Expect the expected – Stoke preview

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You already know everything that you need to know about Stoke.  I could be cheeky and say that even if you know nothing about Stoke then you still know all you ever need to know, but that’s not what I mean, and what makes Wigan any different?  What I mean is that Stoke, the place, the team, the fans, aren’t about to come on like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they do what they say on the tin, in fact the most contrary thing about the whole place is Nick Hancock’s career in comedy. 

Robbie Williams?  Well he’s not from Stoke anyway bit in any case he did the most typical thing for a sensitive soul from any northern town, by buggering off as soon as was possible without showing ingratitude to his mum.

So, whichever picture of the potters you subscribe to, we’ll see it tomorrow.  We’ll get Delilah, long throws and hard work.  We’ll get kicks, niggles and moans.  We’ll get team spirit and working together.  Tony Pullis and Peter Reid will look miserable and work their way through an industrial pack of Wrigley’s.  The question these days is not what you’ll get from Stoke, it’s how you’ll cope with it.

If we’re honest, what we’re all a little scared to say is that Latics should be able to handle Stoke.  It should be beauty and the beast and deep down we all believe that beauty should win out in football.  “No-one likes us and we don’t care” leave that one for the office banter, there’s nothing better than being everyone’s second team because of the way you play the game, we’ve been there, we know.

The problem is that beauty doesn’t always win out, that all too often it comes over all limp and fragile and in any case we can’t guarantee that the good Latics will turn up. 

Maybe it doesn’t matter, what Latics have failed to show us this season is that they are capable of winning ugly of grinding results out.  Take Wolves, Fulham and Everton at home; Blackburn, Stoke and, erm, Everton away.  All of them games that Latics couldhaveshouldhave got more from and didn’t.  But the Sunderland game did give hope of a new resilience in the way that we allowed them back into the game but not to edge past us, we’ll need plenty more of that grit tomorrow.

I’ll be on the train back from that London and I suspect that I won’t be missing a classic, but who knows?  I’m sick of hearing how inconsistent Latics are this season, but it would be great to see them buck the trend of this one and claw some of that goal difference back, now where’s Jeff Kenna when you need him?

(picture taken from Ruben’s ‘Samson and Delilah’ (c) The National Gallery)

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