Vital Stoke Interviews: James Weston
Tom Mckeon: Hi James! Firstly, before we delve into your thoughts on all things Stoke City - would you be kind enough to tell us a little bit about yourself? Purely because we`re really nosey here at Vital Stoke!
James Weston: Hello! I'm James, I'm 20, and I'm a (B.A.) Law with Politics student at The University of Manchester (It's as boring as it sounds). This will be my sixteenth season as a season-ticket holder at Stoke.
TM: Lets start at the beginning, how did you become a Stoke fan, and what is your earliest memory as a Potter?
JW: It was through my Dad and my Uncle. They're both avid Stoke fans (they started going to matches in the 1950's). My first game was an FA Cup third-round replay against Bristol City on Wednesday 18th January 1995. We lost 3-1 (Keith Scott scored for Stoke). I still have the ticket and programme from that game as a memento. I had my first season ticket at the start of the 1995 - 1996 season, and I've had one ever since!
TM: Started young then! Favourite current Stoke player?
JW: My favourite current Stoke player is Robert Huth. I also like Tommy Sorensen. His performance in the FA Cup Final was immense. If it wasn't for him making a string of world-class saves, we would have been 3 - 0 down at half-time.
TM: Favourite all-time Stoke player/s?
JW: Peter Thorne is my all-time favourite Stoke player. He just oozed class (although I still remain angry at him for missing the chance in the first minute when we got thumped by Liverpool 8-0!). I also liked Peter Hoekstra, Sergei Shtaniuk, Jurgen Vandeurzen (although the majority of Stoke fans preferred his rather attractive wife!) and Gerry Taggart (for throttling Dennis Wise).
TM:What did you make of last season?
JW: It was a memorable season, for obvious reasons. The run in the FA Cup was brilliant. I genuinely never thought I'd see Stoke in an FA Cup Final. Even though I was disappointed with the result, being part of the occasion was special. The league campaign was up-and-down (mostly 'ups', I have to say). It was disappointing to finish in thirteenth place, especially when, with two games to go, we were in eighth position.
However, the cup-final appearance, in a way, made up for the poor finish to the league campaign. I can remember walking out of Upton Park after being thumped 3 - 0 by West Ham thinking we were going to get relegated at the end of the season. At that stage, we were only 4 points above the relegation zone (having played a game more than most teams below us), and we were in total free-fall. Thankfully, the win the week after against West Ham in the FA Cup Quarter-Final put a stop to our rapid decline, and served as a catalyst to push on for the rest of the season. So yes, overall, I cannot complain - it has been thoroughly exciting!
TM: Who was your player of the season and who are you backing to have a great year this time around?
JW: My player of the season was Robert Huth. He was immense last year. The partnership of him and Ryan Shawcross is, in my opinion, one of the best in the Premier League. I think Jonathan Walters also deserves a special mention. I was too quick to judge him last season. At first, I thought it was another uninspiring signing from The Championship. However, he`s proved me wrong. His performances against Chelsea at home and Bolton in the FA Cup Semi-Final were second-to-none. Hopefully, in the upcoming season, he can continue to improve.
I'm backing Etherington to have another fantastic season. Even though he participated in the FA Cup Final, he was not 100% fit, which was a shame because he richly deserved to be a part of that final. I'm also interested to see how Kenwyne Jones gets on this season. He had a topsy-turvy campaign last season, so hopefully he can put all his problems behind him and have a good season!
TM:Definitely, Jones had a good season goal-scoring wise - but a little more consistency and he could be a 15-goal-a- season-striker. Moving on, what`s the most memorable moment in your Stoke supporting life?
JW:Of course, the FA Cup Final appearance, the game against Leicester City, which guaranteed us promotion to the Premier League, The Auto Windscreen 2000 Final and the 2002 Play-off Final were memorable to say the least. However, my most memorable game watching Stoke was the Division Two play-off second leg against Cardiff at Ninian Park in 2002. I was 11 at the time, so I was sitting my Key Stage 2 SATs exams. Needless to say, going to watch Stoke was much more important than sitting a poxy Science test! My mum wasn't best pleased (with me or my Dad), but it was worth the hassle in the end!
