Flowchart guide to Stoke City in Europe
Stoke are playing in the Europa League again tonight. A disgusting thing to have happened. Their ultra-cynical brand of football – incorporating, and this isn’t said often enough, a willingness to win set pieces in any way they can – is not, as has been suggested, a throwback to pre-modern football. Instead, the cynicism they embody is a branch of the results-obsessed culture brought about by money, money, money.
Stoke in Europe, even the Europa League, is particularly ugly. Not because there is anything special about European competition any more – any sparkle that has not been artificially sprinkled on by UEFA in order to sell more advertising – but because Stoke City are representing English football. Travelling around the continent, Stoke are a symbol of English football, England, and you, if you’re English.
Like John Terry as England captain, they aren’t a representative you choose, but then, when was the last time you really chose someone to represent you? Nick Clegg and David Cameron are running the country – did you choose them? It doesn’t matter though, people are going to see Stoke City play, like they watch Cameron talk about the EU, and they’re going to take it as having something to do with you and the way you think.
Here, then, is the flowchart guide to Stoke City in Europe:
It’s not fair to judge people on their appearance, but Stoke have already been judged on being thugs for other things, so it’s actually alright to be suspicious about the number of skinheads they have in their team. Going bald is a natural occurrence - it doesn’t matter – but Stoke players shave their heads. Why? BNP? No, that would be libellous.