Archive for April, 2017

Swansea vs Stoke City Preview

Swansea are a team that have just won one of their last seven Premier League games against the Potters (D3 L3) This sounds like good news for Stoke in terms of form against the Swans, but Stoke are looking to win consecutive away league games at Swansea for the first time. Their win in October 2015 was their first in six away fixtures against the Swans.

Stoke have been reliant on Austrian Marko Arnautovic for the attacking threat again this season and has been directly involved in 10 Premier League goals this term (6 goals, 4 assists); the most of any Stoke City player. The Swans rely heavily on Sigurdsson who has been tipped to leave the Welsh based club at the end of the season especially if they are relegated.

While we are talking about teams who are at threat of relegation, Stoke have won six of their seven Premier League games this season against the current bottom four teams of the division (D1).

The art of making substitutions

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Coming away from the Liverpool game, the topic of conversation was without doubt the substitutions made by Manager Mark Hughes. Why, some may ask? Well we were winning 1-0 when a sub is made, then we lose 2-1? Yes, but that’s just an excuse, some may say? Well, true, it could be, but I haven’t seen a substitution cause such an upset for many a game!!

It’s never easy for a Manager to make a change, especially in a tight game such as the Liverpool match. Football is played at such a pace in the Premiership that for a Manager like Mark Hughes, it must be a challenge to affect the outcome of a match once it begins, a challenge that if they get right, they’re a hero. But…. if they get wrong, they are public enemy number one!!

I’m not going to say whether replacing Jon Walters with Glenn Whelan was the correct option or not. There’s enough people commenting on this already. Some say we were getting overrun in midfield, and this was our only option? Some will say, we were winning 1-0 and we should have tried to get the 2nd goal first before considering such a change? Supporters have very conflicting views on this!

Since football has almost no stoppages for Managers to assess data with players, to draw on clipboards or strategize tactics with staff, a Manager’s most critical in-game decision may be choosing when to utilize his three substitutions. There are no hard and fast rules. There are no optimum times to make substitutions, although I remember watching something on television and it said the best time to make changes were on 59 minutes, 68 minutes and 77 minutes. What do you think?

You don’t hear the term ‘super-sub’ as much these days, but there is no doubt that some players have such a reputation? Who I here you ask? Well when it comes to non-Stoke players, the likes of Javier Hernandez at Man Utd, or Edin Dzeko at Man City often appeared to be sub, and often seemed to score goals when coming off the bench, and this was evident as their goals-per-minute rate was higher when coming off the bench.

Do Stoke have a ‘super-sub’? Well, these days Peter Crouch seems to come off the bench most games, in fact many felt when taking Jon Walters off against Liverpool, it should have been Peter Crouch that came on, rather than Glenn Whelan? Again, I’ll let you decide on that one. But regardless of this, I’m not sure I’d call him a ‘super-sub’, would you? We all know what Crouchie gives you, and I’m a big fan of his, but his goals-per-minute rate isn’t better when coming off the bench.

Another question often asked is whether a Manager should use all 3 subs in a game? Well from what I’ve read, statistical and physiological evidence is increasingly converging upon a firm conclusion: there is really no excuse for a manager not to use all three of his substitutions. Not only do substitutions minimise the risk of injury to tired players, it also provides managers with the best chance of influencing the game in their favour. If I’m a defender whose been marking Arnie all game, the last thing I’m going to want to see with 20 minutes left is for Shaqiri to come on? I’m bound to be tired as it is without dealing with yet more pace, skill and power?

However, Managers often don’t use all their subs, and Mark Hughes is a Manager in this bracket. Maybe there’s something a bit more personal to it, as well? I mean, there’s a lot more to management than just tactics or philosophy. Some Managers may consider Risk aversion? What’s this I here you ask? Well it’s the idea that if we change something, such as a substitution in a game and we fail, this is worse than failing when we haven’t changed something, such as a substitution in a game. Could making a change or 3 in a football match be an admission of failure i.e. did we pick the wrong team from the start?

Personally, I’d rather we use all 3 substitutes in a game regardless of whether we are winning 4-0, or losing 4-0 as my view is that it’s better surely to give someone a run-out and see if he makes a difference? And, it’s got to be frustrating for 6 outfield substitutes to have warmed up and then sit on the bench patiently waiting for a run-out, only to see a Manager not use all his substitutions mustn’t it?