TM: Haha brilliant! Right, we`ve been linked to plenty of names, most recently to the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Wilson Palacios, but who do you want Pulis to sign?
JW: I'd be very happy with Nicklas Bendtner and Wilson Palacios! Although I'm relatively happy with the first-team eleven, the squad, as a whole, lacks depth and quality. That was evident against Hajduk Split when Pulis' didn't name one attacking option on the bench, which resorted in him playing a defender as a make-shift forward for the final minutes of the game!
Although Stoke's transfer policy angers me at times, it always seems to work. We definitely need a left-back, a creative midfielder, a back-up winger, and two decent forwards. If he can remain fit, the signing of Jonathan Woodgate is excellent. In the friendlies I've been to, his class has been apparent. I'm not overly excited about the names linked to Stoke; I don`t like Scott Dann - he's over-rated and we don't need another CB. I don't rate Carlton Cole - he's too inconsistent. I can see Cameron Jerome working well with Stoke's style, however, his asking price (if the media is to be believed) is over-the-top.
Obviously, Barton is now available on a free, and I think he'd walk straight into Stoke's midfield. I like Vladimir Weiss from Manchester City aswell - a decent back-up winger for Etherington and Pennant. I wouldn't mind Pulis signing Daniel Sturridge either, but whether we can afford him is another option. I would have liked Stoke to sign Craig Gardner before he went to Sunderland. He stood out in what was a poor Birmingham squad last season.
In addition to signing players, we need to get rid of some of the 'deadwood' (if I'm allowed to call the players that!) from the squad; Davies, Soares, Arismendi to name but a few.
TM: Who in the current squad would you least like to see sold? (Like that would happen, we`re not a selling club!)
JW: Most definitely Robert Huth. As I've stated before, I think the partnership between him and Ryan Shawcross is one of the best in the Premier League. I'd also wouldn't like Shawcross to be sold, however, if he continues to improve, it's inevitable that he'll move to a bigger club. If he remains at Stoke, I cannot see him getting a regular place in the England squad (only because Stoke are seen as the unfashionable team by the media, the FA, and most notably, Arsene Wenger).
TM: Wenger? Argh, lets not go there! Anyway, the new season is less than a couple of weeks away now, how do you think we will fare?
JW:It all depends on Pulis' signings. At the present moment, I think we're a decent mid-table Premier League team, so anywhere between 11th and 14th. It would be nice to go on another cup-run again. With a few inspired signings, I can see us pushing into the top-half of the Premier League. As much as I enjoyed the European experience at the Britannia, the squad, at the minute, is too thin to embark on a European campaign. Staying, and pushing-on, in the Premier League must always be our first priority.
TM: If you could say one thing to our manager Tony Pulis, what would it be?
JW:A big 'Thank you'! It's a fantastic time to be supporting Stoke. To think, only 6 years ago, we finished thirteenth in The Championship and were knocked out of the League Cup by Mansfield Town on penalties. The transformation under Pulis (and Peter Coates) has been incredible. Even though our home-form is second-to-none in the Premier League, the away form is slightly worrying. Some of the tactics and team selections are strange to say the least. It can be slightly depressing watching Stoke away from home (and costly as it hits my student loan). It would be nice, in some games, to remove the caution and actually attack the opposition!
TM: Finally, where do you see Stoke City in five years time?
JW: A fully-established Premier League team, who consistently finish in the top-half of the league. In addition, we can hopefully win a cup trophy. I also think the construction of Clayton Wood will be instrumental in the club's future. Hopefully, in the future, we will see nurtured talent from the Stoke Academy making strides in the first-team.
TM: Many thanks for that, James. Fantastic responses. Oh, and Vital Stoke wishes you all the best with your degree!
If anyone else would like to take part in a Q&A for Vital Stoke, you can contact me on Twitter @Tom_VitalStoke or our Editor Ryan Kalisz by email at firstname.lastname@example.org