Danny Higginbotham has been re-living some Stoke City memories – and tipping the wink to Arsene Wenger in the process.
Stoke enjoyed some of their best Premier League days whenever Arsenal and Wenger came to town and it was no coincidence.
Higginbotham, a key defender during those early years after promotion, has been casting his mind back to a golden era for Stoke and his career during an interview for the What The Falk podcast.
“It’s a team that will be remembered for a long time because of the characters and the way we went about our business,” said Higginbotham.
“A lot of people had written us off, but Tony Pulis had a very good knack of bringing in players who had maybe lost their way a little bit and he picked them up and created this incredible dressing room.
“You’d finish training at say 12.00, but everybody would be still there at half two, three o’clock because he created this incredible dressing room, all for one and one for all.
“We created a siege mentality and Arsene Wenger called us a rugby team, but we fed off that to make sure that anybody that didn’t want us in the league… `sorry, we are not going anywhere.’
“It’s important when a manager goes into a club that he knows his audience, his crowd.
“Stoke is a working-class area and if they see a group of players sweating blood and tears, and going off the pitch beaten, they will accept it. Not a problem, as long as you’ve given everything.
“We knew what we were, that our strengths were going to be our home form and the longer the games would go on the stronger we would get because we were a very fit team.
“We’d walk out of the tunnel and you would physically see the blood drain from (opposition) players’ faces as if `what the hell have we walked into?’
“We knew as a team that when your Arsenals and top teams came to our place, if we played them at their game the game would be over in 20 minutes.
“If you played teams that wanted to pass the ball, Tony Pulis wouldn’t cut the grass and these top players would have to take two touches and the second touch might be a tackle from one of our players.
“If the crap hit the fan, everybody would be there for each other and that’s what we took onto the pitch and what the fans fed off.
“We used to talk after games and say we’d hate to play against us.
“But when you lose those ingredients, that identity, and hit a ceiling, a crossroads… and we’ve seen it with so many teams.
“People would snatch your hand off to finish ninth now.”