What happened last season?
After the dissapointment of the previous season's play-offs, Manager Gudjon
Thordarson decided to ditch the much criticsied 5-3-2 wing back system and go
for a 4-4-2 formation. Also, he and the board cut short his contract so he
just had a season left to get the club promoted.
The opening month saw a mixed bag of results in the league, with Stoke ending
the month in mid table. We were also eliminated from the first round of the
Worthington Cup after a penalty shootout was needed against Oldham Athletic
at the Britannia Stadium. Neil Cutler made his first competitive start for
Stoke, and put in a fine display, including two saves during the shootout
before young Karl Henry shot wide of the target.
September saw the controversial sale of the club's main striker Peter Thorne
to Cardiff City for a £1.7m fee, although he did end his Stoke days with a
bang; equalising in the dying seconds of the Huddersfield game to earn a
point at the death. The following game, against Reading, saw a few people
boycotting, but those who chose not to were treated to an exceptional
performance from Stoke, as a Peter Hoekstra inspired performance saw Stoke
pick up a 2-0 victory.
Goalkeeper Gavin Ward made a right howler in the next league game, an evening
tie against Brighton at the Withdean Stadium. "Wardy" weakly punched clear in
the 94th minute, straight into the path of a Brighton player (surprisingly
not Bobby Zamora) who simply placed the ball into the net. Gavin was dropped
for the trip to Bury, and Neil Cutler kept three clean sheets in a row, as
Stoke began to get some results under their belts.
The first derby game of the season took place in October, as Stoke visited
Vale Park. A full away following of Stokies saw Vale take the lead before
"Big Chris" Iwelumo made a name for himself by stepping off the bench and
scoring soon after.
November saw Stoke entertain Brentford in a 'six-pointer', and a 3-2
scoreline to Stoke saw the Potters within touching distance of the top spot
in Division Two. So, off to the JJB Stadium the following Tuesday, but
without midfield mistro Brynjar Gunnarsson, who's wife was in labour. Brynjar
was sorely missed and Stoke slipped up 1-6. Even a 2-0 scoreline could only
be achieved against non-league Lewes in the first round of the F.A. Cup as
Stoke's form deteriorated.
December began with a rare second round apperance in the second round of the
F.A Cup and once again, Stoke dissapointed as a 1-1 scoreline could only be
recorded against bottom of the league Halifax at the Shay. A Couple of days
later, and Stoke made easy work of the to be relegated Halifax and won 3-0,
with Bjarni Gudjonsson putting in a good performance.
Once again the "win this and we will go top" cloud hung above Stoke's heads
again for the visit of Wycombe Wanderers just before Christmas. If Stoke
could win by more than three goals then we would hit top spot, and a fine 5-1
victory put Stoke top of the shop.
A fiery reception was in store for the return of Graham Kavanagh as Cardiff
were the next to visit the Britannia Stadium. However, Peter Thorne was
injured so there was not a return visit for "Thorney". A superb free kick
from the visitors ensured the points were shared.
Stoke went into the New Year and the injuries were mounting up and Gudjon
Thordarson's squad was deteriorating. A few unconvincing performances,
despite fielding a few fringe first teamers were had before the humiliating
defeat away to Bournemouth.
Stoke got back to winning ways however against bottom side Cambridge United,
and recorded a flattering 5-0 scoreline, the biggest win of the season for
Stoke. A few questions were raised though, especially with the Potteries
Derby coming up the following Sunday.
Stoke lost to Port Vale 0-1 with a diabolical performance, and then went on
to record two more games with no goals for themselves. The end of February
however saw Stoke hit Four past Bury, before the visit of Brighton.
As Stoke celebrated the 30 Years Anniversary of winning the League Cup, the
clubs finest moment, the current squad put in a performance to match the
occasion in front of the TV cameras. A 3-1 scoreline was recorded as Stoke
took advantage of a Bobby Zamora-less Brighton.
The final two months of the season saw Stoke putting in some unconvincing
performances, and the loan signing of Premiership Deon Burton was questioned
as he only managed to find the scoreline twice, and they were in the same
game. The final day of the season saw a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate against
Bristol City, and the play off semi finals paired Stoke with Cardiff, well
fate meant it was always meant to be did'nt it.
In the first leg at the Britannia Stadium it was looking all done and dusted
as far as Cardiff were concerned, as the Bluebirds were 2-0 up. But Deon
Burton stepped off the bench and handed Stoke a lifeline as he fired in from
Stoke went to Ninian Park the following Wednesday, and with one minute on the
clock, the Cardiff boys thinking the job was done, despite Stoke dominating
the game, up popped James O' Connor to fire home a low cross into the centre
from Bjarni Gudjonsson. Cardiff then had to go on and play for penalties as
they had already subbed off their main attackers, but the next action was
like something from an issue of Roy of the Rovers. Souleymane Oulare, who
weeks after been signed after the club had a near death experience when a
blood clot was discovered on his lung, has been thrown on the pitch with 30
minutes to go. In the 115th minute, Stoke get a free kick, and its obvious
that Stoke were going to bend it around the wall. The 'keeper guesses
correctly, but up pops Souleymane, and the ball deflects in off his arse.
Like I said, Roy of the Rovers stuff.
So, Saturday 11th May, and 33,000 Stokies travel to the Millennium Stadium in
Cardiff to see Brentford vs. Stoke City. Stoke had been handed the unlucky
dressing room, but had the mental advantage of wearing their home kit. Deon
Burton popped up again to score and a Ben Burgess own goal put Stoke 2-0 up
before the break. The second half wasnt as entertaining as the first, but it
didnt matter as Stoke achieved their promotion to the first division.
However, four days later, Gudjon Thordarson's contract was not renewed, and
despite protests for his reinstatement, the board didnt budge, and appointed
Steve Cotterill from Cheltenham Town as the new boss
What's going to happen next season?
I think the main aim of this season will be to consolidate in the division,
although when you look how Preston, Burnley and Milwall have done over the
last few seasons after being promoted, who knows?
We have a good manager with plenty of achievements under his belt, depsite
the fact that they are at a lower level. A change of manager and approach may
see Stoke having the bottle to take it all the way, and avoid the slip ups
that can't be afforded at this level of play.
Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
There's loads, the closest to the ground would be the Harvester and Power League bars, but Stokies do have a reputation so be careful!
What's the nearest railway station?
Where is the best place to park?
The ground can be used, but it costs £4
and must be booked in advance. Power League has some parking too at about £3.
There are places in Stoke town centre itself though which can be checked out.
"Stoke are in talks with Leeds to swap Bjarni Gudjonsson and Andy Cook for Bowyer and Keane with no cash changing hands - or perhaps a small payment of a million or so to Stoke"
"When you come to the Britannia Stadium, even if there is a heatwave, bring several sets of thermals. Even our Swedish full back wore woolly gloves most of the time!"
"watch out for out new stroke partnership: sol oulare and chris greenacre.also if this player is fit watch put for former dutch international :peter hoekstra (rips defenders if and when he comes on)"
"Dadason is by far the worse player i have ever seen in a Stoke top.."
"the above articles (Worst eleven nominations) are responsible for some of the lowest moments of my life and have seriously tested my love for the Potters on too many dark days"
"That Vialli did a good job didn't he?"
"I struggled to cut my list down to 11 worst players!"