This week Stoke City were officially relegated from England’s top flight a decade after reaching the Premier League for the first time. Since then The Potters have become home to legendary world-beaters like Peter Crouch, Mame Biram Diouf and Charlie Adam. They even made their way to the Europa League Round of 32 during the 2011/12 season before losing out to Valencia.
Despite their lack of trophies and less than awe-inspiring football, Stoke made the bet365 (previously Britannia) Stadium a fortress. Maybe not a fortress in the same way Old Trafford and Anfield used to be during those historic Champions League nights, but a damn-well difficult place to play football. Difficult enough that the saying, “But can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke?” was born.
The saying was first uttered during a discussion between Richard Keys and Andy Gray. While Keys pressed Gray on the 2010 Ballon d’Or nominees Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Gray had nothing but praise for both players. He did add though, that while both perform at the pinnacle of their professions, Messi would struggle to score against Stoke away on a cold winter night.
And that was it. The standard had been set. After that day an influx of incoming superstars made their way to the Premier League to show their worth. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Mari and Pedro left La Liga in search of glory while Lionel Messi cowardly set up shop in Catalonia.
He never proved himself, and now with Stoke’s absence from the league, he won’t have the opportunity to anymore… unless. Unless an ever-greater challenge presented itself in England; a replacement to the worn-out cliché of Staffordshire’s hurricane-like climate. But what could that replacement be? During our daily roundtable brainstorming session, I posed this question to the rest of our GSITM reporters. These were their suggestions.
“But could they do it during a sandstorm in Merseyside?”
With the recent success of Mohamed Salah, Anfield is a dangerous place to visit. His slick skills and quick turns seem to blow defenders out of the way while opposing fans cover their eyes just like they would during real Egyptian sandstorms. The metaphor sticks like glue.
“But could they do it during a blue moon in Manchester?”
As much as Messi would love to meet up with his old friend Pep Guardiola, I’m sure even he would think twice about picking a fight with his boys in blue. Nobody (well maybe Liverpool) looked completely comfortable marching into the Etihad this season.
“But could they do it during a cold rainy night in Cardiff?”
That’s right, Neil Warnock is back and he’s bringing Cardiff City along with him. Havening spent a good amount of time in Cardiff myself, I’ve seen first hand how awful the weather can be. Could the Bluebirds possibly replicate the reputably bitter atmosphere of the Britannica Stadium in Cardiff?
“But could they do it having a party with Jamie Vardy?”
Granted, Leicester is not the powerhouse it was during the 2015/16 season, but Jamie Vardy is still a genuine menace. Can you imagine playing against someone so irritating and grimy? If Jamie Vardy is having a party, you most certainly don’t want the invitation. Sorry Jamie, it’s nothing personal… well actually, maybe it is.
“But could they do it during a bleak night in Burnley?”
Everything about Burnley just seems grim, doesn’t it? Even just thinking about them is putting me to sleep. Yeah, they’ve played some good football this season and earned that covered ‘seventh-place position behind the top six teams’ spot, but still. When you see them you immediately think of a discount Aston Villa, and that’s not doing them any favourites. If Messi were to ever come to the Premier League, he’d probably fall asleep five minutes after arriving at Turf Moor. Sorry Burnley, that one genuinely wasn’t personal.
There you have it, our best suggestions for the Premier League’s next overused colloquialisms. Nothing quite beats Andy Gray’s famous line though, does it? Is it possible Stoke could actually be missed in the Premier League next season? Surely not? Oh well, have fun in the Championship lads.
Some eighteen months on from this original article and it seems that there are a number of contenders to the Potters’ crown. And, when we ask the question whether a team can do it on a ‘cold rainy night in Stoke’ clubs are now queueing up for a chance.
As they embarked on a season back in the Championship, City were among the favourites and hotly tipped to bounce straight back into the Premier League. Ultimately, the Potters found themselves at the wrong end of the table for much of the campaign and while relegation to the third tier never really looked like a probability, it was a disappointing return across 2018/19. Stoke eventually settled for 16th place with 11 wins and more draws – 22 – than any other side in the division.
The numbers from 2018/19 suggest that Stoke remained tough to break down but that hasn’t been the case at the start of the new season. Changes were needed and the club snapped up manager Nathan Jones from Luton but the former Hatters boss looks to be taking City back down into League One.
After the first 14 matches of the new campaign, Stoke were second from bottom with just eight points and Jones’ men found themselves four points from safety. In that time, five teams had gone to the Britannia and claimed all three points. The club’s owners are keeping faith in their manager for now but Jones may be leading a charmed existence and it only seems to be a matter of time before the axe swings.
As for our original question, fortress Britannia may well be crumbling with teams lining up to take a shot at the Potters so just who are the rightful inheritors of Stoke’s crown?