COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 12th May 2013
VENUE Britannia Stadium






A game against Stoke City, but when you are up against it and needing a win to have any hope of keeping up with the top four, it makes it doubly difficult.  Needing a win to stand any chance of Champions League football (and only then if Chelsea lose horrendously on the last day of the season and we win bog against Sunderland), this lunch-time game at the Britannia will be a real test of Tottenham's quality and of their willingness for a battle.

Everyone says that Stoke is not a welcoming place for visiting teams.  Cold, noisy and physically testing, this season has seen the Potters lose more at home than for a while and that was why until a week or so ago, they were threatened with the drop.  Four defeat at home and only 32 goals scored all season are some of the reasons for their struggle, with injuries hitting the squad too.  Noises have already been made about Pulis having taken the team as far as he can and maybe there will be a change of manager in the summer, but whether that comes with a change of tactics will be interesting to see.

With a number of former Spurs player sin the Stoke squad, they will be wanting to prove to the Tottenham fans that they were worth persevering with, but where they have move don, so have Spurs.  Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios have all made contributions to the Stoke effort, but none have found the fame they might have been seeking when they left the Lane.  Crouch still scores, Etherington still ploughs a furrow next to the chalk line and Palacios has been notable by his absence, making only four substitute appearances so far.

But Stoke have tried to change their style, although some of their purchases fuel the theory of them being a rough and tough side.  Charlie Adam (big, slow, late tackler), Steven Nzonzi (big, tall, run all day), Brek Shea (tall, fast winger, run all day) ... you get the idea.

The template for the archetypal Stoke player might have once been Rory Delap, but now it is more Ryan Shawcross or Ryan Shotton.  A bit more athletic, but as able to throw or kick the ball as far as the former Republic of Ireland international.  With players like Robert Huth and Shawcross, you have players effective at each end of the pitch, as they are strong in the air defending or attacking when set-pieces are won.  And while it is not the only source of their goals, their well-drilled routines are effective, including lots of "professional" moves in the box. 

Stoke have a good keeper in much sought after Asmir Begovic, with Thomas Sorensen an able deputy although getting on a bit now.  The defence speaks for itself and the midfield does contain a lot of wingers, with Jermaine Pennant having been sent out on loan to Wolves until January and Michael Kightly, the former Wolves man, only coming back onto the bench in the last few weeks.  Glen Whelan adds nuisance value and has been the one preferred over Palacios this season.

It is a surprise that Stoke have scored so few goals, as they have players capable of scoring, with Jonathan Walters leading the way, followed by Crouch and then Kightly, Cameron Jerome, Kenwyne Jones and Adam all with three goals.  Jerome and Jones fit a template for physically strong strikers, in contrast to Crouch, who is a one off.

This will be Stoke's last home game and while they are virtually safe from relegation now, they will be going all out to take another big name scalp and finish their home fixtures with a win, but they might find a more resilient Tottenham team, who have an impressive away record.  I hope that they can keep that record going and take the season down to the last game and hope that things go their was elsewhere.  Knowing our luck, there will be some controversial decision in the match that costs us fourth place this season (especially as Chris Foy - the fourth official - tucked us up there a couple of years ago) !!

PREDICTION Stoke City    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
There will be late fitness tests for Marc Wilson (hamstring), Andy Wilkinson (back) and Greg Whelan (groin).
Sandro (knee), Younes Kaboul (thigh) and William Gallas (calf) are all ruled out, while Mousa Dembele (hamstring) and Aaron Lennon (hamstring) are both hopeful of being available for the visit to Stoke.

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BBC London - click on link to "Listen to Tottenham Hotspur live commentary" on top right hand menu.

