Date: 11th February 2010 at 3:29pm
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In an exclusive link up, Gareth Ekin, Chairman of SCFC’s Official Fans Forum speaks to VMC ahead of the FA Cup 5th Round and crucial Premier League meeting double header…

1. Roberto Mancini’s City have had a tough couple of weeks whereby last minute League Cup Semi-Final defeat against the rags and a chastening league defeat at Hull threatened to derail the season’s lofty ambitions. However, The Blues now go into the League and FA Cup double header with Stoke bouyed by a hard fought win over Bolton. Tony Pulis’s mid table side have realised some erratic results of late in games where there doesn’t seem to have been much in it between the two sides. How’s the form and what’s the mood amongst the Stoke faithful?

‘Stoke are finding form at the right time. We are on an unbeaten 8 game run and on course for a mid-table finish, so unsurprisingly the mood is very positive at the moment.

‘It is much needed as there was quite a bit of rumour floating around during the transfer window with the likes of Rodallega and Kenwyne Jones amongst others to be strongly linked with a move to the Potteries, however, our only business was managing to bag goalkeeper Asmir Begovic at the last minute and whilst Begovic is a good signing, it was a bit of an anti-climax with the fans.

2. The FA Cup always has a magic about it. Not many pundits predicted The Potters would thump Arsenal out of this season’s tournament but they did! Can you go all the way to Wembley?

‘I think that now is our best chance in a long time to reach Wembley. If you look at the top teams that have been knocked out of the competition in earlier rounds it is a great opportunity to go all the way.

‘There is something about the FA Cup that makes any outcome possible. Our lads will be buoyed going into the game at Eastlands by not only knocking Arsenal out, but the way in which they went about it. I would think that this is the round in which players start to get one eye on reaching Wembley and daring to dream. It will certainly set it up for a decent game.

3. Stoke and a large following were undone on Boxing Day at Eastlands by goals from Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez in Mancio’s first game in charge. What did you perceive to be City’s strengths and weaknesses?

‘Very interesting question to answer and one that has been debated by the Stoke faithful since we got into this league. Tony Pulis has a knack of putting different sides out depending whether we are playing home and away. We seem to set ourselves out away from home to not conceed, which means we stay in shape and stifle play and whilst we have been quite successful at that, we really struggle to get back into a game if we conceed.

‘Away from home this season we have only scored 5 goals so that will be our biggest weakness. Our strengths have alway been our workrate and the togetherness of the team, people will point to the set pieces and throws, but our team is about much more than that.’

4. Who should City and in turn, Stoke be wary of once the cup clash gets under way in East Manchester?

‘City should be wary of Matty Etherington, he is in a rich vein of form at the moment and the bookies are starting to slash the odds of him being a surprise callup to the England squad soon. Andy Wilkinson doesn’t stand on ceremony, whoever you maybe, so expect no-nonsense tackling and commitment from the likes of an old fashioned proper right-back. He is a Stoke lad born and bred so he will know more than most what a win would mean for The Potters…

‘Stoke will be watching a few videos of Petrov this week I shouldn’t wonder. It was rumoured that we approached Man City for him in the summer on loan so Pulis will be aware of his threat, there are plenty of other names I could add to that list but we need to find a way past Given who is a world class goalkeeper.’

5. What are your finest and least memorable memories of Stoke in cup competitions?

‘I think that most Stoke fans would say the win against Arsenal the other week would be the high point in the FA Cup. The competition hasn’t been the kindest to us over the years and I think you would have to find someone who is approaching world record age to point to much else.

‘As for the low points, we have had a few. We were dumped out at the semi-final stage in agonising fashion in successive years during the early seventies by Arsenal, which was also one of the reasons Stokies enjoyed the win in the last round. We have also lost 3-1 in a replay to our local rivals Port Vale. Luck was never on our side that day as the Vale Park pitch was that bad, we rounded their goalie and with the goal open, the ball stuck on the line in the mud as it rolled into the empty net! We have also lost in recent history to non league Nuneaton, after a replay and also not forgetting going out to Hartlepool last season!’

6. What’s your impression of Manchester City Football Club as we approach the business end of the season?

‘Man City, whether rightly or wrongly, to a lot of people will always be a team who is trying to buy success. The thing is, that if the same thing happened to their team, they wouldnt complain!

‘The Hughes sacking was a bit of a strange one as you went on a run of successive draws. Mancini has already lost 3 times since taking over and Robinho has gone to Santos. Despite all that disruption you have crept into 5th place, level on points with a faltering Liverpool with a game in hand. When you go and buy superstar after superstar in a short space of time they become a team of individuals and need time to gel.

‘I fully expect a top 4 finish for Man City this season due to the erratic nature of Liverpool but if the aim is top spot then you need to be prepared to ensure managerial stability as Rome wasnt built in a day. These business men do not understand that football is not the stock market, you cannot chuck a load of money in at 9am and expect immediate results the same day!

‘I will always remember Maine Road and the old Kippax stand, Man City has always been a very well supported club and I’m sure when you guys start a real push for top spot you wont forget where you have come from and Eastlands wont turn into a library like Old Trafford and The Emirates!’

7. And so to your prediction. Who will be going into the hat for the next round? Sides playing each other twice inside a few days often cagily cancel each other out. Might we expect a replay and a fourth encounter this season?

‘I wouldn’t like to predict a score, it could go either way. One thing I will say is that, I think the two games will be very different. We are always a different animal at home and I know quite a few Potters will be expecting something out of the league game.

‘The magic of the cup is that games sometimes go topsy-turvy. I know that I would have been a lot more confident if we had been at home, but we have shown on Tuesday that we can go behind away from home and get something. I fully expect this to be a real tussle with both sides pulling no punches and respecting the FA Cup as it should be!’

Very many Thanks to Gareth and the Stoke City Football Club Forum team for this excellent interview.

VMC Link: Stoke City FC Fans Forum

Follow the cup action Live in the VMC Match Day Forum:
MATCHDAY THREAD: Man City vs Stoke City in the FA Cup – Sat Feb 13 – KO: 17:15 UK Time

VMC Seven Deadly Sinners 2009-2010:

Blackburn Rovers: Mikey D
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Akela
Portsmouth: pompeyrug
Arsenal: Paul Mustchin
Manchester united: Nobby Allcock
West Ham: Rossy
Aston Villa: The Fear
Wigan Athetic: Worbo
Fulham: Andrew Joyce
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
Burnley: Turfmanphil
Liverpool: Chubby Alonso
Hull City: Matt Wilson
Chelsea: Merlin
Bolton Wanderers: Richard McC
Tottenham Hotspur: OxfordSpur
Sunderland: Gaz Johnson
Stoke: Chris Baldwin
Middlesbrough: Steve Goldby
Man united: Eric Whiteside
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
Stoke City: Gareth Ekin

VMC Desert Island Shinpads Castaways 2010:

Blackburn: Mikey D
Everton: Everton Mike
Portsmouth: paultsmouth


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