Friday, 25 September 2015

Rival Lines: 4231 Stoke - Butland best keeper in Europe!

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Stoke City v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Four, Two,Three, One Stoke

Twitter: @4231Stoke

This week I had a talk with Four, Two, Three, One Stoke blog, ahead of the Cherries next match. While Stoke have not managed to win at home yet and Mark Hughes is still looking to get the best from his new summer signings, I was wondering if the mood of the Potters was still optimistic for the season. Sam was kind enough to give AFCB fans a detailed insight into what is going on at the Britannia.

CC: How much are you enjoying the Mark Hughes style of play after the Pulis years?

4321S: We get asked this question a lot, the style under Hughes has much more fluidity but lacks that enjoyable comfort that we used to get from knowing that we could hold onto a lead if needed. If we could blend the two you'd probably have the perfect manager. One of the most refreshing aspects under Hughes is that we can clearly see how the players can be improved to take the club further and really challenge for those European fringe places.

CC: Stoke City have made some amazing signings this summer, especially Xherdan Shaqiri, so have your expectations higher this season despite the slow start?

4321S: We've started off slowly but that's no real surprise. It's been a theme under Hughes in all of his seasons here and also at previous clubs. Expectations are currently rock bottom among many fans (we must have the most bi-polar fans in the league). A few wins and people will be putting forwards as candidates to break into the top six again though, at 4231 we like to think we're fairly level-headed and as long as we keep ourselves within that mid-table mini-league we're fairly happy.

CC: How much has the team missed Ryan Shawcross and Bojan Krkic?

4321S:  We've missed Shawcross massively, purely on the fact that the team has barely trained without him being the centrepiece of the defence for at least five years. He's an irreplaceable player for us, and far more valuable than anyone could -or would- pay for him. Bojan has also been a miss, as shown by his almost immediate impact against Leicester. While we do have a lot of adequate replacements in the attacking areas of the pitch it's very hard to replace his almost psychic ability to find space in a tight game.

CC: With Begovic moving on in the summer, have you been impressed with Jack Butland?

4321S: Good lord yes! There were concerns from a lot of fans after his previous performances that he'd struggle to command his box but he's been exceptional. It's hard to think of a goalkeeper in Europe, let alone England who's in better form than him right now.

CC: Is it important for Stoke City to sort out this new contract with Jon Walters or do you expect him to be off in January?

4321S: For me it's a very important thing but I really wouldn't be surprised if he were to move on in January or the summer. I love the bloke, but everything will depend on how much playing time he can get between now and January 1st. He started last season off in a similar position behind a few players but after scoring against Swansea he never looked back and saw off all comers to be one of our most important players. Him and Bojan are telepathic and just one of those strike partnerships that work (think Quinn & Phillips, Bergkamp & Henry, Crouch & Defoe).

CC: Why do you think haven't Stoke City had a win yet - too many mistakes or unlucky?

4321S: A mixture of both really. We were unfortunate not to win against Liverpool we were by far the better team and against Spurs and Norwich we could've run out winners with the right stroke of luck. West Brom was a catastrophe and Arsenal away is a given thumping for us, we never perform there. We've lost a solid spine in N'Zonzi and Shawcross that would've made up for a lot, but without them our midfield is practically useless defensively and we don't really have the players in the squad to fix it. It's certainly making people appreciate the defensive work that N'Zonzi did alongside Whelan.

CC: Has Stoke City got many young players that could play in the cup competitions this season and who are very near to getting in the first team?

4321S: Ollie Shenton is the major starlet in the youth teams. He's 17 and made his league debut as a sub against Manchester City last season, he's also played in a few cup fixtures last year. There are strong rumours that he might be heading out on loan to the Championship so it will be a good opportunity to gauge his ability. He was very impressive in preseason. Other than that we recruited heavily for our U21's with Moha from Barca B, Sergi Molina - the Real Madrid C team captain and two Blackpool youngsters (Telford & Waddington) both of who impressed in the first team there. The real area of talent though is our U18's group, there are a number of very good players there.

CC: What can we look forward to seeing on our visit to the Britannia stadium?

4321S: The incinerator? It's not the greatest area for a stadium, there's very little surrounding it. Sorry. There's a couple of nice pubs nearby and all are pretty friendly for away fans.

CC: What do you make of AFC Bournemouth and their rise up the leagues?

4321S: We've enjoyed it and to join the media love-in we have loved watching Eddie Howe's progress. The recent run of 'surprise' teams to get promoted is far more fun to watch than a stale boring repeat of the same two sets of teams each year when relegated teams get straight back up. I guess in a way we kind of started that trend. It's also good to see a club like Bournemouth fight back to success from the financial ruins left by Redknapp (once again). That said, I don't like Harry Arter, had a disagreement with him on twitter over Scott Parker and he doesn't seem the brightest.

CC: What is your score prediction for the match?

4321S: I've got to go with a home win. Feeling a 2-1, a close game. We'll probably start fast and take a two goal lead again, we'll concede around the 70 minute mark and it'll be a nervy finish.

CC: Superb Sam! I really enjoyed that - especially the Harry Arter comment! He is very close to his brother-in-law so I am not surprised if he defended him, but we love Harry at AFCB as he always gives 100%. Sadly he had a bit of a setback this week but we hope to see him play again soon as he will add something to the Premier League. As an England fan I am keen to know that you rate Jack Butland so highly. I just hope that he is kept extremely busy on Saturday against a team that sure likes to attack. I can understand that you you predict a home win - good to see Stoke fans in good cheer. I am hoping that Peter Crouch does get a game, perhaps from the subs bench and am just glad none of our players have ponytails that he can pull on! 

AFCB fans make sure you wrap up warm when visiting the Britannia - I've heard it can get chilly up there. You can always warm up on local knowledge though about Stoke City FC and you'll find that at Four, Two,Three, One Stoke  

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