I can understand why a Manager may use 2 subs and then hold back on the 3rd until nearer the end of a game, because the last thing you want to do is to use all 3 only for a player to get injured and then have to finish the game with 10 men! There really is an art to making substitutions and even the best get it wrong sometimes!

Daniel Scattergood

Gone but not forgotten….. Kyle Lightbourne

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Who remembers Kyle Lightbourne? He was a forward who we signed in in February 1998, a terrible time for the club! Lou Macari had left us at the end of the previous season and was replaced by Chic Bates who struggled to get the results needed. Later in the season, he was replaced by Chris Kamara who not only sold Andy Griffin, probably our star player at the time, but managed just 1 win and he was eventually replaced with Alan Durban for the last few games. However, the damage was done, and after a 5–2 defeat against Manchester City on the final day saw the inevitable happen and Stoke were relegated as were Man City despite their big win.

Kyle was signed in February 1998 for £500,000, a then club record. Some say Chris Kamara signed him, some say Jez Moxey signed him, but whoever it was had high hopes for him, as this was a player signed from Coventry, a team then in The Premiership! He had moved to Coventry from Walsall, a club where he was held in very high esteem. This was because he had scored lots of goals for them and we needed someone to do the same for us!

However, Kyle didn’t get off to the best of starts with us as he had some kind of unknown illness and managed just 2 goals in 13 games, as we suffered relegation from the First Division. It was an awful time, and the club was in a mess.

The following season (1998-99) saw Stoke enter a hopeful bright new era as we moved to The Britannia Stadium, but it wasn’t quite to plan, as we were now in the third tier of English football with heavy debts of around £5 million and no manager. However, we were all surprised yet pleased when Chairman Keith Humphreys appointed former Aston Villa manager Brian Little. Suddenly, optimism was raised and we had a great start to the season, winning the first 6 games and as we approached November time, it seemed a matter of when and not if Stoke would gain promotion. However, our form tailored away and we didn’t get the results expected. Chief Executive Jez Moxey was under pressure as our financial situation was poor, results weren’t great and false promises had been made. Kyle Lightbourne, like many other players struggled, managing just 8 goals and the club finished 8th place, missing out on the play-offs.

The following season (1999–2000) saw Gary Megson in charge but he was eventually replaced by Gudjon Thordason as the Icelandic Revolution came into play. Kyle scored 10 goals in 52 appearances as Stoke reached the play-offs where we were beaten by Gillingham. He was a partner for Peter Thorne, but whereas Thorney scored goals for fun, Kyle didn’t which was a big disappointment as he had scored so many goals for Walsall at that level! We did reach the 2000 Football League Trophy Final (Autoglass Trophy as we know it) at Wembley with Kyle playing as we beat Bristol City 2–1 and we went into the following season with high hopes.

Season 2000-01 saw Gudjon Thordason still as our Manager, but Kyle found himself behind the likes of Thorney, Rikki Dadason & Andy Cooke and he scored a mere 5 goals in 28 appearances. In the latter part of the season he spent spells on loan at Swindon Town and Cardiff City and his Stoke career was coming to an end. This was best for everyone, but still Stoke missed out on promotion, as we were beaten by one of Kyle’s former teams Walsall, 4-2 in the play-offs.

The following season (2001-02), saw Kyle gone as he was released on a free. Gudjon was still in charge, but the pressure was on. His job was made harder by us selling both fans favourites Graham Kavanagh and Peter Thorne. Gudjon went and signed various players, many foreign but we got to see the likes of Peter Hoekstra’s skill and flair and goals came from the likes of Chris Iwelumo! Stoke improved with such signings and despite missing out on automatic promotion, we beat Brentford in the play-off final.

As for Kyle, well after a brief spell in Sweden, he signed for Macclesfield Town, a team in Division Three. He was a player who Stoke fans perhaps didn’t get to see the best of, unlike his time at Walsall. However, looking back it can’t have been easy for many Stoke players, as that 4 or 5-year spell wasn’t easy for anyone including us supporters! Kyle Lightbourne, gone but not forgotten!!

Daniel Scattergood

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