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Andy Smith (Alderholt)

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..And She Laughed No More: Stoke City's (first) Premiership Adventure
..And She Laughed No More: Stoke City's (first) Premiership Adventure
by Stephen Foster
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars or: How i learned to stop worrying and love Tony Pulis, 3 Sept. 2009
These PHWs know nothing. There are those of us who have been honing the art of Pulis hating since the early 1990s.
Dateline Bournemouth, 1992. The Redknapp era of glory, cup upsets and promotion has come to an end. Harry's had his head turned by the prospect of stealing his best friend's job. His suggestion as successor: Anthony Pulis. Overnight, we went from exciting wing play to dour midfield battles. One by one anyone with any talent was sold and replaced by a workmanlike drone. Crowds dwindled, revenue dropped, watching Bournemouth ceased to be fun. The day before the 1994/95 season started the board, in their wisdom, sacked Pulis. Things had got so bad that having a collection of players with no experience whatsoever pick the side was preferable to anymore of the dross Pulis was serving up. As a mark of respect to their former boss' ideas and tactics, the team started the season with the following set of results: LLLLLLL.
I kept an eye on his subsequent career, with an ever growing incredulity that he continued to find gainful employment as a football manager. In some instances he was even head-hunted! This incredulity came to a high-water point last year when, somehow, he led Stoke to the Premiership. At last he would get the national humiliation he richly deserved. Stoke would be relegated before Christmas. This, as your author has spent a whole book describing, did not turn out to be the case. Indeed, far from revelling in Pulis' humiliation, my opinion of him swayed and I began to revel in his new found success.
Provincial teams have been promoted and survived before and I've managed to maintain a distinct lack of interest in their achievements. What was different with Stoke (author's note: we are not provincial) and their unique brand of Pulisball was the element of reductionism that was introduced to achieve their success. In utilising Delap's throws they managed to distil football to its sheer essence. The aim of the game is to score goals, how this is achieved is of little import. For all the artistry of your Liverpools or your Arsenals, a 1-0 win is a 1-0 win. If the tiny brushstrokes of Wenger suggest Monet then the clarity and straight lines of Pulisball suggest Mondrian. Going further, if we are to argue that Pulis has taken the functional and turned it into art, then maybe his Stoke team can be compared to Duchamps' Urinal (a crude, yet valid analogy: after all, most supporters of Stoke's opponents last season would have expected to, to use the vernacular, `piss all over them'.) This, however, is not what impressed me most about Pulis. No, my own Damascene conversion came about not in his success on the pitch, but his success in the minds of the players.
Many managers have tried their own Route One variant, few have had success. At Bournemouth in the past two years we have had two. Kevin Bond (narrower of the pitch & hump it long merchant) and when he failed, Jimmy Quinn (hump it even longer and hope more merchant). Last season Bournemouth started the campaign with a 17 point deduction and were odds on favourites for relegation. We were playing for survival, not for plaudits. But even the fear of relegation to the Conference and almost certain loss of livelihoods for the players could not get them to buy in to the manager's philosophy. Following Quinn's sacking on New Year's Eve and the installation of (another) ex-player Eddie Howe, who wanted to at least try and play football, results picked up and the fear of relegation receded. Even Big Phil Scolari, who knows what he's doing, couldn't get the likes of Terry & Lampard to `get' his ideas. Clearly then, to unite 20 odd players into believing one-hundred-and-ten percent in what you are trying to do, when what you are trying to do is so evidently against what these 20 odd players would prefer to have been doing (these guys would have been in the playground during Beckham's pomp, do you think they were running around pretending to be Robbie Savage?), is to have a touch of genius about you. It is this which finally swayed my opinion of Pulis. He is Pete Waterman to his squad of Rick Astleys, Simon Cowell to his Gareth Gates. Without him, they are nothing. He is a modern day Svengali.

Foster says all this, and more, in a far better way than I could. Buy this book and find out how.

She Stood There Laughing: A Man, His Son and Their Football Club
She Stood There Laughing: A Man, His Son and Their Football Club
by Stephen Foster
Edition: Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It'd have been 5* if he'd put asterisks in the word Pulis, 2 Mar. 2004
It's not often you pick up a football book and come across the line 'But, as the renowned French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan has it..' but then it's not often you pick up a football book as honest (to use the author's terminology) and refreshing as this.
Stephen Foster has written a book that easily recreates what it feels like to follow a less than successful football club through the course of a season. And this I feel, is it's major plus. For every disassociated, gloryfied Premiership 'Big Club' supporter we need to remember there is at least one, if not more, of us who follow the also-rans. For most of this book, it's easy to replace the words 'Stoke City' with the name of your own club and you'll know exactly what he's talking about. Poor performances on the pitch, bad management in the boardroom, it's all displayed here in it's earthy glory.
That said, the season the author writes about is not a typical lower division story. For although we can juxtapose our own club at many points, much of this book is uniquely Stoke-esque. The humour, the schadenfreude, the quintessentialness of the region comes across as he explains to the reader quite why he, and many more, believe that Stoke have punched below their weight for so long.
The dual dimension of the use of his son (football buddy, and also as counterpoint to explain quite why he feels the need to put himself through such drudgery.. often he asks of his son 'why are you still coming? you don't need to.' of course, his son says exactly what he needs to hear 'because, you fool, it's Stoke'. Clearly, especially in the season told in the book, the author feels the need to re-confirm exactly why he travels 400miles just for home games when the football on offer is such a poor standard when compared to a team 2 mins from his doorstep).
All in all, this is a fantastic read. A story of football as we, who watch in the lower leagues, know it. If you are a BIG CLUB supporter you'd do well to re-acquaint yourself. Who knows, you could be down here next.

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