Archive for April, 2013

26
Apr
13

Match to Remember – Stoke city v Plymouth Argyle 1992/93

Sunday marks the 20th Anniversary of our Second Division Championship clinching victory against Plymouth Argyle at the Victoria Ground. Here is the match report from that game which appeared in Issue 79 of The Oatcake:

WELL here it was at last, the chance we’d been waiting for. Our destiny was entirely in our own hands – it didn’t matter who did what elsewhere, as long as we won this match then we would be promoted as Champions. You could put away your calculators and stop permuting what, ifs and buts from other teams and watch the match knowing that tonight we could do it, we could achieve something that seemed only a distant dream in those black, depressing days at the end of the Ball/Paddon era. If any good omens were needed then I was informed of a good one just before kick-off when somebody informed me that it was three years to the day since our never to be forgotten relegation celebration at Brighton in 1990 when over 3,000 Stoke fans showed that they would stick with the club no matter what, a day when we pledged that we would be back (okay it took a year or two longer than expected, but we kept out promise).

Plymouth’s recent form had been erratic to say the least. A 3-0 home defeat against Exeter had been followed by a 5—2 win at West Bros (still can’t stop giggling at that one) and a victory against Brighton, two results which had been followed in turn by a home defeat to the Vale. It was nice to see Peter Shilton being given a rousing reception as he ran to the Boothen End just prior to kick-off, though I’m not so sure that everybody would have been so sporting after that if Plymouth had taken the lead, as they nearly did with the game only three minutes old. A good one-two out on the wing allowed a Plymouth player plenty of space to get in a telling cross. His centre eluded all of the Stoke defenders and found its way to the unmarked Warren Joyce some 7 or 8 yards out from goal. He placed his header inside the near post only to be denied by a spectacular flying save from Peter Fox; even then the danger was not removed, as the ball fell to Joyce who this time fired in a shot from close range which miraculously Foxy managed to save as well as he was getting back up. It was a truly brilliant piece of goalkeeping from Foxy and they must rate as two of the best saves of his career, they were certainly the two most important!

gleghorn_plymouth

Just how important those saves had been became even clearer just sixty seconds later when the Victoria Ground exploded with joy. Shawry nicked the ball past a defender and into the area, before looking up and playing a pass into Foghorn’s path. We watched in delight as our number six evaded one tackle before crashing the ball into the roof of the net. A never to be forgotten moment and a never to be forgotten mental! We could have made it 2—0 a couple of minutes later but T.G.O. elected to shoot, missing the target in the process, when a square pass to the unmarked Paul Ware would probably have yielded a more profitable return. Still, when a striker’s confident he has a go at those chances and we don’t moan when they fly in.

After a ten minute period when we looked well in control, our visitors began to enjoy more and more of the possession. In fact to such a degree that we found ourselves pinned back into our own half for most of the opening period, rarely threatening Shilton’s goal – Foxy was far the busier of the two ‘keepers. We needed the half-time break to get our composure back and for Lou to sort out any tactical changes that he thought necessary. But it was to little avail as Plymouth continued to dominate, territorially at least, in the second half. In truth Stoke allowed themselves to get a bit anxious and panicky during that second half, often just thumping the ball up the field to relieve the pressure. We could count our blessings that Plymouth lacked that killer instinct up front, but we still had to be wary as with the amount of possession they were enjoying the Pilgrims were always likely to snatch something.

We needed to make a move to relieve the pressure off us and thankfully Lou was only too aware of this as he made the substitution that probably clinched the game for us, bringing on the eager Rooster for Warey about twenty-odd minutes from the end. The introduction of our popular wide man gave us that extra dimension on the pitch as he was able to take the ball into their half of the field, thus relieving the pressure on our over-worked defenders. Indeed Rooster set up a chance that almost gave us an unassailable two goal lead. His deft footwork inside Plymouth’s area gave him the chance to chip the ball to the far post where Foghorn rose highest to get in a header. Unfortunately his effort just lacked enough power allowing Shilton the chance to get across and make a smart save.

As in the first half Foxy was the busier of the two men between the sticks and was called on several times to kick the ball clear or make important claims inside the area. He did all of these tasks perfectly, proving himself to be a rock at the back when we needed him most. There was one moment of anxiety when he allowed the ball to go across him to get it on his favoured right foot. Though Foxy knew exactly what he was doing one or two Boothen Enders had a panic attack and somebody must have said something stupid because he turned around after clearing the ball and showed what he thought of his critics: Don’t worry Foxy it was only a few people letting the tension get to them.

