I don’t like Stoke City.
I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is, but they’re just one of those clubs that rub me up the wrong way.
There’s a chance that my bitterness stems from plain old sour grapes.
I remember going to the Victoria Ground and seeing Wolves get well and truly stuffed, back when McGhee was in charge. Then of course there was the more recent 4-2 defeat they inflicted on us at Molineux, on the way to automatic promotion a few seasons back. The latter was a particularly hard pill to swallow.
Or maybe my dislike for the Potters is down to jealousy.
After all, they enjoyed a tremendous first outing in the Premiership, finishing comfortably in midtable, far, far away from the perils of the bottom three. And the way in which they set about ruffling the feathers of the big boys and stamping their authority on the top tier, was something I’d hoped to see Wolves achieve. But it wasn’t Wolves, it was Stoke.
I suspect though, that like most petty football-related grudges, I just decided one day that I wasn’t going to like Stoke City and that was that. Consigned to the scrapheap along with the likes of Coventry, Bristol City and a few others I had no good reason to judge.
But like them or not, you’ve got to respect what Stoke have achieved.
Nobody wants to play them, they’re home ground has fast become a fortress and all over they just have the look of a club that’s moving onwards and upwards.
So as we prepare to make the short trip up the M6 to take on the club we’re trying desperately to emulate, can we really expect to get a result?
I think if you’re a neutral, you’d probably say we’re cannon fodder for Stoke at the Britannia. After all, we’re a young team, who like to get the ball down and play, who are likely to get bullied all over the pitch and eventually battered into submission. A home banker on the Pools coupon if ever there was one.
But I think anyone who knows this Wolves team, knows that one thing they’re not afraid of is a scrap. And it’s for that reason I’m quietly confident we can sneak a result on Saturday and push ourselves up a few places in the league, ahead of a daunting November.
We’ll need another giant performance from our back four, but you’d say that this should be a match perfectly tailored for the likes of Craddock and Berra to shine. Both are more than capable in the air and supported by Zubar and Elokobi, should have enough to cope with the bombardment we’re likely to receive.
Maybe I shouldn’t be concerned about Hennessy after recent performances, but I am. I thought he was well protected against Villa, but claimed the odd cross confidently that came near him. We’ll need the same again, but I can’t help but feel if there’s a team perfectly designed to expose his frailties, it’s got to be Stoke.
If we can deal with whatever they throw at us, I think there’s a good chance we can knick the win. With the attacking options we have, I’d always back us to create chances and get goals so a 1-0 or a 2-1 in our favour certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
I wonder whether Mick will change the starting XI in order to cope with the very specific type of threat that Stoke pose? This time, barring injuries, I think he’ll probably keep faith with the side that lined up against Villa. Namely:
I wonder if he might drop Keogh from the squad all-together and have both Iwelumo and The Hoff on the bench? It must surely be a good idea to have two giants at your disposal for a match of this nature. Probably won’t happen.
In terms of the result, I’m praying Wolves get the first goal (just for a change), as I think that could prove particularly crucial in this match. Should we fall behind, I worry that their steely resolve might just be too difficult to overcome.
I’m feeling confident ahead of this one I must say. With Sylvan getting off the mark last week, I’m hoping for a little run of goals. So with that in mind, I’m predicting 2-1 to Wolves and SEB to score twice.
As always, if you’re one of the 3,000 heading up to Stoke, get behind the lads. It’s a bit of a cauldron inside the Britannia, so they’ll need our support more than ever.
Up The Wolves.