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Stoke stuttering (?) with 1 win in 5

Stoke preview

By Gavin Mapstone

Form guide - Stoke's last six

A Coventry W 2-1 Fuller, Lawrence
H Palace L 1-2 Whelan
A Sheff Wed D 1-1 Cresswell
H Blackpool D 1-1 Cort
A Watford D 0-0
A Norwich W 1-0 Sidibe

Another tricky game for City against a Stoke side who will be full of confidence after their come-from-behind victory against Coventry. For a side with some good attacking players it's surprising that Stoke haven’t scored more in recent games and the close score-lines give City some hope. If they’re to get three points, then it seems likely that the only way will be to get an early goal and then withstand a physical onslaught from the home team. For those of us who will have to be content to watch the game on Sky it will be no surprise if the ‘pundits’ mention bubble-bursting and how we’ve over achieved this season. If they do have a love-in over the yo-yo clubs then I hope they’re munching humble pie at the end of the ninety. In  GJ we trust.  

Answering our questions this time is Stoke fan Mike Alderson.

So Mike, what kind of form are Stoke in at the moment?

It has not been great recently, and we did suffer because of the suspensions of Ricardo Fuller and Liam Lawrence who were both out at the same time. Both are back now though and we had a stress-busting win and a decent performance at Coventry last week and against Palace the week before we battered them once our manager realised the stupidity of leaving Fuller on the bench and brought him on for the final half hour!

What were your thoughts on the game at Ashton Gate?

It was a poor Stoke performance, and Bristol City were worthy winners. The only positive from our point of view was the defensive display that restricted you to perhaps only two decent attempts on goal all game.

Stoke were seen as long-ball merchants, how has this changed?
 
We do mix it up far more than the "experts" give us credit for and have some very good ball players in the team. Lazy journalists label us because Pulis has built his success on a no nonsense direct approach wherever he has been. However, for clubs not blessed with the massive and divisive parachute payments that the likes of "West Brazilwich" and "Charlton-tina" have enjoyed this season it is not possible to bring in the best players in the world and success is going to have to be ground out and fought for.

People who are waxing lyrical about West Brom now, conveniently forget that they only achieved promotion to the Premiership and all the riches that came with it off the back of a very similar approach employed by their manager at the time, Gary Megson.

Who are your most influential players and what do they do for the team?
 
Ryan Shawcross, signed this season from Manchester Utd has been awesome for us in defence. Very strong, great football brain and chips in with a good few goals as well. He is still only 20 years old and he looks to have a great future ahead of him. Hopefully as a Premiership player with us.

Liam Lawrence and Ricardo Fuller are also massive players for us and both have the capability of making something happen out of nothing.

Pulis has spent a fair bit of cash this season on players & wages. How has this been financed?
 
The club was bought back from the Icelandic consortium by former chairman Peter Coates 2 years ago. When he was last at the helm Coates presided over a period of decline and failure that saw us spend a lot of the last decade in the third tier of English football. He was a very unpopular chairman last time around. However since then he has built up a very successful business empire in "Bet 365" and is now far wealthier than he was.

He is now in his 70's and it seems that he is going to do all he can to take the club back to the level that we once took for granted. He has backed Pulis to the hilt this season and also last. Supporters were most definitely divided on his choice of manager in the first place but he cannot be criticised now for the ambition he is showing and he seems determined to be remembered as a chairman that presided over success rather than the failure he was associated with last time.

With the decline of Crewe & Port Vale who do Stoke have the most rivalry with these days and why?

Its only been in the last 20 years that we considered Vale or Crewe as any sort of rivals and that is because the worst period in our history coincided with the best period in theirs.

Prior to that most Stoke fans considered Manchester Utd, Wolverhampton, and Derby County all 30 miles away in different directions as main rivals.

These days it is a sad state of affairs to say that everyone's local rivals are the glamour clubs because of the thousands of glory hunters who support them in every town and city in the country. Most Stoke fans number one hated club would be Manchester Utd.

If promoted is Pulis the manager to keep you in the Premier League?
 
If promoted we will have a war-chest to spend on players that isn't available now and it will be new territory for us as a club and Pulis as a manager (I guess the same would apply to you). It will be a good test for him and it would be interesting to see how he adapts.

I would imagine that he would continue to build a side based on commitment, work-rate and fight and this was a recipe that served Bolton well for many years in top flight football under Sam Allardyce.  There is no reason why he shouldn't be able to do the same provided that he doesn't try and be too clever by playing square pegs in round holes as he has a tendency to do.

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