Writer: Ryan Kalisz
Date:Monday June 20 2011
We`ve managed to secure an interview with Ringo Starr… you know… the one from the Oatcake Fanzine?? No? Doesn`t ring any bells? Doesn`t matter. What does matter is that he`s a Potter through and through, and he`s kindly offered his wisdom on Stoke`s success last season, and thoughts on our upcoming fourth Premier League campaign with a dollop of Europe on the side.
RYAN KALISZ: "Hello Mr. Star! Just tell us a bit about yourself for our curious and somewhat nosey readers (or just me)...
RINGO STARR: "I'm 29 years young and live in Cheadle, Staffs. Work for Britannia building society by day. Love my football, music, beer and curries… who doesn't?
RK: "Looking back last season, we had some brilliant highlights in what was one of our most successful campaigns. What was your most favourite part, or parts, of last season?"
RS: "The 5-0 massacre of Bolton on what was my first visit to the New Wembley; the highlight of my Stoke City supporting life in all honesty. Days like this just don't happen usually, especially not to us Stokies. It was a day that will stay long in the memory and in 30 years time, when the grandkids will say 'Were you there?`, I'll be able to tell the tale of how we massacred a team at Wembley. Brilliant. I also found the victory over Liverpool extremely enjoyable, as well as the thrashing of Arsenal. The Chelsea game was also a fantastic game of football and one of the best I've ever seen at the Brit since 1997. What a season!
RK: "Totally agree! Can`t wait for my grandkids to ask that question, because I`d ramble on and on and on until one of us falls asleep! Must find a girl first though. Anyway, football brings its downs as well as its ups, so what was your lowlight, or lowlights, from last season?"
RS: "I'd have to say that looking back on last season, the thing I found the most difficult to take on the chin were the injuries we picked up in the final stages of the season. For a 6 week period we were on fire and could have beaten ANY team at the Britannia. To then lose players when we had reached the Cup final and were looking for a potential top ten finish was extremely unlucky. Had we have had a fully fit Etherington and Huth in the Cup final and Ricardo Fuller on the bench, the season would have definitely ended more positively. I know that every team has injuries over the course of a season but it was just so unfortunate to get the injuries to three of our most influential players at the time we did.
"It was also a very frustrating season in terms of our friends in the black. That three or four week period of horrendous refereeing decisions had me wondering whether the officials wanted us in the Championship. Some of the away performances at times were also extremely hard to watch but I'll not overshadow what was a fantastic season."
RK: "Referee`s are complete tools at times, especially when we are facing bigger teams with bigger names that they don`t want to sneep. I blame turkey-faced Arsene Wenger and Danny Murphy for branding us 'thugs` from a 'rugby team`. It seems that the whistle blowers (literally) have the wrong perception about us, and because of that, are card happy with us. Next question; forget the official awards, if you had your own Player of The Season award, who would you give it too?"
RS: "The Berlin Wall; Mr Robert Huth. Consistent throughout the season defensively and scored some important goals along the way. Ethers and Pennant had good seasons as did Walters and Jones, but from first game through to last, Huth was the most consistent performer. Long may it continue."
RK: "Well that`s confirmed it, Huth is the resounding winner throughout all awards. Overall, are you pleased with last season and where we finished? Don`t forget about Europe!"
RS: "I've said it before and I'll say it again; last season was our finest season for 30 odd years regardless of our final league position or the Cup final defeat. The performances at home against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Man United made me feel proud of my club. We didn't deserve to lose the games against Man Utd and Spurs (Gary Neville, Peter Crouch and two referees to thank for that one). Overall though, our superb Cup run and the games against the aforementioned big boys proved that we were a club on the up and progressing each season."
RK: "Absolutely!! Looking ahead now, do you think we`ll have the stamina and mental strength to compete in Europe as well as the Premier League and Cups?"
