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03/04: Preview: Stoke City
Opposition opinion
by Dave Wallace of Potters Underground

What happened last season?
If sacking our manager after promotion the previous season wasnt farcial enough, then this season proved even more of a laughing attraction. The appointment of Steve Cotterill seemed superb... one of the upcoming managers in the country. To be fair, he did get off to a decent enough start, but then came the biggest shock of all. When the Sunderland job became vacant, names were been thrown into the hat, but never once was Cotterill's name linked with the job. The news broke late on October 9th, and for someone celebrating their birthday on October 10th, it seemed like the perfect prank to come in and say your team's manager has been appointed assistant manager of the worst team in the Premiership. Well, it was true... and it really did put me off my cornflakes. To also having a gloryhunting British Gas engineer take the piss didn't help, as the gas central heating system was been installed.

The few games after that Stoke were here, there and everywhere. A dissapointing performance against Wolves saw the Stoke hooligans out in force after match before Stoke travelled to Rotherham. As I was in New York at the time, it also seemed quite funny on my first phone call home that we had lost 4-0 at Millmoor. Again, it was, ahem, true. Then Watford rolled into Stoke-on-Trent and Stoke recorded another defeat, although reports I was getting back from home said that we had played not too bad when things got changed around a bit. My phone card ran out when I was been told George Burley had been at the game and was due to take over in the morning...

October 31st 2002... Press assembled at the Britannia Stadium. George Burley doesnt show, end of it. Coward

November 1st 2002... Tony Pulis takes the managerial reigns at the Britannia Stadium. Might not be everyones cup of tea, but at least he wants the job, eh?

November and December were not the best months to be a Stokie, as TP settled in. However, the victory that so many wanted came against Sheffield Wednesday a few days after Christmas, courtesy of a last minute winner from Brynjar Gunnarsson. A good cup run followed with a steady Janurary and February, with The Potters picking up a few points here and there. However, the Forest game away was simply a disaster. To lose away is bad enough, but to lose by six is simply embarrasing. However, it was the kick up the arse Stoke needed and that game surprisingly enough was probably the match that saved our season!

Again, some good points were recorded as Tony tightened it up away from home with five at the back. Going into the second to last away game, many, myself included felt that the writing was on the wall, and Stoke would clinch it to stay up. After all, if Palace gave us the draw then it would send their rivals, Brighton, back to Division Two, and we would be safe. However, a Dele Adebola winner less than ten minutes from the end saw it go right down to the wire, and the last game of the season.

Stoke were at home to Reading, whilst Brighton travelled to Grimsby. A point would make us safe, but anything less could mean a return to Division Two for Stoke, little less than 12 months after promotion. A simply stella display by the Potters saw on loan Ade Akyinbyi earn hero status around the Potteries with his header been the goal that kept the Potters up, whilst Brighton could only draw at Blundell Park. The boys at BSaD must have been kicking themselves knowing they had this idiot having to write there preview for the forthcoming season!

What's going to happen next season?
Most of the out of contract players have signed new terms, and Gifton Noel Williams has signed for Stoke from Watford. Hopefully, Gifton will be able to provide the goods and make sure that it isnt as rough a ride as last season was. I say that there will be a few moments during the season, but I think Tony Pulis will get it right, and a mid table finish for Stoke is what I predict

Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
Power League has the best atmosphere, and it has a car park also. Away fans have been known to be turned away, but with a club like Watford it shouldnt be a problem. There is also the Harvester, but they dont let club colours in, and the official bar attatched to the ground, but you have to pay to get in and then drink overpriced beer.

What's the nearest railway station?
Stoke Station. However it is currently closed for line maintenence or something like that, and is due to re-open in September I think.

Where is the best place to park?
The ground can be used, but it costs 4 The ground was 5 last season and the Power League car park went upto 4. If you are going to wait around after the match then Power League would be best to park.

Word Association
Stoke City Best Team in the Land
Beckham Goal against Greece
Milton Keynes Wimbledon
The Premiership Land of the big boys with too much money
Division Two Please god, dont let us go back there
Tommy Mooney Please god, please dont send him back
Mark Williams Leilani
Watford Glory Hornet Boys

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"Watford, West Brom, Wimbledon, West Ham, Wigan and Walsall: All begin with 'W' and are all in the same division, thats crazy!"

"I haven't had a blow job in 3 weeks. THREE. Buddha on a bike. THREE. 3."

"Stoke stole your best player- Nifton Goal-Williams! See you at Vicarage Road!"

"Are you proud to have had Elton John as your Chairman?"

"I don't look anything like Tv host and general all round nice guy Phil Schofield!!!"

"Where's your Gifton gone ? where's your Gifton gone ?"

"Is the 1st Division this season a 5 a-side league? If not Stoke are up s**t greek without a paddle at the moment!"

"I'm currently verging on manic depression and it's all stokes fault!! You need about 8 spots for the clubs weakest link in our case too by the way!"