There might not be any football, but there’s still plenty for fans to debate.
Who has been their pick of the Potters this season… and should the season be scrapped or completed?
Debating these points and more are this week’s self-isolating Stoke City fans’ panel of RICHARD JAMES, from Blythe Bridge; CHRIS DROSDZOWSKI, from Reading; SIMON MARSON, from Stone; and JON OWEN, from Seabridge…
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BEST MOMENT OF THE SEASON?
Richard James: Without any doubt it has to be Barnsley away.
A big, noisy Potters following ready to welcome in a new era under Michael O’Neill and what followed didn’t disappoint.
A back to basics approach from a man with a plan rewarded the very lively away end with a great win, scoring four goals for the first time what felt like a lifetime, including two belters from Sam Clucas.
This was one of those “I was there” away days to look back on in the years to come, despite me still feeling effects of a heavy night out on the Friday with my usual Stoke partner in crime, Bob!
Chris Drosdzowski: Although visiting Brentford and its corner pubs twice was enjoyable, the highlight for me was the 4-2 win away at Barnsley.
To go into an early lead has been a rare treat these past four seasons, and it didn’t feel like ‘here we go again’ when Barnsley pulled one back.
We steamrollered the home team from start to finish, where Clucas and Allen put on a midfield masterclass. It was nice to visit the old Sheffield University haunts in the evening too!
Simon Marson: My best moment of the season has been when Michael O’Neill got appointed.
I had never been so disillusioned with the team and club prior to his appointment.
Not only has he massively improved results I feel like he is single handedly sorting the club out from top to bottom. Fans are unified in supporting him and he has our trust.
On the pitch the victory away against West Brom is my highlight. I genuinely felt that night that we had our club back, a performance built on teamwork and hard work which all us Stokies ask for.
Jon Owen: It might seem an easy option to pick the most recent memory, but I’d go for the 5-1 win over Hull earlier this month.
For so long this season, I’ve thought relegation has looked inevitable and a couple of times a hopeless situation.
Obviously, we still could drop and there’s a lot more hard work to do if we do get up and running. But, it’s a long time since we’ve seen a Stoke side take a team in the same league to the cleaners, and it could easily have been seven or 8-1.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BEST PLAYER?
Richard James: Prior to the arrival of Michael O’Neill you’d have been hard pressed to suggest any candidate at all such was the rudderless, cesspit our club had become.
The upturn in our form has seen several players start to fulfil their potential under a proper football manager.
The likes of Tyrese Campbell, Joe Allen, James McClean, Nick Powell and Sam Clucas have really excelled by being given a structured system which has brought the rewards we were all hoping for.
For me, Clucas gets the nod though, to get to double figures from midfield is always a notable achievement but in the context of this season, it’s fairly remarkable actually.
Chris Drosdzowski: The aforementioned Sam Clucas gets the nod for me.
I have loved James McClean’s energy and enthusiasm since Michael O’Neill has transformed his confidence, but Clucas has been excellent going forward and defensively all season.
Clucas has chipped in with some vital goals, and his drive to always strive to attack has been a key factor in winning games.
Simon Marson: Best player is a tricky one, prior to his injury I would have gone for James McClean.
I’m a huge fan of his and since O’Neill has come in his performances have stepped up further. He never shirks away and is a much better footballer than some give him credit for.
However, Nick Powell is pushing him close, for the first time since Ricardo Fuller I get excited when he gets the ball, he has a swagger and arrogance which is brilliant.
Lastly a big mention to Sam Clucas who has been very good in a difficult season.
Jon Owen: Sam Clucas. Getting into double figures for goals is quite a feat considering we’ve been largely poor this season.
He’s really grown on me this season, especially since January, and his goals could prove to be the difference between relegation and staying up.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR LOW POINT OF THE SEASON?
Richard James: The start of the season was really painful to watch and each defeat had a real air on inevitability as teams easily sussed us out and picked off our frailties almost whenever they chose to up the tempo.
It truly was awful stuff for us Stokies to endure.
Chris Drosdzowski: So many to mention!
There have been too many limp surrenders to mention, such as the first home game of the season against QPR, but the time that sticks out was the away loss to Birmingham City followed by the home loss to Bristol City.
The players just seemed to crumble and give up, and that was the time in my view that signalled Nathan Jones had lost them.
