A midweek bonus takes in master intercepticons Man United, Arsenal's wealth of scorers, Liverpool's set-piece mastery and Eric Lamela tackling but not creating...
On Friday we'll sit in front of our televisions or Twitter, glued to what is basic administration. Daniel Storey stands on his soapbox and scrooges about the World Cup draw...
What do the papers, the TV, and fans of other clubs think about your team? In this series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the stereotypes, coverage and media agendas for each team in the Premier League. This week, it's the turn of the Potteries battlers, Stoke City.
Ex-player pundit presence
Would you say, looking back on the interviews he has done over the years and the questions asked by him, or to put it another way, the questions that he has asked to people in interviews, interviewing them if you will, that former Stoke player Garth Crooks goes on a bit? Goalkeeping legends Banks and Shilton are wheeled out every now and again to discuss the latest Joe Hart brainfart. Geoff Hurst won the World Cup but doesn't like to talk about it. Tony Pulis, of whom more later, has been an astute and surprisingly engaging presence on BT Sport
A-Ha. Yes! "When we were kids, Stoke was massive in Norway", Morten Harket told BBC Staffs. Are you sure about that, Morten? "My younger brother was a big Stoke fan, and I was sucked into it. I was kind of waking up every morning and looking at Gordon Banks face!" No wonder he wrote all those overwrought songs, probably scarred him for life. Famous Stokers include Nick Hancock, annoying cricketer Dominic Cork, Frank Bough (kids, ask your dad, or your local brothel) and Julian Clary. Oh, and Busta Rhymes (obviously).
Back page leaders?
Stoke can deliver two always popular options for the press. First, the admirable, honest, locally owned English club that has dragged itself from the lower divisions to become established in the top flight. Add to that a robust, manly, typically English way of playing and you've got easy headline fodder to throw at little Englanders and other non-sophisticates. Alternatively, these very same qualities can be used for "this is why England are rubbish at football" pieces. Basically, Stoke are both heroes and zeros in the press and very useful because of that.
Gaffer's media skills
Despite never really having done the business anywhere for very long, Mark Hughes is always there or thereabouts when jobs are going, in part this is due to his relationships with media. Most journos remember Hughes fondly as a blood-and-thunder centre forward, all elbows and arse, of the sort that you don't see many of these days. Seems like a decent if grumpy bloke, is respected, admired probably: this all helps. As a manager though, hasn't his star fallen? We distinctly remember the times when he was seriously talked of as the successor to Sir. Also seems to have grown an old woman's haircut. We can imagine him in one of those flowery aprons leaning over the garden fence having a natter about Bert's lumbago in a 1950s style.
Vox pop cliché fan
Replica shirt. Always replica shirt. Noisy, passionate, convinced that the world is against them, probably correctly. Suffers from an accent that is stereotyped as being one of the country's thickest and most unattractive. Standing in front of the unlovely Britannia Stadium, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, yelling: "We actually play football" in Brummie/Scouse/Manc hybrid tones. Transfer deadline day seems to attract especially large crowd of zombie children to the shining lights. Larger than average hooligan fringe back in the day. Doesn't like Port Vale, although given disparity in league status, hardly gets a chance to show it - there have been only 46 League meetings between the two clubs. Old timers fondly remember Terry Conroy's legs.
Keyboard warrior ferocity
High, probably the most arsey of the mid-table/medium-sized clubs. Involved in online guerrilla warfare with Arsenal fans over leg-breaking and fallout; a fight that is still not over. Keen on taking journalists to task for perceived injustice and for being tarred with the footballing Neanderthal brush.
Noisy, unpretentious, defying the odds and giving the big boys a bloody nose (ideally not literally) when the occasion demands. Great atmosphere for the size. Given that the club's football is widely disliked, it may seems strange to say, but they are actually rather well marketed and PR'd. Image of plucky scufflers belied by the fact that they have actually spent a lot of money over the last five or so years, paying decent whack for some not-that-decent players, and often eating some big losses on resale.
Hateful long-ball hackers who represent all that is worse about English football. Thugs. Pulis a chippy yob in a stupid baseball hat and a track suit that screamed "competitive dad". The fact that Stoke have actually moved on a fair bit since Hughes's arrival yet to trickle through to many of their detractors. Some others think, fair dos to them for doing it their way, it's a man's game after all, and should they just let the better players of, say, Arsenal pass their way around them unimpeded? Why not just hurt them instead?
Archetypal news stories
'Former NBA star hoping to get a game up front for Stoke.'
'Not That Sort Of Player turns out to be Exactly That Sort Of Player.'
'Big hard ba**ard kicks little soft man.'
'Hughes quits saying club doesn't match his ambition. '
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan on The Ashes and more here.
Follow Alan on Twitter here or Johnny here.
...'locally owned English club..' is one great thing about them. Not many teams in the top 2 divisions are locally owned anymore. Tony Pulis did a great job getting and KEEPING Stoke in the Premier League. tk421 - yes you are a snob. What has their clothes have to do with their managerial ability? Brian Clough wore a green jersey for years, and won tons of trophies. How successful has the 'well-dressed' Hughes been?- forestforever