Stoke City  1 (1)     
Premier League
Sunday 12th May 2013                             
Venue :  Britannia Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (1)

Kick off  13:30
Nzonzi 3 Dempsey 20
Adebayor 83
Huth (foul on Bale)  35
Begovic (dissent)  41
Adam (foul on Vertonghen)  43
Shotton (foul on Bale)  68  

Adam (second yellow - foul on Vertonghen)  47  

Huddlestone (foul on Walters) 76 



Crowd :   27,531 Weather :  -
Referee :  Kevin Friend (-) Assistant Referees :  Mr. P. Kirkup; Mr. C. Breakspear
Fourth Official :  Chris Foy -
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Boothen end in the first half.
Stoke City : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
  1  Asmir BEGOVIC     

30  Ryan SHOTTON       (  2  Geoff CAMERON 74)
  4  Robert HUTH     
17  Ryan SHAWCROSS (c)
12  Mark WILSON

16  Charlie ADAM               
15  Steven NZONZI 
26  Matthew ETHERINGTON  (28  Andy WILKINSON 57)

19  Jonathan WALTERS 

25  Peter CROUCH  (33  Cameron JEROME 57)

Unused subs: 
29  Thomas SORENSEN
10  Michael OWEN
21  Michael KIGHTLY
  9  Kenwyne JONES

  25  Hugo LLORIS

28  Kyle WALKER
33  Steven CAULKER
20  Michael DAWSON (c)

  8  Scott PARKER  (19  Mousa DEMBELE 68)
  6  Tom HUDDLESTONE     

  7  Aaron LENNON  (18  Jermain DEFOE 74)
11  Gareth BALE
  2  Clint DEMPSEY    (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 84)

10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR 

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL
23  Lewis HOLTBY

Manager :  Tony Pulis Manager :   Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   bet365 Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  adidas Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

120513 Stoke City

Spurs had gone into the game needing a win to have any slim chance of getting a top four finish. And won they did, with pantomime villain Charlie Adam playing the fall guy with two rash challenges seeing him removed from the pitch and allowing Spurs to take all the points with a late goal from Emmanuel Adebayor, after going behind in just the third minute.

Lining up with Vertonghen in Assou-Ekotto's place and Steven Caulker taking the Cameroon defender's place and Dempsey in for Holtby. Dembele made the bench, but with Huddlestone pairing up with Parker in front of the back four, Spurs had a familiar look to their side.

And the familiarity continued with some crap defending to Stoke's first set-piece. Adam played a ball in from their right wing to the near post and Parker and Bale failed to go with Nzonzi, who headed the ball firmly enough for it to beat Lloris' attempt to keep it out.

So two minutes gone and a mountain to scale for Tottenham.

Bale tried to get them on level terms in the seventh minute, with a drive after he cut inside from the right, but his shot looked to be going over even before Begovic touched it for a corner. Unfortunately, Tom hit the corner way over everyone for a throw-in.

Spurs were getting bullied all over the pitch, with little protection from Friend. Despite that the knowledgeable folk of Stoke took every opportunity to boo anyone who had the temerity to be kicked by someone in a red and white striped shirt.  On the other hand, Tottenham's fans were the only ones who could actually be heard supporting a team. The home fans were keen to show their appreciation of the laws of the game with their claiming of handball every time the ball hit a Spurs player anywhere on their body.

As Pulis drills them to do, Stoke got eight men back behind the ball every time they lost possession. They were undone in the 16th minute, when Lennon got some space on the right and laid it back for Walker. Kyle scuffed his shot across goal and Clint Dempsey turned it past Begovic from eight yards out, but was offside as the ball came in.

Twenty minutes on the clock saw Parker playing the ball from halfway towards Lennon on the right, but Marc Wilson slid in to clear as Begovic came for the ball. The defender's clearance went straight to Dempsey, who hit it back at goal first time and in a slow-motion moment, everyone stood motionless as the ball floated into the goal to make it 1-1.

The continued booing of Gareth Bale probably came from their inability to process the fact that someone can play the game with the ball at his feet without thumping it 80 yards up the pitch. The Stokies also became frustrated constantly whistling, while Spurs held onto possession for a long period. They got a chance to cheer one of their players when he made a tackle and conceded a throw-in. Hurrah !!

When three Stoke players left the ball for each other and Bale nipped in to take it, Huth could only pull him down and with a free-kick blown for Ryan Shawcross kicked the ball at Bale while he was on the floor. All the bravery of a playground bully. Then Walters started whinging as nobody kicked the ball out when he got a kick on the knee. Of course, this is something that Stoke do all the time for the opposition. Even Crouch was moaning to linesmen when he gave away a free-kick for holding. You would have thought he was used to that.

