Tottenham face a Stoke City team who never give up under Tony Pullis. Stoke are basically safe for another year in the Premier League and spurs are going to have to show application to get the win they need to maintain their battle for the Champions League.
At the end of the day, the point against Chelsea felt like a bit of a triumph, even though only three points would have kept our destiny this season in our own hands. I couldn’t believe how often we gave the ball away in midfield for much of the match but yet again Villas-Boas wrought changes which transformed our performance in the last 20 minutes. All credit to him for more in-game active management and to the players for applying themselves again to the end. Still hanging in there, we now need Chelsea and Arsenal to drop points in their last two games. Come on Wigan!
Next up on Sunday, live on Sky at lunchtime is Stoke City. As per our usual luck, we fall to play Stoke on a day which has special meaning to them. Apparently the game marks their 150th anniversary and they will be looking for a reason to celebrate. Also, Wigan’s defeat to Swansea on Tuesday and Stoke’s vastly superior goal difference means that they can celebrate safety and another year in the Premier League. Our team of walking wounded plus the double Footballer of the Year need a win. We need to be as sharp as the parting in Gareth Bale’s barnet was against Chelsea.
Dad never made it all the way to the Potteries; his time for going to games was before the Britannia Stadium. He only ever travelled North of Watford when he was evacuated in the war, a bus trip to Blackpool with Mum and me as a kid and a couple of coach trips when they were pensioners. So when the wife and I were on the way back from a Lake District holiday, I made a point of dropping of at the Victoria Ground to stock up on souvenirs for him as a surprise. Mug, Baseball cap, T- Shirt etc. The mug became a permanent fixture in their kitchen. He liked nothing more than to have a dig if Spurs failed to beat Stoke. Spurs have always been the favourites, so if ever Stoke even got a draw, I would get, “Well son, Spurs will never get anywhere if they can’t beat a little old team like Stoke.” Or, fancy a big team with all Tottenham’s money not beating Stoke.” He never missed a chance to really rub it in. Stoke spent many years outside of the First Division and Premiership and went through a really dodgy period accumulating Icelandic owners who appeared to struggle in the international financial meltdown, with managers coming and going, including Tony Pullis.
Stoke Under Tony Pullis
Pullis has done fantastically well on limited resources since he took over the reins a second time in 2006 after Peter Coates replaced the Icelanders. He has a reputation for playing direct, no nonsense football and there is an element of truth in that. Having said that, he has worked out how to get a little team to survive in the big time on minimum resources. Despite a dodgy run this season, he has consolidated their position in the Premier League in recent years. He also led them to an FA Cup Final appearance in 2011 followed by a run in the Europa League. No-one fancies their chances at the Britannia Stadium and there has been a procession of managers of so called bigger clubs complaining about being hard done by when they have come up against tough tactics and hard running. Spurs have fallen into that trap. I think more people need to appreciate there is more than one way of playing football and that old cliché is right. You have to earn the right to play before you can turn on the style. Also, having consolidated in the Premier League, Pullis has tried introducing more style by signing players like Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch and Michael Owen but they not all performed to the levels anticipated and Stoke have had to return to a more direct style to shore things up.
Spurs are going to need guts and style if we are going to come through the last two games with maximum points. Come on lads, don’t let them roll you over on their celebration day, or I’ll be hearing those mocking tones one more time from beyond the grave…