El Classico's or United matches. Mid week dates are short after those matches.

    Equally, they wouldn't want the final soon after the Premiership match because, if one played devil's advocate, could suggest that there is a possibility for intentional injuries to opponents so that they will not play in the final.
    It's a no win situation.

  • Comment number 84.

    The Football Association will write to Manchester United to remind them of their responsibilities after discovering a hole in the wall of the Wembley dressing room that the team used for Saturday's acrimonious FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City. The damage is believed to be consistent with suggestions that it was caused by a United player or member of their backroom staff lashing out in frustration after the 1-0 defeat..... Sore losers.... and to damage a dressing room of the national stadium - disgusting! thoughts?

  • Comment number 85.

    Swollennoodle: You seriously prefer Stokes style of play to Arsenals?? Sorry but you know nothing about football. Arsenal play great football, as do Man U... Next you'll be saying Stokes direct attacking football (as you put it) is more pleasing than watching Barcelona..

  • Comment number 86.

    Yes, watching Stoke is more pleasing than watching Barcelona.

  • Comment number 87.

    Stoke don't exactly play direct football this season. Neither do they play long ball football. Neither do they rely on dead-ball situations.

    They do have Delap available for throws and the presence of tall players on dead ball situation on the opponent's box but a lot of work is done, this season, from the wingers, who don't just make crosses but also cut in the middle and bring others into the game, in danger areas.

    Some fans need to turn page.

  • Comment number 88.

    A fantastic win for Stoke, and no more than Tony Pulis deserves. He has done an excellent job for the club, leading from the Championship and surviving in the Premier League despite having a limited budget, and now they are an established side in England's top tier. I believe that the run to the FA Cup final is no more than he deserves, and I hope is excellent work is rewarded with the trophy at Wembley in May.

  • Comment number 89.

    @85 I do prefer watching Stoke play than Arsenal, they have great wingers who attack with pace and use Delap to great effect(which any other premier league team would do if they could), compared to Arsenal who once they hit the 18 yard box everything slows down, as no player short of Van Persie has the confidence to shoot themselves. Watching Arsenal usually consists of watching good chance after good chance get wasted. As well as that it's nice to see a team with some British players in it, which increases the enjoyment of watching them, added to this is the atmosphere that the Stoke fans provide wherever they go, something that cannot be said of Arsenal supporters. And to go a stage further and compare managers I believe that Pulis has done a far better job with Stoke than Arsene has with Arsenal. As for a few years everyone has known that they need a keeper, good centre backs and another striker, and their position at second has been more down to Chelsea's poor form, than good Arsenal football. Regarding Man United, I couldn't agree more, when they turn up there style of play is one of the best spectacles for a football fan(unless of course you support the team they are playing).

  • Comment number 90.

    Stoke City have improved undoubtedly.
    Apart from continuing evolving their play to a more attractive, more fashionable one, they always keep the balance right, as Swollennoodle just mentioned in (89), when it comes to British-born players. It's encouraging to see Premiership sides playing with many British players.

    It is not just the availability of Etherington and Pennant on the flanks that makes Stoke much improved this season. We also see Wilson and Walters having some great performances while, when Jones is on song, the attack looks formidable. And what can one say about a defender with an appetite for goals, when the mind goes to Huth.

    Seeing Pulis investing steadily on the squad and knowing that the club has a healthy balance when it comes to managing costs, I'm wondering how much they would improve next season, if the squad's improvement continues in the summer.
    Stoke could be making spectators eyes raising next season.

    Good luck in the final. I hope you bring the trophy to Britannia.

  • Comment number 91.

    @90 I agree completely and believe that the FA cup would be a just reward for all their hard work. Similar to Birmingham winning the Carling Cup, something I also enjoyed watching.

  • Comment number 92.

    As lots of comments on here show, not everyone is against Stoke City.

    I'm a neutral and I hope they win. They deserve it far more than the rich men at Man City.

  • Comment number 93.

    What a contrast this final will be.

    Man City have had umpty thrumpty million pound thrown at them and are effectively heavily in debt as a consequence. Yet their chances of winning the match are far too dependent on whether or not Tevez is fit. If I was the owner I would be very upset about that.

    Stoke City have had relative peanuts spent on the team but have potential match winners in several positions. Not only that, the players seem happy and settled.

    It's a no-brainer where the neutral is going to be putting his/her support.

    But lets not get carried away with the love. Stoke supporters have a healthy set of lungs and are very supportive of the club but they also have a dark side.

  • Comment number 94.

    @93 Red_Wharf

    Any Idea how much Stoke have spent? And Tevez being fit wasn't a problem against the prawn sandwich brigade was it? ;)

  • Comment number 95.

    Stoke was excellent. Bolton was poor.
    Should be good FA Cup Final
    Man City will be favourites for the final but I hope Stoke win it


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