Here at 7500 Holte we bring you tactical previews, we bring you audio previews, we bring you in-depth general previews. And now, we bring you...previews that provide you even more reason to despise the team Aston Villa are about to face.
This week, Stoke City.
I know, right? Who doesn't hate Stoke? Well, other than the 25,000 or so Potters fans who turn up at the Britannia every other week. They find some sort of merit in the candy cane shirts that they watch play awfully dismal football time and again. Either that or there's just nothing else to do in Stoke-on-Trent.
These crazy fans have been turning out to watch Stoke for 151 years, since the club first formed as Stoke Ramblers. Despite their long history, this will only be the Potters' 100th league meeting with Aston Villa.
Probably because before 2008, Stoke were out of the Premier League for 23 years. Alas, it looks like they're set for their seventh straight season in the top-flight. Last week's win over West Ham put Stoke up in 11th, even on points with Villa but sitting behind based on the fact that they've conceded more goals.
That right there is a good reason for Villa fans to hate Stoke: after Tony Pulis, we're so used to them being excellent in defense and conservative in attack, yet somehow under Mark Hughes they're managed to score as many goals (32) as the Villa? Granted, Villa have a game in hand but it still smarts.
In the most recent fixture, Stoke sure provided every reason for Villa supporters to despise them. Former Villan Peter Crouch opened the scoring - while looking all the while as though he'd controlled the ball with his hand -, and Charlie Adam canceled out a goal from Libor Kozak. Angered at being dispossessed, Marc Wilson launched a dreadful tackle on Andi Weimann, but only saw yellow.
That game saw under 41 minutes of football played, although why it should be used in support of an argument that all seconds of stoppage time in a match should count, and be added on at the end, is beyond comprehension. It was a horrible game to watch and no one viewing it would have wanted to watch a moment more. The Stoke goals were from their only two shots on target, by the way.
The Potters also have some rather unlikable players. We should be thankful to them for taking away Stephen Ireland, but instead we're going to be upset that he can't be played against Villa. USMNT fans might like Brek Shea, but he recently had to return from a loan spell at Barnsley for making an offensive gesture at the crowd. Potters make up a full 20% of the fifteen players at the top of the league disciplinary table: Jonathan Walters, Marc Wilson and Geoff Cameron have all received seven or more yellow cards. And, of course, they have Ryan Shawcross.
In the 99 times these two sides have met, Villa have certainly fared better, with 46 wins to Stoke's 27. Stoke have only won six times, from forty-nine attempts, at Villa Park - but since they haven't won on the road since August, the visitors are going to be desperate to increase that figure.
Don't look for this to be a high scoring match, as it's ended in a goalless draw three out of the eleven matches played since Stoke have returned to the Premier League. Villa's 3-1 away win last season was one of the better matches, featuring that fantastic goal from Matthew Lowton as well as strikes from Gabby Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke. That scoreline was only bettered by Stoke's win back in 2008, when the evil Rory Delap created two assists from throw-ins and Mamady Sidibe scored a late winner.
Finally, apparently Stoke supporters consider clubs in the West Midlands their rivals? Well, as far as Villa fans are concerned, there's no sense of a derby in this match. Really, we don't love to hate Stoke for reasons tied to past transgressions. The majority of the reasoning is based simply on the fact that they're Stoke.
PS - although this is rather endearing:
CITY ARE THE NUTS!!! - http://tiny.cc/3OIrC— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) June 5, 2009