Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday December 19 2008
20th December 2008
The Potters will take nearly 5,000 fans with the club providing free transport to Ewood Park, but Stoke will have to suffer Rovers celebrating the arrival of 'Big Sam' Allardyce. Blackburn sit just one place of the bottom and Allardyce's arrival doesn't mean that the home side will have a fairy tale start.
Despite the 'new boss' factor, Tony Pulis is still confident that the Potters can notch up their first away win of the season. 'We are desperate to get that first away win, I have targeted three for the season.
'We believe we can go to Ewood Park and win, in fact we believe we can go anywhere and win.'
Santa Cruz is reported to be a likely departure in January to give Allardyce some cash to splash. But in the meantime he has to make do with the same team that has regularly disappointed their fans this season. Left-back Martin Olsson has recovered from a slight hamstring injury but midfielder Vince Grella remains sidelined with his hamstring problem.
Maybe not a player, but there's no doubt that the Potters will not have been pleased to see the arrival of the former Newcastle and Bolton manager. The feel-good factor that often accompanies a new boss in the wake of poor performances can often work in their favour.
Some good news for the Potters with the return of Ryan Shawcross and Andy Griffin from injury. Dave Kitson will face a late fitness test and his presence could be vital after last week's injury to Mamady Sidibe, who will be out until January. Liam Lawrence declared himself fit for the first time since September, but was overruled by Tony Pulis and he's likely to have to wait a couple more weeks.
After last week's argy-bargy during the Fulham game, he needs to start to concentrate on the game and learn, yet again, to just walk away from trouble.
The worst home team meets the poorest away team - all to play for then....
Boxing Day: Manchester United (home) kick-off: 12.45pm * SKY TV *
Sunday 28th December: West Ham (away) kick-off 2pm
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Date:Friday December 19 2008
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