RS: "The big one. It`s such new territory for us that I don't have a clue what to expect. One thing is certainly clear that we need some signings this summer to bolster the squad. Without Tuncay/Gudjonsson/Carew and the long term injuries to Sidibe and more recently Fuller, we have no back-up for Jones and Walters. I'm sure Mr. Pulis has his wanted list or players ready and I'm more than sure that Mr. Coates will hand over the cheques as and when asked to. I can't really predict too much I'm afraid as I just know nothing about the standard of opposition in Europe other than the Champions league lot. In terms of the domestic league and cups, I'm confident we'll retain our status as a Premier league club which is still the most important objective over anything. Just look at Birmingham City and West Ham as examples."
RK: "What are your thoughts on new-boys QPR, Norwich, and that Welsh team… erm… err… Swansea?"
RS: "QPR have the manager to keep them in the league. As much as people hate Neil Warnock, he is a good manager and has the experience and knowledge to keep QPR up. He also has the money which is the most important thing when coming into the Premier League from the Championship. As for the other two clubs; I just don't know how they'll survive. What`s been evident in recent seasons with Hull and Blackpool is that consistent form is required to stay up. The Premier league is getting so difficult to predict on who will stay up. Who, realistically would have thought that West Ham and Birmingham would have been relegated last year?"
RK: "They`ll use us as a baseline for survival that`s for sure, especially as we were odds on to go down in our first year. Make the home ground a fortress of fear for opposition, and draft in the correct players, for a decent deal, at the crucial times. You`re right, consistency is a must, especially at home, and the financial backing goes a long way. Most importantly it`s the confidence of the players, their confidence in their manager, and the belief in both from fans.
"Everyone asks this question but sod it, who would you like to see come to the Brit?"
RS: "Well I'd love to see Lionel Messi being paraded around the stadium as a new signing just after we've played our first home leg of the Europa league qualifier, but rumour has it he's allergic to Oatcakes. Realistically though, it`s evident that we need a central midfielder or two with the ability to score us 10 goals a season and improve the retained possession part of our game. In that case you look at some of the players available like Palacios, Jenas, Noble, and Barton who we could sign and who would improve our midfield immediately. As much as Joey Barton is an idiot off the field he would be bloody ideal in that centre of midfield at Stoke with Ethers and Pennant on the wings."
RK: "Forget Barton being an idiot, make that 'rocks for brains as well as fists`. Anyway, let`s be controversial… who do you think should leave?"
RS: "The dead wood. No offence to the likes of Soares, Tonge and Davies but it`s evident that they're never going to become first team footballers. We paid decent money for them and I expect them all to be on fairly good wages ala Sonko who was picking up ridiculous sums of money for doing bugger all. Get rid, accept the loss and replace them with better, proven players."
RK: "Chelsea on the opening day at the Brit, what do you reckon to our chances?"
RS: "As always I reckon we can beat anyone at the Brit from Barcelona to Burton Albion. Chelsea will have a new manager by then and the pressure is on them and not us. We'll be up for it, the fans will be up for it and I reckon we can beat them. There is no doubting their ability however. They are still one of the best teams in Europe but like the game at the Brit last season, we could have beaten them by 4 or 5 goals. I'm looking forward to it."
RK: "What are your match predictions against the Blues?"
RS: "It`s a long way away yet and we're unsure of who could be playing for us by then and who will be fit, given the longer pre-season this summer. If I had to give a score prediction, I'd say 2-1 to Stoke."
RK: "Finally, where in the table would you be happy to see Stoke sit at the end of this season?"
RS: "I believe we're a few better away performances away from a top ten finish. If we can just get the balance right between home and away from we can finish in the top ten which would be a fantastic achievement. I can honestly say though that as long as we finish 17th or higher, I'll be happy at the end of the season. Staying in the Premier league is what it`s still all about for Stoke City and we (as fans) must remember this and not get too complacent or raise our expectations too highly."
RK: "Some very down-to-earth views there in which I totally agree with, especially the latter with fans` not letting complacency or too high a expectations cloud the bigger picture."
Thank you very much to Ringo Starr from the Oatcake Fanzine (not the Beatles). If you would like an interview and see your answers published along with editorial comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Date:Monday June 20 2011
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