Stoke City: Choose Your Own Adventure

You are Stoke City manager. Despite lofty pre-season expectations of being somewhat competent Stoke City have slumped to the murky depths of lower mid-table and got rid of the previous manager in the middle of the season. You are given the task of giving the crowd something to shout about before the end of the season. Despite some signs of progress, your few games so far have generated little towards. But there’s two games in a week coming up, and now’s your opportunity to show the fans what you’re made of. You wake up in your Cheshire hotel room, half a bottle of whiskey on the side from the night before. It’s matchday, and you’ve got just enough time for a quick breakfast before heading to the stadium. Do you…

Ask for a Staffordshire Oatcake

Or Just have cereal?

As you chomp on your cheese and bacon Oatcake. You are snapped by a passing fan, who sells the photo to ‘Bear Loud Drivel TV’ for thousands. Within an hour, the sight of you enjoying the Pottery delicacy has gone viral on the Stoke-based internet. “Absolute class” says one fan, “Finally a gaffer who understands our way of life” says another. An Oatcake thread is devoted to discussing whether you are already better than Waddington. With a few bites of your breakfast, you’ve already got the fans onside. But it’s time to go to the game, and it’s coming up on 2pm and you haven’t picked your team yet. Do you…

Pick a balanced side, with pace on the wings, creativity going forward and strength at the back?

Just pick 11 players and hope everything will work out.
Your cereal is satisfying, and you feel fresh for the day ahead. But there’s bad news. Word of your Oatcake snub has reached Radio Stoke, who cancel all their scheduled programming (“Robbie Williams Live from Trentham Monkey Forest”) to report on your act of disrespect towards the humble Oatcake. Jim on Radio Stoke has already called up to call you a disgrace and a fascist. You want to ring and defend yourself, you just fancied Corn Flakes! That’s all! It wasn’t intended as a deliberate swipe against the good people of Stoke-on-Trent, but there isn’t time. You get to the stadium, being pelted with Oatcakes as you head inside. It’s time to pick the team. Do you…?

Pick a balanced side, with pace on the wings, creativity going forward and strength at the back?

Just pick 11 players and hope everything will work out.

You genius! Your side are flying! After weeks of frustration, this is the week it all comes together. Stoke attack with pace and purpose, whilst dealing with every attack that comes their way. You are so close to being given the freedom of the city. Stoke go in at half time 3-0 up, by which time The Boothen end has unveiled a 50ft Oatcake Tifo, with your face drawn on in brown sauce (@jbdotco for 20% off). After half time, Stoke show no sign of relenting, and yes…it’s a penalty! But who takes it?

Benik Afobe… the centre-forward has already scored today and can add to his tally

Peter Etebo… he hasn’t missed a penalty for Stoke and will strike with venom

Jack Butland… Anything to break the penalty curse?

You genius! Your side are flying! After weeks of frustration, this is the week it all comes together. Stoke attack with pace and purpose, whilst dealing with every attack that comes their way. Stoke go into half-time 3-0 up and fans are starting to forgive you for the Oatcake incident earlier in the day. “I had my doubts about him to be sure, but maybe this continental ‘Corn Flake’ eater is the way our club needs to go if we’re to progress”, you hear as you walk back through the tunnel. It’s always nice to hear Charlie talk about you like that. The fans have even created a giant tifo, with your face represented in thousands of corn flakes, with the words “He’s Grrrrrrrreat” underneath. This is so touching you don’t even call them ‘fucking idiots’ for getting the cereal slogan underneath. Early in the second half, Stoke get a penalty. Who takes it?

Benik Afobe… the centre-forward has already scored today and can add to his tally

Peter Etebo… he hasn’t missed a penalty for Stoke and will strike with venom

Jack Butland… Anything to break the penalty curse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

saved

Stoke’s penalty record continues but you’re still three-nil up. With half an hour left, what are you going to do?

Go for broke…let’s humiliate them!

Sit on the lead… 3-0 should be enough.

The penalty miss lingering on the players’ minds, your opponents ‘South West Yorkshire Reds’ quickly pull two goals back. With 80 minutes on the clock, your lead is now only one goal. All hell breaks loose. The fans tear up the tifo, and gnaw on it’s delicious contents. There is a real toxic atmosphere now. Sam Clucas has tripped and knocked Bojan into a ball boy, who staggers backwards and falls onto a plank of wood which had been resting on a barrel. Unfortunately, the barrel acts as a fulcrum and the ball boy’s collapse causes the opposite end of the planks to spring upwards, and propel an empty paint can fifty feet into the air. It lands squarely on Charlie Adam’s head and the midfielder can no longer see where he’s going. In a blind panic, he chops down Ryan Shawcross on the edge of the penalty area, causing the ball to run free to the opposition striker. Butland runs out to block the shot, but slips on a banana skin, falling comically. Danny Batth rushes over to rescue the situation, but as he slides in to block the tap-in he’s hit on the head by an Acme hammer, and all hope is lost when a backtracking Bruno Martins Indi runs into a wall that he himself had painted two minutes earlier to catch road runner. 3-3. And with half the Stoke squad now injured, with little birds flying around their heads, the away side score a fourth before full time. Stoke have lost, and the fans are not happy. They are baying for blood. It’s time now. Fight or flight must kick in.

Do you run and hide to the sanctity of Delilah’s Bar?

Go out to the fans, and take the criticism that will inevitably come your way?

You run to Delilah’s. You’ll be safe here. But you’ve made a mistake. Delilah’s Bar is open post-match! How could you have forgotten this crucial detail? The beady eyes of the patrons turning towards you, it’s time to make a decision.

Honestly explain yourself, the decisions you made, apologise for the result and make a commitment to improve in future

Run away

You host an impromptu Q&A in Delilah’s Bar. Fans ask tough, searching questions and you wonder if this football management malarkey is all for you. But as you answer the questions, you sense that more of an understanding is development. Fans are frustrated, everyone’s frustrated but people are starting to believe you when you say you can turn it around. “Gaffer” says one voice, who you recognise as being Jim from Radio Stoke… “Thank you for answering our questions. I think I’ll be ready to forgive you, if you buy everyone a drink”. Buy buying a drink for everyone, you can absolve yourself and reclaim your ‘man of the people’ status.

Buy the drink!

Right, this will be a serious hit to your finances, but you’re prepared to buy everyone a pint of £4.20 Pedigree if that’s what it takes. You turn to the member of staff behind the bar and order 87 pints.

“That’s £365.40 please”

“Okay, here’s my card”

“Sorry, we don’t take card.”

“You what?”

“Only cash”

“I’m the manager! Surely you can make an exception?”

“Only cash”

“Well, is there a nearby cash machine?”

“No, but I think we might be trialling them in 2027.”

“That’s no fucking use to me! What kind of medieval barter system is in operation at this fucking club? My life literally depends on being able to buy all these people a drink! Take it out my wages! Something!”

“Only cash”

As the fans in Delilah’s grow restless, there’s only one thing for it.

Run away!

You run. You try to run. But you are chased down Stanley Matthews way by a few of the Naughty 40 lot, with the help of superhero vigilante Oatcake Man. Captured in Oatcake Man’s web of cheese, you are unable to move. You are fed to Pottermus in a ‘Wicker Man’ style ceremony on the pitch. You are dead.

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