Monday, May 16, 2011

Stokes: Stoking Great Aspirations

By Bagga Wilks

Birmingham came to Wembley with great aspirations of winning the Carling Cup against the mighty Arsenal. They deprived Arsene Wenger of any silverware for the 2010-2011 season. Stokes came to Wembley with similar expectations to defeat the richly endowed Manchester City and to take back to Stoke City the F.A. Cup. Birmingham’s plot ended in a melodrama. Stoke City’s drama ended in a Greek tragedy.

No coach in the English Premier League has maximized limited resources more than Tony Pulis. He has effectively put together a team that is competitive and plays hard-nosed English ball. Stokes is the team that nobody likes to play against. They run for ninety minutes and tackle ferociously from the first whistle to the last.

As a team that was recently promoted to the English Premier League, Pulis has established the brand of soccer that works for him and the players that he recruits. Kevin Jones has made a great leap forward under the tutelage of Pulis and it is not surprising that Chelsea’s central defender, John Terry hates to match up against Jones. In the off season, the elite clubs will be bombarding Stokes’ dressing room making offers for the transfer of striker, Kevin Jones.

The Mancini Manchester City Marriage

At times, Manchester City has appeared leaderless, other times, listless
and other times ponderous. Manchester City’s performance over the season lacked consistency. Nonetheless, they not only won the F.A.Cup but they qualified for the European Champion’s League.
Money cannot buy love, but money can purchase big time players. Manchester had no inhibitions about spending. The challenge was to mold a championship chemistry with such an array of stars.

Winning the F.A. Cup will contribute to creating a sense of team spirit and oneness. Even the volatile Balotelli played under emotional control and had one of his finest games as a Manchester City player. He did not lose his cool and helped out in defense. This augurs well for his future at Manchester City.
Ya Ya Toure’s blast in the second half was the difference in the game. Toure brought his team to the dance and he brought them silverware before 86,000 at Wembley. He is the straw that stirs the drink.

But if Manchester is to truly challenge for the title next year, they have to fill in missing holes. It is uncertain if the intensely rambunctious Tevez will be back. The football wheel at Manchester City does not spin well without Tevez. In a game in which pace is indispensable, they have too many players who move in slow motion. Nonetheless, the owners have seen dividends on their stock purchase. With additional fine tuning in the off season, the Mancini- Manchester City marriage should last a few more years.

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