Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Football as it used to be: Stoke v Bolton and Blackburn v Everton in the Premier League

Just when I thought the crap weather we have been experiencing recently had gone away for another year, back comes the wind, rain and snow.
I'm sure the storm clouds have been gathering in the North Sea somewhere, sniggering as we struggled to de-ice our cars and slide along pavements, knowing that as soon as things clear up they will scuttle over and do it all over again like a schoolyard bully.
Anyway apart from a whinge about the weather (in true Brit style) the main aim of today's ramblings is to point out how grim it can be for a fan to trudge to the match on a cold, wet and windy weeknight. Especially when the fare on offer is Stoke v Bolton. If ever a football match evokes images of flat caps and baggy trousers it's this old school encounter. And despite this match-up being in the shiny, modern, money-making machine that is the Premier League, don't expect any slick, free-flowing, commercially marketable football.
Long-ball, fouls, free kicks and bawling supporters will dominate proceedings as Stoke look to make it as unpleasant as possible for their opponents, something Bolton have been doing for the past six years. It's a game I would quite happily watch from the comfort of my armchair.
Now I don't blame Stoke for being aggressive and making the Britannia Stadium a tough place to go, the intimidating atmosphere can be a great leveller. Plus I'm sure Bolton will point out how successful they have been in the Premier League in recent years. But more often than not that style of play results in a turgid, scrappy excuse of a football match, with 100% commitment but very little skill.
Expect more of the same up at Ewood (where I inexplicably bought a ticket, I clearly didn't think that through -what have I let myself in for??!!) where Sam Allardyce has employed his Bolton tactics in order to toughen his Blackburn side up and drag themselves out of the relegation zone. Everton meanwhile, with a casualty list long enough to stretch the length of the Mersey, will, as much as I hate to say it, probably employ similar tactics, . Shorn of our most creative players the best we can do is match Blackburn in the commitment stakes and hope a little bit of quality or a moment of inspiration from the likes of Cahill or Pienaar cans see us through. Personally I am not holding out much hope and with a FA Cup quarter-final on the horizon, I have a bad feeling Rovers could nick this one, just as they did on the opening day of the season.

Stoke 1-0 Bolton
Blackburn 1-0 Everton

and plenty of yellow cards...........

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