5 Stoke City stories that will help you beat the boredom


With the majority of us in lockdown, it can be difficult to pass the time during these difficult times.

We have done the leg work for you and compiled a selection of Stoke City stories that you may not have read.

Sit back and enjoy a long read from the last couple of weeks.

1) The boss speaks

Michael O’Neill has been driven to DIY and cleaning up his garage in a bid to beat the boredom of self isolation.

The Stoke manager is currently in lock down because of the coronavirus crisis at his Scottish home with his wife and two daughters.

He’s keeping busy with work and exercise – and making himself useful around the house.

“It’s been difficult really, to be honest,” O’Neill confessed.

“On a personal level, I try to go out for a cycle or a run, so that’s my one bit of exercise a day.

Michael O’Neill

“Other than that, I’ve been doing a bit of DIY, which I’m not particularly good at.

“We had the house decorated and there’s still a few things to put back, so I’ve been putting up things like towel rails and toilet roll holders.

“I’ve also tidied up the garage, so nothing too adventurous.”

As for his teenage daughters, he insists he has bitten his tongue where social media and the like is concerned.

He disclosed: “My eldest was preparing for her exams and she plays football for Hearts, so all that has had to stop.

“We are trying to push them out once-a-day for a run or to play a bit of hockey and there’s school work too on the on-line platform.

“It’s difficult for the younger ones because they can’t see their friends.

“It’s the one time you can’t shout at them for being on the technology for too long.”

As for his day job, he is keeping open the channels of communication to ensure he’s ready to pick up the baton when the nation gets the all clear.

Prediction… Michael O’Neill

“There’s been as much communication and football stuff as we can, things like looking back at games,” O’Neill continued.

“We’ve also been looking at some planning going forward for when the season starts, but also looking to next season as well and things like the squad and the players out of contract.

“I think the landscape will be very different when we do come out of it.”

He is hoping that his squad return as fit as they can be after being handed fitness programmes to keep in shape.

“There’s been communication with players on their fitness to keep on top of them.

“I’ve spoken to various players on the phone or via WhatsApp and we are setting up conference calls with the fitness and sports science team because they’re the ones who set the programmes and the GPS tracking, they probably have more contact with the players on a daily basis.

“The medical team will also be in touch because even working remotely, some of the players might wake up a bit sore the next morning.

“When we get closer to returning and playing there will be more interaction with the players.”

2) The training regime

Jared Roberts-Smith has worked with Nathan Jones at Charlton and Luton as well as at Stoke.

Stoke City’s head of sports science Jared Roberts-Smith has revealed how the players are keeping their fitness levels up during the coronavirus suspension.

The Potters ’ season is currently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the season not due to resume until April 30, at the earliest.

However, it remains highly unlikely that Stoke will return to action by the end of this month, with football authorities currently plotting what to do next.

Roberts-Smith has been with Stoke since the summer after accompanying Nathan Jones from Luton Town, and has remained with the Potters following Michael O’Neill appointment in November.

City’s head of sports science has discussed what the players will be doing to keep up their fitness levels during this period of uncertainty.

“The club has invested and ensured each player has been sent a gym package with equipment for home sessions, alongside nutrition and supplement boxes with all the necessary products to get them through this period,” Roberts-Smith told the club website.

He added: “In addition, each player has been sent a stat sports GPS unit and polar heart rate unit so that we can remotely track the physical work they complete in isolation at home via an online application.

Nathan Jones’s sports scientist Jared Roberts-Smith at Clayton Wood this morning.

“We have carefully planned the sessions as a department to ensure the players are getting the fitness and conditioning work they would get across a normal training week.

“Their sessions aim to include much of the work that was discussed within the training week such as:

“Intensive elements – short sprints, explosive accelerations and decelerations.

“Extensive elements – volume and distance runs as well as supplementary aspects such as high speed running, max velocity and multi directional speed components.

“We are then able to analyse their work and make comparisons amongst the squad and ensure we are completing work in line with a normal training week.

“This should ensure the players are maintaining their physical conditioning and strength levels.

“We want to ensure our players are working and getting the contact as close as possible to a normal training week despite the adverse challenges that are being presented.

“This takes a lot of work and time but is exactly what needs to be done to make sure they stay as close as possible to the condition when we left with regards to training exposure and match preparation.

“We are in constant contact and have provided an around-the-clock contact line so players can ask questions for help with their health and safety as well as remote training sessions.

“Joe Dixon, our club sports psychologist, has also provided the necessary handouts for our players with regards to motivation, resilience, leadership and anxiety during this tough and unprecedented time.