The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough and after playing a couple of minutes of stoppage time the referee finally put us out of our misery by blowing for full—time. In doing so he signalled just about the best pitch—invasion the Victoria Ground has ever seen. Supporters danced about and hugged each other, both on the pitch and on the terraces, the sheer emotion of the occasion got the better of all of us. I don’t know if I am alone in thinking this, but as far as I’m concerned this was better than Wembley last season — it just meant more!

Stoke City: Fox, Butler, Sandford, Cranson, Overson, Gleghorn, Foley, Kevan, Ware, Shaw, Stein. Subs: Russell. Regis

Attendance: 19,718

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17
Apr
13

Home Is Ware The Heart Is

Warey2We were deeply upset to hear the news that Paul Ware has passed away at the age of just 42. Warey still remains one of our favourite Stoke City players and this article, which appeared in Issue 103 of the fanzine, paid tribute to him after he left our club for Stockport County in September 1994.

HOW CAN IT BE that once again Stoke City have made the criminal mistake of losing the services of a player that cost the club nothing and yet stood to give them so much?

I refer of course to the departure of Paul Ware who signed recently for Stockport County, having found himself effectively frozen out of the first team picture at the Victoria Ground for over twelve months.

At only 24 years of age Paul Ware should have been poised for a full and exciting career with Stoke, having shown excellent promise during the near six years that he has been in the first team picture. However, we have now, with barely the blink of an eye, said a quiet goodbye to one of the most committed and passionate players to have pulled on a Stoke City shirt during the last few years.

For my money the entire blame for Paul Ware’s regrettable decision to leave Stoke has to be laid firmly at the feet of Joe Jordan. While Joe resorted to playing right-backs in midfield (and taking seemingly any free transfer that was going) to cover the gaping holes in the middle of our team he continued to ignore a genuine midfielder already at the club, and one who had never let the side down whenever he had been played.

Joe arrived at the club announcing that every player would be given the chance to prove themselves, but Paul Ware received only one game under Joe – the 2-6 thrashing at Luton for which he was obviously made one of the scapegoats.

Other than that appearance it was reserve team football for Warey during the last year and recent reports say that he had even been relegated to training with the youth team during the week! How can things ever have reached such a situation for one of, if not the only, brightest young prospects at Stoke for many years?

It is true that prior to Joe’s arrival Lou Macari had also dropped Paul Ware from the starting line-up but Lou was gambling on experience to help us get a steady foothold in Division One, hence his decision to bring in midfielders Micky Gynn and Toddy Orlygsson on free transfers. Lou knew what Paul Ware could do and that he was still a young player. I feel sure that Warey would have been a regular back in the starting line-up by now if Lou had not left for Celtic.

My only conclusion about Paul Ware’s demise from the squad picture under Joe Jordan is that either the new manager just didn’t like him or that he may have spoken out of turn. What other reasons could there be?

Warey1

Warey in action at Peterborough in the Autoglass Trophy Area Final. His winning goal that night took Stoke to Wembley in 1992.

Looking back on his time at Stoke City I can only really recall good memories of Paul Ware. Every time I think of him I remember the great goal at Peterborough that took us to Wembley, or the sight of a young man tearing about in midfield challenging for every ball as though his very existence depended upon it.

To me Paul Ware typified everything that is good in a football player. Though originally from Congleton in Cheshire (and rumour has it, a Manchester City supporter as a boy) Warey is your archetypal local boy for whom playing for his side meant giving everything he had to give, and playing with a heart, passion and fervour that showed the outcome of the game really did matter to him.

One of my most abiding memories of Warey is of him trudging off the pitch at Telford, after our shock FA Cup exit in 1991, and being the only player who really looked devastated at the embarrassment of the result. I made a point of mentioning this in the match report of that game which appeared in Oatcake 55 and to my mind it summed up perfectly the kind of attitude that he took with him into each game he played for Stoke City.

