With the Premier League set to take over our weekends once again, you've probably read one or two articles in the build up to the opening matches.
If you've managed to find one of the dark corners of the internet not churning out articles about Manchester United and their transfer activity, you may have noticed a recent mini-trend in which a lot of reports appear to be jumping on the Stoke City bandwagon.
Yes, you heard me right, there is a bandwagon to be jumped on.
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The issues at hand
Now, my issue with this isn't that Stoke aren't a club worth writing about, which is the way some archaic football fans still feel.
My issue is that although the articles appear to pile praise on a club very much moving up in the world, they do so in a backhanded way, still playing to old stereotypes. These backhanded compliments perhaps aren't really what the club deserves.
You’d be forgiven for admitting that the thought of the Britannia Stadium on a ‘wet windy night’ with Tony Pulis at the helm filled you with dread. Whilst the fear still remains, that route-one style of play has well and truly died away under Mark Hughes. Perhaps Charlie Adam’s left peg is now a more infamous weapon.
I was reading an article recently that spoke about Stoke and the improvements they have made, but whilst doing so suggested that they still have Neanderthal-like qualities; these are the kind of backhanded compliments which have come to frustrate me so much.
Stoke no longer 'that' team
Ironically, it would be a backhanded gesture for me to tell you exactly what was in this article, but it suggested that Ryan Shawcross is still a figure who strikes fear in the hearts of Premier League attackers with his crunching tackles and no-nonsense approach.
Well, is Ryan a big guy? Yeah, but so is Vincent Kompany? Does he make aggressive tackles? You bet. He’s a central defender, what do you expect?
Let’s not ignore the fact that if Shawcross signed for Arsenal he would partner Gary Cahill in the England line up before the transfer papers had even been filed.
I'm sure Stoke fans would tell you by their own admission that they are never going to play ‘tiki-taka’ football and I'm sure they’re okay with that.
However, branding them as a long balling, dirty team, temporarily disguised as one which can actually play football, is unfair. It would be easy for me to present you with facts and figures to support these claims, but the fact is, Stoke play nice football now. Case closed.
Football fans, do you agree? Are Stoke still a long-ball team or have they evolved? Let us know in the comments box below.