“Despite the constantly adapting plans and guidelines, as a coaching staff we have been proactive with meeting regularly, as well as having rolling plans that can be finalised at any point to ensure we are as organised as possible for when the players arrive back in training.”

3) Rate the kits

Stoke City’s new 2019/20 home and away kits

There are some clubs whose away kits are almost as familiar as their home strips.

But Stoke City have gone through all kinds of colours over the decades, with greens, yellows and blues all being used for different campaigns.

Some have flown off the shelves – the baby blue change strip from 2016/17 was one of the club’s all-time top sellers – and some have been stinkers.

Some still divide opinion – we’re looking at you the purple haze top worn by Stoke’s title-winners of 1992/93.

As we wait to find out what Stoke will wear on the road next season – however soon that may be – we have dusted off photographs of 28 different away kits that have been worn since 1990 for possible inspiration.

You can give a thumbs up to ones that pass muster and a thumbs down to those which make you want to cover your eyes. Forget the players who pulled on these tops and just look at the tops themselves, as well as shorts and stockings.

4) The next big thing?

It was interesting to hear how  Michael O’Neill  is spending his unexpected spare hours – and there are plenty of them – as he prepares a time when things will finally return to as normal as possible at  Stoke City.

This is a manager who everyone has always says leaves no stone unturned.

But this is a manager who has been almost completely focused on the one task of keeping Stoke in the Championship.

So  he has taken the opportunity this week  to catch up on everything from recommended transfer targets to what’s bubbling underneath in the Academy.

He said: “A lot of my understanding of the club, I suppose, getting to know who the people in the Academy are, for example, I’ve not had a real opportunity to do that because I’ve just been dealing with games all the time. The position of the club, our priority has been to make sure we get three points all the time. That’s been our only priority.”

So what, then, is bubbling underneath?

Stoke City under-18s striker Mo Sankoh prepares to take on Manchester City in the PL Cup final

Stoke under-23s have been picking up decent results this term under Kevin Russell and had reached the knock-out rounds of the PL Cup.

The under-18s had already reached the final of that competition in their age group – even if that night at Manchester City, with O’Neill watching, was a disappointment.

And there are some pretty special talents in that group.

Keep an eye out for players including captain Adam Porter, defenders Kieran Coates and Lewis Macari, striker Andre Godfrinne, midfielders Pat Jarrett and Dan Malone and… well, you can read the full introduction to that squad, with help from Porter, here.

So who will win the race to the first team?

You can put your hat on Mo Sankoh, perhaps particularly because a striker might be easier to be thrown onto the bench when he’s already got the pace and power and skill and knack of changing games as this lad.

Sankoh is still only 16 and a student at Clayton Hall Academy, even if he just happened to be the youngest member of a Holland squad which were crowned European under-17s champions last summer.

He joined Stoke from Sparta Rotterdam in 2018 and has been in prolific form for the under-18s and 23s in the last few months. We should have been seeing more of him for the under-23s right now.

Porter said: “Massive character. Although he’s younger, he’s one of the leaders on the pitch. Not lacking in self-confidence but always willing to put a shift in. His record speaks for itself.

“Speaking for myself as a midfielder, you get judged off goals and assists and having those two lads up front making runs all day is brilliant. If we’re doing the right things in our box we know we’ve got one or two goals guaranteed because they’re so clinical.

Mo Sankoh with his hat-trick ball up his jumper as Stoke City under-18s beat Norwich 8-0 in the Premier League Cup.

“Their work allows us to get runs up to them, too.”

His coaches have been impressed too.

Academy director Gareth Owen said back in pre-season: “We’ve got really high hopes for him as long as he keeps his feet grounded, keeps working, keeps improving, keeps listening.

“His character is infectious. He’s a really good personality to have around the building and he’s got a lot of positive attributes as a centre-forward which you like.

“He’s the more physical type of centre-forward but he’s clever. He’s got to improve his slightly with his technical finishing but he’s a fantastic talent and one we are really optimistic about for the future.”

And under-18s coach Rich Walker said last month: “Mo has got a fantastic, infectious personality, a real good temperament. He enjoys the showcase event – and he’s scored a lot of goals, like Andre.

“He’s become a bit of the talisman of the side and he’s still an under-16 player. The group has really taken to him and he leads the line well.

“He does a lot of fantastic stuff – an eye for goal, a good finisher, he’s strong and works extremely hard – and he knows there are still a lot of areas he still needs to improve, like every player at under-18s, but he’s diligent.

