Archive for January 26th, 2006

No Place For Roper

neilr @ 1:53 pm Thursday 26 January 2006

In the first indication of Saturday’s team news, Paul Merson has said that he will not bring back Ian Roper, even if he is fit.

Merson says in the Express and Star that he feels that Chris Westwood has done enough to keep his place in the side and that, even if fully fit, Ian Roper can expect a place on the bench only for the FA Cup Tie.

Merson has certainly had his share of criticism in the past for his chopping and changing of the team and it remains to be seen whether this heralds a change in policy or not. The true test of that will be whether Michael Standing, excellent on Tuesday night, makes way for Leary or not.

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Geordie\’s Pub Guide to Stoke

neilr @ 7:06 am Thursday 26 January 2006

It’s a trip to the city best described as Beiruit, only worse. Yes, our friendly North Staffs neighours are waiting to welcome us!

For those arriving by train Stoke away is a bit like being shot down behind enemy lines.

Three miles from the ground and with the video cameras zooming in don’t expect to be welcomed by a bevy of beauties bearing garlands and invitations to the nearest hostelry.

More likely just remember the imaginary advertising phrase “Senokot don’t do away trips but if they did, Stoke would be a classic stool softener”.

Having sensibly avoided trapping any stray nasal hairs in the zipper of you coat before alighting the train, the next stage is to act casual and make it to the relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere of Leek Road. Once there you will be delighted to know that there are two bars directly opposite, namely The Roebuck and The Fawn and Firkin.

Both are pretty average “sawdust on the floor” type student bars the former being of the “It’s A Scream” chain. Well it might be a scream if you’re an 18 year old fresher trying to pop your cherry before your loan runs out, but for peace loving footy fans seeking the asylum of a quiet pint it’s not the greatest.

The service can be not so much slow as random, and the beer often of the type where you don’t realise it’s not so nice until you’ve nearly finished your pint. Not a great start to the day with the hike to the ground nagging at the back of one’s mind.

Head instead to the University less than five minutes walk down College St (left then right). and the award winning Ember Lounge. A contributor to the message board last week mentioned they admit non-NUS so I’ll go with that. Here you can get a relaxing drink and ring a taxi to the ground (recommended) or attempt one of the busses that leave from Glebe Road at the other end of Leek Road.

The bar itself is very well appointed with a good choice of reasonably priced beverages, and a snack and bar-meal menu. Soft lights and art deco feel give it that Casablanca ambiance, an oasis of calm atop the tension and hostility of the afternoon’s local derby.

Once at the Brit you are as well to just go straight into the stadium where John Smiths and Fosters are readily available in outsize plastic bottles rather than brave the crowded home orientated Harvester on the A50, the only pub in close proximity to the ground.

If arriving by car and parking at the Power League Complex by the Toyota garage (£4 parking) there is a comfortable bar with Sky Sports at the complex, although getting out of the car-park can be a pain after the match.

Busses pick up the train travellers afterwards and whisk them back to the station black-leg style

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