“You couldn’t have hand-picked a much better first home game since lockdown for Stoke than Middlesbrough.
Their 3-0 home defeat by Swansea on Saturday suggests they could be in free fall if they’re not careful.
And then we read that six senior players have still to agree a contract extension with the club to cover them after Saturday’s match at Stoke.
I should have thought that’s the last kind of distraction those six need when they should be focussing one hundred per cent on avoiding the drop.
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Given Steve Gibson is owner, and has been for many years, I’m surprised that situation has developed there.
It’s sad to see a club of Boro’s size looking so vulnerable and a real surprise when you compare the resources they should have at their disposal compared to others down there like Luton and Barnsley.
It won’t have escaped Stoke’s notice that Hull really are in serious trouble and looked like they were having to play a bunch of kids when they lost at home to Charlton on Saturday because of their injuries, not to mention selling their two best players in January.
Not that Stoke can rely on the woes of others and that’s why that late equaliser at Reading was huge.
Not only the point, but because it came so late it might almost feel like a winner and should leave them in great spirits heading into the Middlesbrough game this weekend.
As the minutes ticked by at Reading, I remember thinking they’ve got to somehow get something out of this game, not start with a defeat after lockdown.
Particularly as they now have three games in a week against teams down there with them in Middlesbrough, Wigan and then Barnsley.
I have to say that watching games on telly without fans has made for uncomfortable viewing personally.
The background crowd noise helps, but you still know it’s not for real and there’s nothing like a spontaneous roar from an actual crowd.
Spectators are part of the entertainment, part of the show, and I for one am missing them desperately.
I’ll find out what it’s like to be at a game behind closed doors when Manchester United take on Sheffield United at Old Trafford tomorrow night.
That’s a 75,000 arena and it’s going to feel very empty and very strange.
I might be looking forward to the game, but I’m not so sure about the occasion.
It was great to hear from Jackie Marsh when he gave an interview last week.
My God he’s been through the wars health wise and if ever anyone deserved a change of luck it must be Jackie.
He certainly sounds in good spirits, particularly all things considered, and now we hope to see his treatment bring the results we all want.
Finally this week, I had to laugh when an old Scottish journalist rang me to ask for my memories of Scotland’s trip to Brazil in 1971.
We ended up there because Tommy Docherty was our manager and he’d always wanted to visit Brazil.
As for the memories, I remember the famous Maracana Stadium, but very little else in all honesty.
I told the journalist as much and said: “Why are you asking me anyway, don’t forget you were there as well?”
To which he replied: “I know, but I can’t remember that far back either, that’s why I was asking you!”