Spurs got a free-kick on the right for handball and when it came in, Dawson won a near-post header and forced Begovic to beat the ball out. A couple of minutes later, Dawson conceded a free-kick, which Stoke tried to play on the floor instead of hoofing it into the box and not being used to the ball being on the grass, the move broke down.  In their next attack, Etherington put in a low cross to the near post aimed for Walters, but Dawson did a good job in knocking the ball away from him.  Lloris was having to be strong in the face of intimidatory challenges, with players bumping him whenever they could.

Stoke were starting to lose their discipline, with Begovic and Adam getting yellows for dissent and a late challenge. Spurs were finding ways around the rough-house tactics and Parker's ball set Bale away and he cut in from the right to test Begovic with a low shot.

When the second half started, Stoke won a quick free-kick, but a poor delivery saw Spurs clear and when Vertonghen broke up the left with a minute gone, Adam scythed him down from behind to get his second yellow and a red as a bonus.  Stoke supporters once more displayed their ignorance by booing Vertonghen each time he got on the ball rather than the serial yellow card collector.

Spurs could have gone ahead, when a low Bale corner snuck through at the near post and Dempsey ran in for the ball to hit him and somehow go over the bar.

Stoke brought off Etherington (what were the odds on that happening) and Crouch with Wilkinson and Jerome coming on. With Spurs having a lot of possession, Stoke just carried on getting most players back behind the ball and Spurs found it difficult to open them up. Huddlestone tried to dribble through the middle of the home defence, but was robbed of the ball. It went to Bale wide left and his low driven ball across the face of goal was gathered by Begovic.  Hud perhaps should have had a shot when it opened up in front of him for once.

When Nzonzi tripped Lennon five yards outside the box, Shawcross took it upon himself to grab the referee with both hands and the home fans shouted “Cheat !” Why ? How little is it possible to know about football ?? Anyway, from the free-kick, Walker laid out a Stoke defender and his team-mates broke away. They didn't put the ball out for him to get treatment.  The yellow cards racked up against the home players, but that is nothing new. Shotton the latest recipient for a cynical foul on Bale and the free-kick found Jan's head, but he put it over with the goal at his mercy. It was just a bit too high for him.

Dembele replaced Parker and set up Dempsey for a shot from 20 yards out, but the rising effort was tipped over by the keeper. While Spurs were playing with confidence, their play lacked a little urgency and Stoke were coping with the attacks. But when Dembele slipped a straight pass through to Bale on the penalty spot, the Welshman took a touch and then fired a right foot shot just wide.

There was the biggest cheer of the day from the home fans when they got a free-kick and Huddlestone was booked. Funnily they didn't boo when the free-kick was played straight out of play.  With Walters pulling Walker down and falling himself, he won a free-kick from the gullible Friend, but when the ball was played to the far post, Huth had a free header and put it over the bar.

There was eight minutes left on the clock when Bale's through ball for Caulker was cut out, but the it fell to Dempsey, who steadied himself and played a low ball across the six yard box.  Adebayor popped up at the far post to knock it over the line from close range and give Spurs a 2-1 lead, which they had deserved for their attacking intent (in a footballing sense).  It was Clint's last action of the game and Gylfi Sigurdsson came on to take his place.

There was some interesting whistling from the home sections when Spurs took their time over goal-kicks and throws towards the end of the game, when Stoke's players were suddenly very keen to get on with the game.  Added to the shouts of “Hoof” when Spurs took no chances in clearing their lines, it was really a study in irony, which was no doubt lost on anyone in a red and white shirt or scarf.

The four minutes of stoppage time was mainly for time-wasting by Stoke, but they had one last chance when Jerome turned Vertonghen on their right and crossed to the far post, where defender Wilson came in, but could only head down and behind. Bale broke away onto Defoe's pass and Wilkinson did well to tackle him as he prepared to shoot and as the corner was taken, the final whistle went to signal a three point haul from a place where football rarely has a chance to shine.

What Stoke fans seem not to appreciate is that other teams are better than them and play football the way it was meant to be played. Their players are not of the quality to trouble the top six, but it is effort and brute force that sometimes upsets opponents. The fact that referees let them get way with it makes a mockery of the game. How Shawcross didn't get booked as he tries to play hard, but just makes himself look ridiculous. Ever wondered why Manchester United let him go and nobody has followed up an interest in him ? Tricky one isn't it.

