MY BEST GAMES
1: Manchester City (1-0 Beattie header – ten men)
The biggest, and most important result in our Premier League history – in my opinion! I could have gone for the 3-2 home victory against Aston Villa during the 2008/09 campaign, as that gave us all great belief that we could beat the drop. However, after that game and 17 others, we entered a January transfer window that was going to be crucial to our chances of staying in the Premier League, given the fact that we were at the time in the bottom three. Enter James Beattie and Matthew Etherington – the key benefactors of why we stayed up that season. The pair injected new life into us, gave us genuine top-flight quality in the attacking areas, and as was proven in this game, could link up together with devastating effect to give us three points that nobody dared to have predict, especially when we were reduced to ten men during the first-half. This result gave us the platform to build upon during the second half of the season, and eventually we comfortably finished above the drop zone.
2: Aston Villa (2-1 – TP return)
Maybe one that won’t sit quite as high on most supporters’ top three, but working at the Club and being part of everything behind the scenes that day, you just simply prayed that the lads could go out and win the game for Tony Pulis. Having lost his mum in the hours leading into the game, and a few of us in the office having to produce a visual to be put up on the big screen stating that the gaffer wouldn’t be in charge that night – you could sense huge sadness around the Club. However, on what must have been the most emotional day of his life, he drove back to the Britannia Stadium from South Wales, watched the first half of the game from the box, and then took up his place pitch-side, to inspire a 2-1 victory, having been behind at the break - it was truly awe-inspiring. A night that I will remember for a long, long time.
3: Liverpool (3-1 Boxing Day)
Undoubtedly, our most accomplished and polished performance of the Premier League era. Slipping behind to an early Steven Gerrard penalty it would have been easy for the visitors to have walked over us that day, especially given the fact that they had picked up a couple of potentially season-turning results prior to the game. To come back from a goal down and win the game in the manner that we did however, and prolong an unbeaten run to nine games, was absolutely spectacular. We pressed them back, we dominated them, passed the ball around exceptionally well and scored three very well executed goals. Truth be told, the game could have ended 5-1 to Stoke – that wouldn’t have flattered us. An absolutely perfect post-Christmas present to every Stokie at the Brit on Boxing Day 2012!
MY WORST GAMES
3: Bolton (3-1 – First ever PL game)
I’ll be honest, going into the game I thought that it was the perfect first game for us. Away from home, absolutely no pressure, but playing against a side many expected to struggle. I thought we could sneak something from it. The 90 minutes proved that the gulf in class was absolutely incredible, and I genuinely feared that we would be relegated that season. The excitement of being in the Premier League was washed away in the space of two hours – thankfully, hope was restored against Aston Villa seven days later.
2: Chelsea (2-1 away – last minute heartbreak)
Possibly the most controversial choice of games, because we actually performed very well, but the feeling I, and every other Stoke fan felt following this game will haunt me for as long as I am watching the Potters. Leading 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, thanks to an audacious Delap dink over Cech, with two minutes to go – surely that is what dreams are made of, especially with the plethora of multi-million stars at their disposal on the day. Chelsea equalised in the 89th minute though through Belletti and then won the match with the last kick of the game from Lampard! The celebrations amongst the Chelsea camp was as if they had won the title. Never had I felt so gutted to have lost a match. The three hour trip home was absolutely horrendous.
1: Aston Villa (3-1 defeat last season)
For the first time since our inaugural Premier League campaign, I genuinely felt that sinking feeling, and struggled to find any hope that we could turn the season around, having been hit with this sucker-punch of a result. Villa absolutely dominated the game, and with them being below us in the table at that point, and finding form, a place in the bottom three come the end of the season became a very serious, and worrying, prospect. It took an almighty effort from the players to retain our spot in the top-flight, having endured a disastrous second half of the season.