Sacked in the Morning (The Curse Of The Brit)
Speculation is rife that Louis van Gaal, current manager of the once illustrious Manchester United, is running the thin line of survival when his team meet Stoke City on Boxing Day in the early kick off at the Britannia Stadium. Is he really under pressure, you ask? Well, draw your own conclusions:
Firstly, he admitted he might be next after Mourinho was sacked at Chelsea. He then cut his press conference short at Carrington on Thursday (or “stormed out”, if you read the Telegraph), only appearing under duress because “he has to under Premier League Rules.” He wished the awaiting journalists a Merry Christmas and asked them to enjoy the wine and mince pies, saying he’d wish them a Happy New Year when he sees them next week. Sounds ominous!
United’s current run of form is one of their worst in modern history, it’s not since the 1998-99 season that they have gone six games without a victory; that said it was the year they won the treble! Will LvG turn the tiller in time to avoid hitting the iceberg that awaits in the shape of Stoke City (after all, the captain of the Titanic was born here)? Stoke fans obviously hope not. They would love nothing more to help the demise of a club they see as rivals. Potters fans will be spurred on by the fact that HMS United will meet rocky waters early on Boxing Day afternoon. There is little love lost between Stoke and United and the hangover of an early kick off won’t have any effect on the vociferous reception that LvG and his merry men will receive.
“Sacked in the morning” is a song sung quite often at the Britannia, with many a manager feeling the pressure there in the time that Stoke have been in the Premier League. The first manager to actually see the prediction come true was Spurs’ Juande Ramos back in October 2008, back in the days of the blood and thunder Stoke City with the Rory Delap’s longthrow striking fear into the opposition. The game saw Gareth “Galactico” Bale sent off in the 17th minute for preventing a goal scoring opportunity, Dawson being sent off for a straight red after coming on in the 77th minute and 11 minutes injury time as Hutton caused Stoke ‘keeper Sorenson to leave the field with a rash challenge, (and they call Stoke a dirty side!). The 2-1 defeat of the North London club saw Stoke claim their first managerial scalp as Ramos made way for Tony Pulis’ mate, Flash Harry.
But was The Brit to blame? Well it played its part. The game was played in typical gale force wind conditions. After Bale’s dismissal, Danny Higginbotham had FIVE attempts to put the ball on the penalty spot as it kept blowing away! Leaping goalkeeper Gomez was blown off-balance into Corluka, who was stretchered off. And 7 minutes into injury-time, Ricardo Fuller’s penalty is blown off-course, hits both posts, rebounds to Delap who smacks it off the bar. Pure Brit comedy.
It was just over 12 months before The Brit got another taste of blood as Paul Hart’s last game in charge of bottom-club Portsmouth ended in their 0-1 defeat. The ’keepers were once again the main story of this game with then England number one David James having to pull out the game just before kick off due to a thigh injury and Stoke’s Tommy Sorenson saving an early penalty. The game was described as “shockingly bad”, saved only by a superb goal by Fuller, who was about to be substituted for Tuncay (remember him?!). Director of Football Avram Grant was called in to replace Hart but he failed to resuscitate Pompey as they finished rock bottom of the Premier League.
Gerard Houllier was the next victim of on-your-bike-after-playing-Stoke, although it was after a 1-1 draw at Villa and also based on medical grounds. This was Spring of 2011 and former Liverpool boss had left his protégé McAllister to hold the fort following a health scare earlier that week. He never returned to manage Villa and stepped down by mutual consent a few weeks later.
One thing was for sure: our near neighbours West Brom [or as Stoke fans know them WABWB (We Always Beat West Brom)] clearly hadn’t suffered enough in this area, even as a result of losing regularly to Stoke in recent decades. For years Albion managers had ridden these regular Stoke humiliations. But last year Stoke took out not one but TWO of their managers…leaving the way clear for the return of Tony Pulis! Yes, Stoke City was responsible for it all! Tony has a lot to thank Sparky for, though I can’t imagine Mark Hughes receiving a thank-you card for his efforts.
First off was Pepe Mel, who’d only been in charge 4 months and won only 3 games in 16 when Stoke arrived for the last game of the 2013/14 season. Charlie Adam’s late goal sank the Baggies by 2-1, and Pepe Mel was shown the door the following lunchtime – so almost sacked-in-the-morning!
Secondly there was Alan Irvine, who had a late Christmas present at The Brit – a 0-2 defeat, his 7th loss in 9 games, served up by a Mame Diouf brace. “Two deflected goals,” he moaned, “When you are not getting the breaks, a lot of things go against you.” Even his own fans reckoned he wouldn’t last the next 24 hours, and so it proved – another lunchtime kick-out.
Ironically Irvine’s loss was former Stoke City boss Tony Pulis’ gain as he took over the Baggies and transformed them into a lean, mean Stoke beating machine!
Of course, there have been plenty of sackings that Stoke have strongly contributed to. After the 1-2 Brit defeat, David Moyes went a few weeks later – afterall, Man Utd hadn’t lost to Stoke in the league for decades. More recently, Jose Mourinho was on his bike soon after TWO defeats in quick succession at The Brit.
But the most interesting of all was a game 3 years ago when Stoke triumphed 1-0 over a lowly QPR at The Brit with Charlie Adam’s first Stoke goal, sending Rangers to the bottom of the league. 10 days later the London club sacked a certain Mark Hughes, with Pulis’ mate, Flash Harry, getting another job in the capital as a result.
So stay tuned on Saturday – there’s a lot more riding on the Stoke-United game than normal and we’re guessing Stoke manager Mark Hughes will be looking to add to his former clubs troubles with a fiery Stoke team looking to add to their list of deposed Premier League Managers.