The Rise and Rise of Stoke City
In the 2008-09 season, Stoke City gained promotion to the Premier League as the Runners Up of the Football League (Second Division). Nobody expected much from them, after all the newly promoted teams are normally light competition. Sure, they pull off a few upsets throughout the season to mid-table teams but they're still the whipping boys of the league. Stoke was expected to go straight back down to the Second division. And their first game in the Premier League suggested no less when Bolton handed them a harsh reality check with a 3-1 run-out.
But then they started proving the critics wrong when they beat Aston Villa in their first home game. Over the season, Stoke only claimed a meagre 9 points away but they succeeded in turning the Britannia Stadium into a fortress, winning 10 of their home games including impressive victories over Tottenham, Arsenal and newly rich Manchester City. Despite being tipped to go down easily, under Tony Pulis' shrewd management, Stoke finished the season at 12th place, comfortably away from the relegation zone.
The next season was quiet for Stoke. They went about their business ending up with a 11th place finish while once more beating Tottenham and holding other big teams to draws. 2010-11, was possibly their finest season since they came up, despite a 13th place finish. They ran to the FA Cup finals where ultimately they lost to Manchester City. Along the season, they recorded fine victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton. Despite losing the finals, as City finished in the top four, Stoke qualified for Europa League football as runners up. As of before Match-day five, Stoke is tied fourth after a win over Liverpool at the Britannia and holding Chelsea to a draw on the first day of the new season. In their first taste of European football in nearly 30 years, they travelled to Ukraine to take on the old powerhouses of Eastern Europe, Dynamo Kiev and came away with a point. With the dismal form of the North London clubs this season, many pundits are tipping Stoke for a top 7 finish.
The main reason for Stoke's success is their intensely physical playing style. They push, they shove and they bully their way through a game. While it's nothing very pretty to look at, it's effective. It's making do with the resources they have. Tony Pulis realises that they cannot emulate a Barcelona style of possession and passing play. They don't have the players for it. They do though have big target men and large physical defenders. Sure it's not beautiful football, but it gets results and that really is all that matters.
One of the strange things about Stoke is their specialist player, Rory Delap. The man is a former javelin thrower (which is an awesome sounding profession, by the way) and takes the most outrageous throw ins. With big strikers to aim for, these throw-ins caught many a team off guard and have made Delap a cult figure.
The Potters, as they are known, splurged the cash this window, bringing in the likes of Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios, Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson. No talk of them going into a relegation dog-fight but there is talk of them challenging for Europe. It's their fourth consecutive season in the top flight and it's safe to say, they are now an established Premier League team.
Last week, our topic was Pizza. While we received quite a few different takes on Pizza, this disastrously humourous piece took the edge off our hunger. For next week, our topic is: Airport. Submissions have to be within 500 words and sent in to firstname.lastname@example.org before Sunday noon. Good luck, folks.
By Nabil Rahaman
My sister steps inside the living room with a grin saying, "Look at what I've baked!" Exactly my question. What HAS she baked? It looks as though whatever she's holding in her hands tried to look like the map of Africa and somehow succeeded.
It's decorated with tomatoes, capsicums and what not? There are white gooey stuff all over it which looks like mayonnaise.
"Who wants to taste it first?" she asks eagerly. I turn to my brother. "It's your turn,” I say. He looks at me in dismay. Then he picks... ah... something from that something she's holding and pops it in his mouth.
Moment of truth. She studies his face. He doesn't move. No. Not even a muscle. He just stands still for some minutes. Goodness! It seems like whatever sister has concocted this time has a stunning taste which even beats Medusa's petrifying gaze.
"So?" she asks finally running out of patience, "How is it?"
"Yum!" he says with a smile that even the best actor in the world will have trouble pulling off. Man! We have such great talents in our house! She then turns to me; her gaze vindictive. I take a sneak peek at my brother who has just signed an appointment with the washroom and is sprinting towards it. She comes closer. I gulp. Why me? With a smug smile, she feeds me a full piece of 'That Thing' oozing with the white substance.
I instantly understand why bro ran off. Too much salt. It feels like a jolt of electricity is speeding down the wrong lane through my body. Why didn't SHE taste it before giving it to me? I get an inquisitive look from her. I can, in no way, smile at this state like should-win-an-Oscar brother. I just raise my thumb.
Apparently pleased, she smiles and tries to eat it herself. No time to see her reaction. I follow brother's footsteps. After coming out of the washroom, the first thing I notice is her lachrymose face.
"Why did you lie?" she asks. "Well, um, you see..." I fish for words.
"What really was it?" brother saves the day by changing the topic.
"You didn't notice? It was a pizza! But I put too much salt in it," she replies.
"Alright! No big deal. Everyone makes mistakes," brother says in a comforting tone.
This lights up her eyes. "Thanks guys. I have enough dough ready for the next 15 days in the fridge."
Brother whispers to me, "The end is near."
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