Kalisz: Kicking things into touch
This is it. Tomorrow is the day that Stokies around the world have penned in their calendars. It will be the day that 34,000 Stoke fans will take the trains, drive the cars, board one of the 91 official club coaches, to invade the mysterious and curious place that`s south of the Watford gap.
This is a message to all of those people. People who have queued during the early hours of the morning to collect a number, only to queue again for the glossy FA Cup ticket. People who will travel down, donning the red and white shirts with loyal friends and proud family. People who will take their seats in the home of football, to shout, sing, and support their beloved team. People who have red and white blood pumping through their veins. This also goes out to those who can`t make the game and will be swarming the pubs or tuning the radio.
My message is simple; be as loud, and as proud of the success story we are, and can potentially be.
We`ve had our critics, and our haters; like trigger-happy Paddy Power and turkey-faced Arsene Wenger. But we thrive from being the underdog, and we relish the opportunities to prove those people wrong. We have our own style and we have our own methods, but most importantly we are an honest bunch of lads that are driven by passion.
Passion comes in no finer example than my very own Grandad. He has supported Stoke City for over 65 years and he remembers most of the games that go down in the clubs history. He is a fair and honest man who would never dream of letting you down, let alone his favorite team. If he wasn`t there, he was listening to it on his paint splattered walkman; and he once slammed the phone down on a window salesman for daring to interrupt his enjoyment of the match with a swift "bugger off!!"
But his dedication really shows when it came to purchasing a ticket. He wakes up at 1 in the morning, after researching the ticket sales dates on his laptop the night before, to drive to the Britannia Stadium for 1:45 and collect a number. He was told he couldn`t wait with his number there, as was advised to go back at 7:30. He returned at 7 and waited for the gates to be opened, so he could buy his, mine and my sister`s tickets.
That`s passion, dedication and an example I hope to follow suit when I am his age.
Let`s show everyone (who has paid extra for ESPN) that we are those passionate men and women, who stick behind our men through thick and thin. We can out-sing anyone, and turn Wembley into the Britannia Stadium mark II. All we need is that passion to be fired up by a slightly cheesy speech, written by some sad person (don`t say a word!!).
I shall be going down, dressed in my Stoke City shirt and my training wear. I`ll have the red and white scarf around my neck and my flag waving in the air. Most of all, my voice box will be ready for all the screaming and singing I shall be doing. Question is, will you be doing the same?
Oh, and a quick message for the team: GOOOOOOAAAAAARRRRRRNNNN STOOOOOOKKKKEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! Because we`ll be with you, every step along the way.
Do it for Sir Stanley Mathews! Do it for Nick Hancock! Do it for me and for Grandad! But most of all… do it for all of us who follow you all the way!!