The Opposition View: Stoke

Stoke-Mad Editor Dan Buxton answers the questions I asked him ahead of the 4pm kick-off this Sunday at the Britannia Stadium.

Are you happy with Stoke's season so far?

Yeah we're 9th and that's cracking. The only worry is the last two games are two that a 9th placed team would win and the teams above us are pulling away a little. Don't get me wrong I'd take 10th I'm just worried that we've hit the ceiling early and once you start dropping, the pressure starts building and fans are very fickle.

I'd still take 13th/14th and be thrilled but I'm not sure the whole fan base will be quite as happy.

Tony Pulis was never really given a fair crack of the whip here, do Stoke fans feel that he is the best manager in the Potters' history?

Some still have mixed feelings and haven't forgiven him for the end of his first spell when we had 19 successive games end 0-0, 1-0 or 0-1. He has got us where we are but he needs to do a bit more to overtake Tony Waddington. A few top 8 finishes and a trophy before he can overtake Waddo, so the way the Prem is these days he probably won't do.

Do you think the criticism Stoke receive for their style of football is unfair?

Yeah it is. We do knock the ball about when it's best to do that but we have a tendancy to go long when we are winning and thats what the media pick up on. We are strong and physical but not dirty and we play fair, no cheating. I'd rather have that than Chelsea/Man Utd's cheating, diving, referee surrounding joke of a show.

There are a few ex-Pompey players in your squad. What do you think of Andy Griffin, Amdy Faye and Salif Diao?

Griffin and Amdy are bit part players at best these days. Griff came through the ranks here before leaving, coming back, leaving, coming back, leaving and then coming back yet again. Not enough pace for a Premier League side nowadays but more than good enough for a good Championship side. Amdy is another who's top flight days should be over. He's been injured since the turn of the year and I doubt he will play for us again.

Diao is like a man reborn. We always knew he had the ability when fit but, like so many other clubs, rarely got him fully fit. In his first spell here he was that and he was absolutely awesome, then got an injury and came back half the player. Last season he was carrying an injury and was awful but this season, after a spell out of the side to get fully fit, he has been fantastic when he has played but, is currently out with an injury, oh dear, but should return on Sunday. Whether he returns as good Sal or bad Sal remains to be seen

There are also a few ex-Scummers in your team! Rory Delap and James Beattie are two of them, how important are they to the side?

People think Rory is the main man because of his throw but that's more the media talk. He is a good player in the centre and is good at breaking things up but I wouldn't have him in the side as a right winger. Beattie hasn't shown any kind of form or fitness yet this season so hopefully he will come good soon. The lack of goals, and performance, from Beatt's is just adding to the pressure on the manager regarding Tuncay and his lack of action but we could do with a fit, confident Beattie soon.

Of course, Ricardo Fuller played for both Saints and Pompey and yet only scored once during his time at
Fratton Park. Why has he been such a success at Stoke?

The way we play but also he's treated like a god, we put up with his moaning and sulking because we love him. He feels loved and we get the best out of an amazingly talented individual. Going back to how we play Ric plays up front on his own basically with a second striker behind but he accepts the responsibility that a lot of the time he is going to have to do it all on his own and thats the way he likes it. We get flick ons and ball into the channels where he can get a player out of position, or somewhere where they don't want to be, weave his magic feet and basically do what he wants.

Apart from the previous mentioned players, are there any members of your team that Pompey should be particularly wary of?

Matthew Etherington is absolutely on fire at the minute, Taking people on for fun, crosses are coming and also he's netted two in two so watch out for him. Just hope the international break hasn't stalled his form as he's a momentum player

What are the main weaknesses in the Stoke side?

Lack of ball retention is a worry. Very rarely get 50% of more possession, probably three or four times a season max, so our players have to do a lot of chasing and off the ball work.

What do you make of Pompey this season? Are we relegation fodder or can we yet survive?

I think there are worse sides out there, all the upheaval at the start of the season has now gone so the team can start to settle down. If you do stay up it'll be a great achievement as you will have done it in 31 games, as opposed to everyone elses 38, if you get me, but I think you will, just.

How will the match go? Predict the score.

The Potters fly out of the traps and take a 2-0 half time lead through Fuller and Beattie. The bottom of the league side pull a goal back in the second half before Beattie seals the win late on.