Those familiar with the English Premier League (EPL) will know all about Stoke City.
For those who have absolutely no clue about football [that’s soccer for you American lads, *rolls eyes*]
Stoke City Football club is an English professional football club based in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire that plays in the Premier League.
Stoke City are the 2nd oldest professional football club in the world after Notts County, and are one of the founding members of the Football League.
For 23 years they played in the lower leagues till they gained promotion to the premier league in 2008 and have become a main stay.
Stoke City have earned the reputation of being a difficult team to play against, especially at their home ground- Britannia stadium.
The Britannia is known to be cauldron of noise.
The vociferous Stoke City fans act as the 12th man on the pitch backing the team to the hilt with off the charts decibels making the hair at back of the opposing team’s neck stand straight in the process.
Stoke city are not the most talented team but for what they lack in technique the make up for it with brute force.
Stoke City for some time had the tallest squad in the league with an average height of 1.84m (6ft).
Their recruitment policy, I think is to find anyone who can kick a round object and is as tall to be on the level Peter Crouch’s shoulders (Crouch- 2.01m or 6ft 7 inches).
Mind you, Lionel Messi is 5ft 6 tall- magical little hobbit.
The home stadium can be very windy which is not great for an outdoor sport like football so the height is a big advantage.
These guys have huge muscular frames, menacing giants.
You only have to look at the intensity with which they snap into tackles and fly into crunching challenges to see how these guys live for the fight.
A team made of tough strong boys, hard as nails.
One can’t help but believe that these guys could forge decent careers as WWE wrestlers or UFC fighters.
Most teams in England dread visiting the Britannia, even now that Stoke are trying to finesse up their style of play with some ex-Barcelona players.
A lot of teams would bite your hands off if offered a share of the spoils(a draw) just to avoid the headache of travelling over to Stoke.
Talent alone is not good enough to beat this team and my beloved Liverpool found out the hard way as they had their backside handed to them on the last game of the previous season.
Stoke trounced Liverpool 6-1, a complete mauling.
I had to go draw that horrific memory stashed away neatly in my ‘never to remember again’ chamber of my brain.
To earn a point at a place like Stoke you have to be up for a proper fight, be ready to get dirty, stick your hands in the mud.
They make you sweat and bleed for a result.
Stoke City don’t play nice or fair, they rough you up, they kick you whether you have possession of the ball or not.
You do not return from the Britannia the same, even in victory you a bound to have your fair share of bruises.
You have to be prepared for a proper scraping, its one the reasons why commentators came up with the phrase “Can you make it on a cold wet night at Stoke?”
At this point, you are probably wondering what I’m really getting at with all this fuss about a robust team like stoke.
Well, at one point in our lives, we have had to face a Stoke City and we’re destined to square up anytime soon.
Now very often life takes a leaflet out of ‘The Stoke City playbook’.
Life batters us, life kicks us, life rams into us.
Life doesn’t play fair, life doesn’t play nice.
Life doesn’t care if we’re talented, life doesn’t care if we’ve got tekkers, life just doesn’t care…!
Life roughs us up!
You have to fight and earn what you want, you have to show grit and courage to overcome the obstacles in your way.
The victories won’t come easy, half hearted attempts don’t cut it.
The wins will cost you bruises and scars.
Enough of the choking at the crucial moments in life and feeling sorry for yourself, thinking you deserve this and that because you are so good and talented.
Well here is the newsflash buddy, the fact that you’re special counts for nothing if you don’t roll up your sleeves.
Your talent alone is not enough, it needs to be supplemented by commitment, determination, perseverance, passion and character.
This is because on days when you’re not feeling the funk, these qualities will drive you on.
On your off-colour days, on days when you feel like giving up it’s the passion, zeal and commitment that will push you.
Once we still have life we’ll continually face great opportunities disguised as challenges and it will pass us by if we are not up for it.
We all want to get the top but we don’t want to put in the work it requires.
When we are ready for the challenge and ready to fight and scrap for what we want, with the toppings of our talent we’re bound to come out victorious.
We might come out with a black eye, scathed and patched up but we will be better for overcoming the challenge.
You know, the punch in the cruel joke life played on Stoke City is that being one of the oldest clubs counted for nothing in their struggle to climb back to dine at the table with the elite clubs in the premier league. No preferential treatment.
So the question is, when the conditions are unfavourable and seem unbearable, when the chips are down, when life throws the kitchen sink at you and it certainly would,will you be able to cut it on a cold wet night in Stoke????