Simon Marson: The low point? Wow, there has been a few. I would opt for the Nathan Jones era as a whole.
I along with most wanted it to work, but my God it didn’t and O’Neill has proved how wrong Jones was getting it.
We would have been relegated by now under Jones, it’s as simple as that.
Jon Owen: There’s quite a few! Losing to Middlesbrough just before Christmas.
A game we were in control of thrown away and at that moment, I really couldn’t see a way out.
Middlesbrough were really poor and seeing us cave in the way we did was so worrying.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITHOUT FOOTBALL TO WATCH?
Richard James: Not a lot at first to be honest prior to the effects of Covid-19 really hitting home.
Post lockdown the lack of football has helped focus my mind on getting back to basics and concentrate on what’s important.
As a family we’ve almost rediscovered enjoying the simple things in life and have tried to move away from technology and social media.
Much to my wife’s surprise, I’ve actually become useful around the house and garden, which is very unusual to say the least!
Due to the fact she is one of the many heroes in our amazing NHS, one of my new tasks revolves around helping our youngest with home schooling.
Perhaps the biggest shock to those who know me was the sight of me joining in with him doing his morning PE session with the help of a live stream from Joe Wicks. Incredible scenes!
Chris Drosdzowski: Like many others, trying to work as normally as possible; this is quite difficult in my job but working keeps your mind active.
The career mode as manager of Stoke City on Fifa is going well, but can only hold my interest for so long.
I’ve been walking everywhere, but so is everyone else; it’s like the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme out there, while trying to duck and dodge folk.
Simon Marson: Life without football is horrendous isn’t it? What do people do at a weekend who don’t like sport? Seriously, what do they do?
Nothing has filled the void for me and never will.
Spending time with my daughters has taken over, but what I would do for a couple hours up Trentham Lakes right now.
I can see the divorce rate in Stoke-on-Trent going up massively in the coming weeks.
Jon Owen: Looking after my daughter who is nearly two – although she doesn’t seem too bothered about watching highlights from our promotion season or first in the Premier League.
I’ve also read much more than usual, and even spoken to a few friends who I’ve not been in touch with in a while!
DO YOU THINK THE SEASON SHOULD BE COMPLETED OR SCRAPPED?
Richard James: To my mind it has to be scrapped and this is 100 per cent a no-brainer, especially as it looks like it will be way beyond April before we could even consider resuming the season.
As it stands there are no titles won and nobody has been relegated in the professional game.
Clearly Liverpool fans will be devastated after getting to within touching distance of winning the Premier League of course, but something has to give.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, it was the Anfield club’s former manager Bill Shankly who famously said that football was far a more serious matter than life or death.
As someone who lives for football, the current situation we all find ourselves in makes you realise just how far off the mark that (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) statement was.
From a Stoke City point of view, I’d imagine you’d struggle to find many Potters fans who would be that disappointed if the season was to end now.
Firstly, of course, it guarantees our safety (although under MON I’d be hugely confident of achieving that anyway) and we’d be signing off after a superb 5-1 win over Hull with many of our key players finding form and goals under a man with clear vision.
I really think we can look forward with real hope for a new campaign.
Stay safe all, I’ll hopefully see you on the other side of this, ready for our glorious promotion push.
Vis Unita Fortior.
Chris Drosdzowski: This one is very tricky.
On the one hand I felt confident we had turned a corner, with four games unbeaten and that outstanding demolition of Hull City so relegation appeared unlikely so would have liked to finish the season.
On the other hand, the longer this situation drags on the more untenable it could become to complete the fixtures in all leagues.
Simon Marson: I can’t see how this season can be scrapped at a professional level.
It must be finished and if that means behind closed doors then so be it, it’s not ideal but it must be finished.
There is too much money involved in the promotion and relegations for it to be scrapped.
Having said all that, if it stops the Vale getting promoted, scrap it all now!
Jon Owen: It’s perhaps easy to say when you’re in a relegation fight that it should be scrapped.
It was interesting this week to hear non-league football had been scrapped, a move which desperately seems unfair.
However, the longer we go on without football, and the closer we get to September, it edges into being virtually impossible to continue, doesn’t it?
It’s such a difficult one to answer and I’ll be honest, one I’ve not completely got my head around.