European Soccer Tour – Day 3: Chelsea at Stoke City

Today we attended our second game of the opening weekend of the English Premier League, featuring Chelsea visiting at Stoke City.

Stoke City, or “Stoke-on-Trent” as it is officially called, is about 140 miles north of Reading, where we’re staying, and some 30 miles south of Manchester, so today included a good bit of time on the bus.

We weren’t leaving until 9:30 or so, but I made sure I woke up by 8:00am so I could partake of the highlight of every morning, the traditional English breakfast. So good!

This will get you going in the morning

Following breakfast, we parents gathered at the bus, already loaded up with the boys, to start our trip. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, so I brought reading materials and settled in. One thing several of us have noticed about accommodations in England – and this isn’t a complaint, just an observation: the seats seem smaller. There’s not much legroom on the bus and we are finding ourselves having to squeeze our American-sized bums into stadium seating evidently meant for smaller posteriors.

At the midpoint of the drive we stopped at a side-of-the-road mini-mall which featured a Burger King to use the facilities, buy sodas, and what-not. Notice the inclement weather. I was spoiled a bit on my last trip to England; it was about this time of year, but it was sunny and in the 80s every day. It’s been chilly and damp this time around.

Hmmmm . . . Burger King . . .

We made it to Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent, home of the Mighty Stoke City Potters. We were given a sack lunch – you’re allowed to take food in, which is refreshing, although, oddly, no drinks. I opened my sack lunch and noticed the flavor of the “crisps”, as they call them here.

Hmmmm . . . prawns . . .

I ate the apple instead. On the way we got this picture of the team.

Our fantastic Scottish tour guides then passed out the tickets. Once again, we had great seats: 1st through fifth rows about level with the top of the box on the visitor’s side goal.

Gary and Austin, passing out tickets

Britannia is a nice stadium, more modern than Craven Cottage, We quickly found our seats and noticed that we were surrounded by passionate Stoke fans. I didn’t have a large preference as to who to root for before the game, but I was predicting a Chelsea win. Stoke has only been in the Premier league for a few years and is generally a bottom-half team, whereas Chelsea is more of a powerhouse. But as the game wore on, I found myself rooting for the Potters.

The boys in the stands

One reason that swayed me was the nearby Chelsea fans who were particularly boorish. They were seated behind the goal, to our right. Take note of the heavy security cordon between them and the Stoke fans on their right.

The gentleman on the loudspeaker several times reminded the crowd that they should sit at all times during the game, so as not to inconvenience the other spectators. And while the Stoke fans were loud and passionate, more-so, it seemed, than the Fulham fans the day before, they sat politely almost the whole time. Meanwhile, the Chelsea fans defiantly stood.

It was great being in this section, because English soccer fans sing and chant the entire game, and we had some rousing back and forth between the Chelsea fans and the Stoke fans. A large portion of what was chanted was unintelligible to me; I’m discovering that understanding English is not as easy as I thought it would be, and I’m finding myself having to ask the ladies at shops and waitstaff at the restaurants to repeat themselves. But I did catch some of the words. Some I can’t record here as this is a family blog. On one occasion I’m pretty sure the Chelsea fans were calling the ref a “wanker”. We had a kindhearted Stoke fan nearby who would translate for us periodically.

Incidentally, the Stoke team is called the Potters, and their mascot is, evidently, a Hippo. I know that doesn’t make sense. I suspect a lot of what goes on in American sports doesn’t make sense to the British either. The team has been around since the time of our Civil War, so there’s a long history and no doubt good reasons.

The Stoke Hippo

Some action shots of the game are below. Thankfully, I took some time to understand the settings on my camera and these pictures turned out a lot better than yesterday’s.

Rory Delap, about to throw in. He has a cannon – his throw-ins were practically corner kicks

Soccer is not a contact sport. Ha.

It was an entertaining game. The final score was . . . nil-nil, again. So we have yet to see a goal scored in a Premier game. But the Stoke fans were actually quite happy with the result. They were supposed to get beat, and they seemed satisfied with a draw. The Chelsea fans, not so much. As the Stoke team was walking off the field I saw Chelsea fans shaking their fists at them.

Again, this is incomprehensible to most Americans. It’s pretty hard to picture, say, Philadelphia Eagles fans being happy with a 3-3 tie against the Giants, assuming that ties were even possible in the NFL. But the Stoke fans were riveted to every minute of this game. There were lots of scoring chances on both sides, and the Potters weathered a furious storm of attacks in the second half. So, they get a point in the Premier Leagues standings, which altogether made for a good day for them.

Following the game we were taken to a restaurant that served New York and Italian style food. It was pretty good. I ordered the Cod and Chips, which was, I think, the only traditional English meal on the menu. I’m stuffed.

We got back home around 9:00pm or so. All in all it was a great day

Tomorrow, London.

4 thoughts on “European Soccer Tour – Day 3: Chelsea at Stoke City

  1. Wonderful pictures! I would have voted for the Potters, too, for other reasons. Originally, I planned to go on that trip. Darn! Sorry I missed it.

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