I know he didn’t make his debut in this match but my earliest memory of Warey came in the never-to-be-forgotten Christmas clash against Manchester City at the Victoria Ground in the ’88-’89 season. The Maine Road club arrived with 12,000 fancy-dressed fans in tow and were fancying their chances of gaining three points. Paul Ware, just 18 years old at the time, was brought into the side by Mick Mills at right-back and gave a memorable performance, as he put the T well and truly into both Tenacious’ and Tackling’. If I remember correctly he was substituted late in that match, probably to avoid being senf-off!

After that game he steadily became a regular member of the first team squad, particularly under Alan Ball who admired his kind of no-nonsense approach to football, though at only 20 years old he had to survive the boo-boys, who decided to make him the latest in a long line of young local players they love to hurl abuse at.

He answered his critics in the only way he knew how, by playing even harder and scoring goals at vital times for the club. In no time he had won over most, if not all, of his doubters and he steadily became a favourite with the supporters.

When Lou Macari arrived at the club he found in Paul Ware just the type of player that best suited his “up and at ’em” style of football. Warey would chase every ball that came within twenty yards of him, put his head into places where others would think twice about sticking their feet and generally give nothing less than 100% total effort for the cause. In the 1991-92 season he particularly impressed in the match at West Brom when his powerful running from midfield had the attendant press reporters (and the West Brom manager, Bobby Gould) predicting big things for a player who was still only 21.

Though not as prolific as say Steve Foley when it came to getting goals, Warey nevertheless chipped in with some vital strikes for The Potters. He scored a dramatic equaliser in the promotion battle against Birmingham at the Victoria Ground, and then later set up the late winner for Bertie by bravely charging down an attempted clearance from a Blues defender. His thumping 25-yard strike at Reading pulled us back to 3-3 while the home fans were still singing “you’re not singing anymore” to us, having only just taken the lead themselves.

As we mentioned earlier though his most memorable moment in a Stoke shirt must have been when he scored that stunning free-kick at Peterborough United in the Autoglass Area Final which secured us our place at Wembley. After that game, the Sky TV commentators were also predicting a big future for such a prodigious young talent.

Tragedy struck for Warey though with an injury that meant he had to sit out the Autoglass Final, missing out on what should have been the greatest moment of his career to date. Nobody said that football was ever meant to be fair, but Warey didn’t bemoan his terrible bad luck and instead got himself fit again to play a full and telling part in the following year’s Championship season.

Warey was a versatile player for Stoke and could play in either defence or midfield. He showed in one match though that he could even turn his hand to an out and out striker’s role. As Stoke toiled in vain against a struggling Huddersfield at the Victoria Ground Lou threw Warey off the substitutes bench and into the centre-forward’s position. Within minutes of that bold move he had the ground in ecstasy with two headed goals to put us on the road to a crucial three points. Once again Paul Ware had been asked to do a job by a Stoke manager and he had gone out and done it with no questions asked. I’m sure that if you’d asked him to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey he would have played well enough to slake a daim for a regular place in that position!

If there was a fault you could pick with Paul Ware it was that he often played with his heart and not his head. The worst example of this came in the criminal Autoglass home defeat to Port Vale when he and Carl Beeston (both local lads!) got a bit too carried away with their tackling as they saw Stoke slipping to a disastrous defeat.

Warey3That said though, young Warey got his act together for the vital league dash at Vale Park a few weeks later and rt was his tireless and unstinting work from midfield which played a significant part in helping to set up a night of glory for Stoke City.

In football  these days players like Paul Ware are a rare commodity. He was an energetic and willing workhorse for The Potters, never shirking any job that a manager might put his way, always giving everything he had. He may not have been the most elegant player, and indeed his inclusion in the team this and last season would not have been the instant answer to all of our problems, but Paul Ware was a vital and much needed member of our club set up.

I can’t speak for other Stoke supporters but for myself the departure of Paul Ware to Stockport County is little short of a tragedy. Seeing that he had no future at Stoke under Jordan, Warey agreed to join Danny Bergara at Edgeley Park just one day before Jordan himself was given the push. However, he refused to change his mind over his decision as he had already given his word to the Stockport manager. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything else from somebody as honest as he is.

Farewell Warey, I hope everything works out for you at Stockport and I hope you realise that there are people at Stoke who appreciate everything you did for our club. Thanks!

 

04
Apr
13

Match to Remember – Stoke City v Aston Villa 2008/09

WE WAITED a long time for this day, a very long time indeed. And we earned it too. After all of the bad days over 23 years, all the disappointments, all of the humbling defeats against the likes of Crewe and Vale and all of the other clubs we should never really have been playing so regularly in the first place.