Even players who looked good at other clubs have gone down to Stoke's level. Crouch looked a pale imitation of how he played for us and was feeding off scraps for most of the game. Charlie Adam showed that playing for Glasgow Rangers and playing for Stoke are much the same thing.  He is loved by the fans, but his efforts are less than contributory to any success that the team might hope to achieve.  But what Stoke want to do is be happily mid-table and listening to Tony Pulis' interview on the way home, as long as he can justify how wonderful he has made Stoke, he and their followers are all satisfied.  And good luck to them, as they obviously like to display their feelings without a care for what anyone else thinks.

And I, for one, am glad that I support Tottenham Hotspur. 

We may not get to the Champions League next season, but even so, this season has seen us play with style and energy ... and mainly within the laws of the game.  It has been a season that has seen Spurs have a marvellous away record and one which has seen some astonishing moments.  The emergence of the team under the new management of AVB has been one that has seen him re-establish himself as a coach of note and for Daniel Levy to have taken the brave move to appoint him, he deserves great credit too.

One more game for us to pay and it might all be for a place in the European Runners-up Cup, but to grow and learn, you have to make mistakes and I think AVB has learned of those he has made with Spurs already and if the players continue to grow under him, it could be a fruitful partnership for some time to come.

Isaac Gregory



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What you thought
Beck & Paul Thanks for the "Happy Birthday" song towards the end of the game.
Hope luck goes with you in the quest for European football.

Up The Potters.

(Ed. : - I take it back ... there are some decent Stokies out there !)

Gary Sampson I don't know if it was the fact that  it spoiled the Stokies' 150th Birthday celebrations, which culminated on Sunday, but it was if Charlie Adam had blown spit all over their cake in extinguishing any flicker of footballing life at the Britannia.  Odd then that Tottenham were the ones who were roundly despised for being handed three points by a shabby home performance.

I, for one, hope that Pulis gets the push, as then he will know how visiting centre-forwards feel when they are going for an incoming corner.  His histrionics do no credit to the history of the Midlands club and his re-writing of even the most recent happenings would not be out of place in a Stalinist regime.  I would be happy if his one-eyed view was no longer given an airing in the valley of the footballing blind.

It is shame that when Spurs fans were so gracious in singing "Happy Birthday", that the hosts were like a child who lost at a game of musical chairs.

- -.



Other scores during this week :
Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2 Saturday
Everton 2 West Ham United 0 Sunday
Fulham 1 Liverpool 3 Sunday
Manchester United 2 Swansea City 1 Sunday
Norwich City 4 West Bromwich Albion 0 Sunday
Queens Park Rangers 1 Newcastle United 2 Sunday
Sunderland 1 Southampton 1 Sunday
Manchester City - - - -day
Reading - - - -day
Wigan Athletic - - - -day
Arsenal - - - -day




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 37 28 4 5 81 38 88 +43
2 Manchester City 36 22 9 5 62 31 75 +31
3 Chelsea 37 21 9 7 73 38 72 +35
4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 37 20 9 8 65 46 69 +19
5 Arsenal 36 19 10 7 69 36 67 +33
6 Everton 37 16 15 6 54 38 63 +16
7 Liverpool 37 15 13 9 70 43 58 +27
8 West Bromwich Albion 37 14 6 17 49 53 48 -4
9 Swansea City 37 11 13 13 47 48 46 -1
10 West Ham United 37 11 10 16 38 48 43 -10
11 Stoke City 37 9 14 14 33 44 41 -11
12 Norwich City 37 9 14 14 38 56 41 -18
13 Fulham 37 10 10 17 47 60 40 -13
14 Aston Villa 37 10 10 17 45 67 40 -22
15 Southampton 37 9 13 15 48 59 40 -11
16 Sunderland 37 9 12 16 41 53 39 -12
17 Newcastle United 37 11 8 18 46 67 38 -21
18 Wigan Athletic 36 9 8 19 44 67 35 -23
19 Reading 36 6 10 20 41 67 28 -26
20 Queens Park Rangers 37 4 13 20 30 59 25 -29


Position before match :  5th
Position after match :  4th
Position after the week's fixtures :


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