“He’s already played in the under-23s at different points and that will continue. It’s important we get his programme right, as a team of coaching staff, and get the right balance between stretching him and consolidating his learning as he progresses and improves.”

5) Hard as nails

Liam Lawrence, when put on the spot, admitted he had a tough job picking out his five hardest teammates at Stoke City.

Lawrence played in a team that didn’t take much nonsense and the calibre of player that didn’t even make the cut – Robert Huth and Jon Walters no less – kind of told the story.

In the end, he plumped for Abdoulaye Faye, Carl Dickinson, Ricardo Fuller, Andy Griffin and Rory Delap.

In safe hands... Rory Delap in familiar pose during his playing days at Stoke City
In safe hands… Rory Delap in familiar pose during his playing days at Stoke City

And there has been plenty of debate since among Stoke fans about who has been the hardest player to watch from the stands.

There are few who get regular mentions, including Maurice Setters, Eddie Clamp, Denis Smith and Mike Pejic.

These are fellas you would want on your side if you went down a dark alley.

Denis Smith charges over to block a shot from George Best.

Geoffrey Bentley: I’ve seen Setters and Clamp chase after the opponent’s winger the first time they got it. If they caught them everything was ok, if they didn’t the next time they kicked the winger over the stand, just to let them know they were there.

Years ago a poll was taken by a national paper. It asked every centre forward who was the hardest centre half (who didn’t they liked playing against), Smithy came out on top by a mile.

Andy Slee: Top two for me – Denis Smith and Robert Huth. Denis wins out for the era he played in.

Alex Gill: He was only with us a short while but Billy Whitehurst was as hard as nails…..a centre half’s nightmare.

Nick Damjanovic: Denis Smith, centre forwards were scared of him. Dennis Law never played against him as far as I am aware he was terrified of him.

Billy Brennan: Maurice Setters but defenders got away with a lot more in that era. If any one whacked Sir Stan, Maurice marked their card.

Mark Greensmith: I am surprised no one has mentioned Mike Doyle or Dave Watson. Both solid defenders that could dish it out when necessary.

John Corcoran: Eddie Clamp. He had a lovely heading action, trouble was he used to put it on the heads of the opposition.

Lester Bebbington: What about Mick Pejic? Always gave Mike Summerbee a right battle and took no prisoners.

Chris Welch: Loved Cranson and Vinny together.

Dave Underwood: Abdoulaye Faye – he was nails.

Abdoulaye Faye... a sheer monster of a man
Abdoulaye Faye… a sheer monster of a man

David Riley: Denis Smith laid his body on the line for Stoke

Paul Fisher: Denis Smith without any doubt he would have died for Stoke City

Ian Rigby: Remember Clampy and John Connelly at the Victoria Ground.

Derek Cartwright: This is a hard one, from the likes of Overson, Cranson, Blake and Gleghorn to Shawcross and Huth.

Col Galloway: Denis Smith and Alan Bloor nobody messed with those two.

Alan Joinson: Denis Smith. The first three rows of the paddocks had to wear shinpads when Denis played.

Bill Wood: The 11th commandment – thou shalt not pass Smith!

Dave Grocott: Maurice Setters by a mile.

Graham Buckton: Smithy by a country mile, when real hard men existed in football

Rob Pemberton: Smith, Bloor, Allen (Tony), Setters.

Geoffrey Bentley: Has to be the legend that is Denis Smith.

Darren Cole: Gerry Taggart – and Super James liked a tackle.

Stoke City's Gerry Taggart and Millwall's Dennis Wise get reacquainted at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke City’s Gerry Taggart and Millwall’s Dennis Wise get reacquainted at the Britannia Stadium.

John Shaw: Probably Eddie Clamp.

David Wood: Maurice Setters or Eddie Clamp.

Mick Steele: Denis Smith, George Berry, Mike Doyle

Steven Tatton: Gerry Taggart – loved it when he did Marc Bircham.

Carol Millington: Smithy, Pejic, Huthy, Wilko, Shawcross, McClean.

Sam Shaw: Ricardo Fuller was handy.

John Davies: Maurice Setters.

Martin Sims: Smithy without doubt.

Stephen Betts: Mike Bernard.

Dave Warrilow: Overson

Ian Gregory: Calvin Palmer

Alan Sant: Maurice setters for mer

Kelvin Evans: Maurice Setters

Paul Hansbury: Smith and Pejic.

Malcolm Ellerton: Maurice setters

John Belville: Eddie Clamp.

Andrew Rushton: Wilko





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