Top flight football returned to the Britannia Stadium and did so in spectacular style, delivering a match, occasion and finale that will live long in the memory of all of those Stoke City supporters who were fortunate enough to be there to witness it. This is what we had waited all of that time for, what we endured all of that suffering for.

After the slap-in-the-face defeat at Bolton it was difficult to hope for too much from a game against a side so strongly tipped and widely respected as Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. However, in the wake of the Reebok set-back Tony Pulis had been quick to address some of our shortcomings and we had new faces in the line-up, in the shape of Amdy and Abdoulaye Faye, plus the return to the starting XI of crowd favourites Ricardo Fuller and Liam Lawrence.

From the word go it was clear that The Potters were not nursing any hangovers from the Bolton defeat. It had been put behind them and they went into this match in the right frame of mind and with exactly the right approach. They took the game to the visitors and displayed no fear of either their opponents or the big occasion.

What a delight it was to not only be watching top flight football but to be watching Stoke competing well at that level. Villa were technically better than us and that was only to be expected but at no time did we ever looked over-matched or out of our depth. In fact we quickly showed that we had within our arsenal the type of weapons which could do our opponents harm.

Fuller and Lawrence were creative and in Rory Delap’s long throws we had a tool to cause panic in the visiting defence. In fact, we should have taken the lead when one of Delap’s efforts was propelled into the box and picked out Amdy Faye for a header which should have been dispatched into the net for a debut goal.

We didn’t have long to wait for a goal though as referee Mark Halsey turned down an appeal for a penalty at our end and then awarded one at the other when Delap was felled. Lawrence stepped up to drill the ball home and the Britannia Stadium exploded. I honestly thought the roof was going to lift off the place.the ball home and the Britannia Stadium exploded. I honestly thought the roof was going to lift off the place.

You could have almost ended my Premiership experience there if you’d wanted. Stoke were back in the top flight and leading in a game against a genuinely good side. I think back of dark trips to Bournemouth when such a possibility seemed such a distant and unlikely prospect.

As much as Stoke are derided for their style of play it has to be said that this game was an entertaining thriller which would have graced ANY Super Sunday special on Sky. It had just about everything!

Villa capitalised on Stoke’s failure to clear the ball properly with a goal of genuine quality from John Carew and then almost took the lead when Barry failed to connect with a ball straight across the face of the Stoke goal.

If Carew’s goal had the hallmark of class stamped across it then what can you say about the gem that followed from Fuller? His flick and turn to take Lawrence’s pass past Laursen was just brilliant and got the finish it deserved as our Jamaican Magician drilled the ball into the far corner of the net. Will we see a better Stoke goal this season?

That should have been enough to win the game but a carelessly conceded free-kick by Diao gave the visitors the chance to get the ball into our box and after a weakly hit shot and a fortuitous deflection Laursen was able to poke the ball home for what looked like a point-saving goal for Villa.

In truth, how many of us would truly have been disappointed with a 2-2 draw? Yeah, we’d know that we’d let two leads slips, the second just eight minutes from time, but it would have still been a very creditable outcome.

 Stoke though were not prepared to settle for a point and put Villa through a bombardment of late pressure. A couple of late throws from Delap came to nothing, including a header from Cort which looped onto the top of the net, before the final attack of the match, in the 4th minute of injury time, he launched one final missile into the area and super sub Sidibe back headed the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

It was the greatest EVER mental at the Britannia Stadium, as players and fans alike celebrated what we all knew was the winner. You just live for moments like these!

What a day, what a game and what a finish. We have some really tough days ahead of us this season but we showed here that we have the spirit and the belief to make a real fight  of it.

I don’t think I will ever forget this game!

STOKE CITY: Sorenson, Griffin, Dickinson, Cort, Ab Faye, Lawrence, Am Faye, Olofinjana, Delap, Fuller, Kitson. Subs: Diao, Sidibe, Cresswell.

ASTON VILLA: Friedel, L. Young, Davies, Laursen, Shorey, A. Young, Petrov, Barry, Re0-Coker, Carew, Agbonlahor. Sub: Routledge.

Attendance: 27,500

This match report originally appeared in Issue 443 of The Oatcake