Opposition view – Stoke City

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Ahead of Saturday’s first home game of the season I contacted Martin of The Oatcake – Stoke City’s premier Fanzine – to ask him a few questions about our opposition, their summer dealings and the unexpected Catalan influence that now pervades the Potteries.

Greetings. Are you happy with your transfer dealings or is it too early to say?

So far we’d have to say that we’re very pleased. We lost a couple of players in the summer and we’ve started this season with three key players injured but we’ve added a few faces, including the fantastic Xherdan Shaqiri this week. There may even be one or two more to come as well. We have been improving the squad season on season and the supporters can see what Mark Hughes is trying to do. Yeah, we are happy.

Are you Barcelona in disguise?

Ha ha! We are happy to go along with the ‘Stokelona’ thing and it’s great to see us shopping in that kind of market. We could scarcely have believed such a thing during our 23-year exile from the top flight and it’s been fantastic to see both our transformation into an accepted and stable Premier League club and one which is really looking to play an exciting brand of football.

You must’ve been very disappointed by the result last Sunday. Was the performance ok? (I thought Butland did brilliantly to even touch Coutinho’s shot by the way).

The performance was fine and we didn’t deserve to lose. At the end of the day it took a 25-yard screamer to win a game in which we were up against Liverpool’s full strength team, while we were missing key individuals and are still building our side. I personally thought Jack Butland could have done a bit better with the goal but he’s going to be great keeper for us this season.

Joselu looks like the only addition up front. I was surprised when Odemwingie was brought on before him last week. Is he not fit yet? 

It may be something similar to Bojan last year, where Mark Hughes wants to first build the player up for the rigours of a Premier League season. Our manager has made precious few bad moves since he came to the club and we’re confident he knows what he’s doing with Joselu.

I see the totem/iconic Shawcross is out for a while, is he as big a loss as he appears to be from the outside?

He was out for a while last season and the other players stepped in and performed heroics in his absence. However, there’s no pretending he isn’t a massive loss and that it won’t affect us. Our skipper is an outstanding young man and a great leader who has been part of the heart and soul of the club during our wonderful Renaissance and climb out of obscurity.

In terms of fruit sizes how optimistic are you about the new season where an olive is “we’ll be lucky to avoid relegation” and a water melon is “we’re going to win the Champions League even though we’re not even in it!”?

We’ll go with a cocunut because we’ve had to develop thick skins during our time in the Premier League and we’re always happy to be a tough nut to crack. And we’re hoping for big things again.

Pulis has been gone for a couple of seasons I know but I’m not sure that the reputation his style of football gave you (fairly earned or otherwise) has worn off yet. Do you think this’ll be the season that it’s put to bed for good?

I think it has already been put to bed really and the people who seem keen to keep plugging away with talk of our old style of play are mainly those with an Arsenal connection – Martin Keown, Alan Smith, Piers Morgan, etc. They’ve got their heads stuck up their arses anyway so it doesn’t bother us.

Any thoughts on Spurs? After last season’s results I guess you’re looking forward to playing us.

We’re pretty neutral about Spurs really and we even support you in two games every season – anyone who hates Arsenal more than we do can’t be all bad.

We’re interested to see how you do this season, especially if the ‘Harry Kane factor’ isn’t the same as it was last season.

And a prediction for Saturday please.

After we both suffered unfortunate opening day 0-1 defeats I’ll go for an entertaining 1-1 draw. Mind you, we might even sneak another win if your manager remains convinced that he’s up for an aerial battle against us, like he did twice last season!

Thanks very much for your time Martin, much appreciated.

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