More food for thought here after a week which resurrected the hoary debate about why England cannot play like the best teams on the continent. West Brom are trying it and getting thumped by the good old Anglo-Saxon approach favoured by Stoke and Blackpool, to name but two.
Albion, like England, simply do not possess sufficient players blessed with technique good enough to make it work, and while trying to play a more sophisticated game is clearly a laudable objective, it is destined to fail in the short, or even medium term.
The Baggies stuck to their high-minded principles under Tony Mowbray and were relegated and, with one point from their last five matches, Roberto di Matteo's class of 2010 may well go the same way. For much of the match they were the better, more cohesive team, and the scoreline flatters Stoke – inflated as it was by two goals in the last five minutes, when Albion pursuit of an equaliser.
Unfortunately for the purist, however, their easy-on-the-eye approach work came to naught for the want of an accurate final pass and Tony Pulis's more rudimentary style prevailed. Like England, Stoke deploy two holding players in midfield and two wide men to supply their forwards. Again like England against France, the service provided to the main striker was so poor that Kenwyne Jones, like Andy Carroll, had to fight for scraps.
The difference, of course, was that West Brom, unlike the French, were powder-puff in attack, and Stoke were able to win with the considerable assistance of two disputed [aren't they all?] penalties. Matthew Etherington tucked away the first and was later substituted in favour of Jonathan Walters, who safely dispatched the second, then completed the scoring in the final minute to cap a memorable week in which he was capped by the Republic of Ireland.
The result leaves Stoke in the top half of the table, with three successive wins at the top level for the first time since February 1984, when Steve Bould, Alan Hudson and Sammy McIlroy were too good for Ipswich, Coventry and Notts County.
On Saturday, a big, rugged defender in Bould's image was Stoke's best player. Pulis said of Ryan Shawcross: "For me, he is the best young English centre-half in the country, and I've had a chat with him about England. Ryan's just got to keep playing well and hopefully one day he will get what we're all desperate for him to get – and that's an England cap.The kid is only 22 and he's got as good a chance as anybody of being a future England captain."
Man of the match: Ryan Shawcross.
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