A familiar look and feel to last week’s result agin the Flintstokes. The club with such a superiority complex that they really consider themselves rivals of Manchester United, they are comfortably the English Premier League’s most extravagantly annoying club. In Mr. Hughes they have a cove who is the very embodiment of Stoke. He is Stoke made flesh. More so even than Mr. Pulis; as nail-pullingly rancid and immoral as that man was he had no delusions of grandeur in the way that Hughes has. A physical (violent) player, he embodies Stoke’s powerful (cheating) style.
They continue to employ poor Ryan Shawcross, the lachrymose mummy’s boy whom after breaking someone’s leg decided that he was the victim. They somehow draw skilled footballers to their ranks; Xherdan Shaqiri and now our most recent tormentor, Mr. Jese Rodriguez. Stoke are the Piers Morgan of football. Universally detested, yet still getting work, these mysterious entities survive, thrive, even, rather than doing what the world prays for on a nightly basis – to be fired into the heart of the sun.
Are Stoke really our bogey side? Can we not do better than that? Is that not like having Harry Kane as a love rival? Stoke, just as actual bogeys, provide a useful purpose. Bogeys – that is, nasal mucus – stops dust and pollutants getting into one’s air pipes, leaving them free for the purifying and health-giving blast of cigar smoke. Stoke’s raison d’etre is to give their cromagnon, hairy, clinically obese, stinking, fans and their husbands a purpose in life. You live in Stoke, believe me, you need something to take your mind off that fact, especially if someone has just closed down your pottery and made your centre-half cry by thoughtlessly breaking a leg in front of you.
And yet here we are, on the end of a beating from the buggers. With a goal for a player who had just skipped off the plane. From where you were sitting, did it look like a new beginning, or did it look like 2016/17 all over again, just with a different striker? ‘Twas very much like a bad cover version of some of last year’s worst performances. All the ingredients were there. Lack of cutting edge? Present and correct. Their glove butler suddenly turning onto Our Lord Jesus, saving one and all? Hallelujah. Dominating possession but with as much penetration as trying to shove an oyster in a parking meter? Huzzah!
A carelessly given away ball resulting in a goal? A real collector’s item for you! A was-it-wasn’t-it-yes-it-probably-was offside goal to moan about for days on end? Oh yes. Centre-halves with their thumbs in their waistbands, thinking about a hot supper rather than the advancing forward? Here’s one. The manager heavily massaging some statistic or other that proves the world is against us? Line up, gentleman and ladies of the press!
Upsides, as the youngsters say? We have the Invincibles monkey off our back a little later than normal. It might not, in reality, be the first game of the season these past few years but it certainly feels like it. We don’t have to travel to Stoke again this year, a visit that looms over us every season. Not particularly for footballing reasons, it is genuinely one of the worst places on the face of the earth. We attempted 520 (five hundred and twenty) more passes than (“free flowing” – Mark Hughes) Stoke.
To Anfield then, for what is looking like yet another dose of the footballing clap.
As entertaining as it always is to watch excitable big girl’s blouse Mr. Klopp explode with joy when they win a throw-in, they have looked pretty bally decent in their first couple of games, even overcoming the mighty 1899 Hoffenheim in the Champions League playoffs. If ever there were a team more suited to the Europa League it’s 1899 Hoffenheim, ranked as they are one place above Atalanta BC and two places above FC Zorya Luhansk. Still, a win’s a win, and we shouldn’t mock, for what are I hope obvious reasons.