Just look at what COULD happen in our neck of the woods in 2013

Port Vale striker Tom Pope is set for a big year in 2013.

Port Vale striker Tom Pope is set for a big year in 2013.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and a New Year to boot.
As we shrug off the hangovers and stare balefully into the slate grey skies I, for one, am determined to be positive.
You know, I think 2013 might be alright if my crystal ball is anything to go by.
Here’s what COULD happen in the next 12 months…

*Stoke City qualify for the Europa League two months before the end of the season on account of not having lost a game at the Brit since 2003.
Sir Alex Ferguson gives Tony Pulis ‘the hairdryer’ for not having the decency to sell England defender Ryan Shawcross back to him – muttering something like: “He forgets all the favours I’ve done him” and mentions Stoke being “just a wee club in the Midlands”.
Potters striker Michael Owen then wins the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. Like his three predecessors – Tony McCoy, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins – Owen takes the crown after spending his entire sporting year sitting down. (Joke © The Sentinel’s Sportsdesk)
*Sir Alex Ferguson is left tearing what’s left of his hair out as Tom Pope turns down a multi-million pound move to Old Trafford as a like-for-like replacement for Wayne Rooney.
Explaining his decision to The Sentinel, the Pontiff – whose 40 goals fire Port Vale to automatic promotion – said: “What’s Salford Quays got that I conna get in Sneyd Green, youth?”
Port Vale Supporters’ Club begins fund-raising for a statue of Pope, scheduled to be completed to coincide with the 27-year-old’s 40th birthday celebrations.
Meanwhile, in honour of the Burslem club’s success, the city council lifts the ban on Vale players urinating in the bushes at Hanley Forest Park.
*In a bid to save money Stoke-on-Trent City Council ditches plans to relocate its Civic HQ from Stoke to Hanley in favour of a move to neighbouring Newcastle.
Explaining the decision, council leader Mohammed Pervez said most people considered Newcastle to be in the Potteries anyway, even it was “a bit posher”.
However, councillors in the Loyal and Ancient Borough start a petition against the proposals – barricading themselves into the Guildhall until those riff-raff have gone away.
*In an attempt to improve Stoke-on-Trent’s image in the wake of the disastrous BBC documentary The Year The Town Hall Shrank, council leader Mohammed Pervez agrees to star in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
After successfully completing several Bushtucker trials councillor Pervez is narrowly beaten into third place by the pretend opera singer off the Go Compare telly adverts and a kangaroo named Dave.
Mr Pervez, however, remains upbeat – claiming he has “put the city on the map” and reveals he has persuaded Ant and Dec to appear in The Regent Theatre’s pantomime.
*Buoyed by his appearance on ITV1, city council leader Mr Pervez unveils the authority’s latest cost-cutting initiatives.
These include only four out of five council workmen being allowed to loaf about for two hours at lunchtime.
*Staff at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery are put in celebratory mood once more following the discovery of a further 700 pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard in a field near Lichfield.
After farmer Fred Johnson ploughs the earth deeper than a Rory Delap throw-in, he churns up Excalibur, the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail as well as the missing tail fin from the city’s Spitfire RW388.
The museum’s Principal Collections Officer Deb Klemperer tells The Sentinel that experts hope to have worked out what the new finds actually are before she retires in 2050.
*Staffordshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis unveils his radical new idea to solve the force’s acute staffing shortage.
After appointing his sixth deputy, Mr Ellis tells the media he will be handing out police uniforms to anyone who wants one, adding: “This is the Big Society in action. The genius of the idea is that the crims won’t know who’s a real copper and who isn’t.”
The Sentinel’s crime reporter thinks he’s joking until he hands her a canister of CS spray some flashing blue lights for her motor.
*Local radio stations run another story claiming The Sentinel is closing down.
The Sentinel’s Editor-in-Chief responds by publishing a 148-page supplement to mark the paper’s 148th anniversary – including all the stories the paper has beaten the radio stations to during the previous week.
*Developers of the new multi-million City Sentral retail complex on the site of the former Hanley Bus Station announce they have attracted another big name store to the development.
Poundland confirms it will be employing up to six part-time staff at its new superstore.
A spokesman for the shopping complex reveals the name is also to be changed after a huge public outcry because City Sentral is “clearly a bit daft”.
Expect the new Jonny Wilkes Centre to be open in
time for Christmas.
What are your hopes for 2013?

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Arsene Wenger may be a whinger, but he’s got a point about abuse in football

It is, of course, in the interests of Stoke City manager Tony Pulis to stick up for the club’s fans.
It was certainly no surprise to hear him insisting that the abuse hurled at his counterpart Arsene Wenger at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday was nothing out of the ordinary.
The Potters boss is right when he says all managers put up with what we colloquially term ‘stick’ – along with every player who pulls on a shirt and all of the match officials.
I suppose the real question is: At what point does the barracking at football grounds cross the line and become unacceptable?
For example, even the most one-eyed Gooner would have to admit that the sight of massed ranks of Stoke City fans standing behind Wenger and mimicking the Arsenal boss’s frenetic arm-waving and fits of pique was hilarious.
However, you are into far muddier waters when certain sections of the media begin to suggest that some of the chanting was racist because it included references to the Arsenal manager’s nationality.
The problem is that football is the modern-day equivalent of a gladiatorial arena and, when swept along by the emotion of the occasion, ordinary people occasionally say the daftest and most offensive things – things they would never normally dare utter in their everyday lives.
Policing these verbal assaults is a tricky business and, although great strides have been made in recent years to stamp racism out of national game, you still hear some appalling things on the terraces.
I sit in the Bycars End at Vale Park, occasionally with my young children, and frankly I’m appalled at some of the industrial language and the abuse – because that’s what it is – that we have to listen to.
Yes, it goes without saying that the referee and the linesmen are rubbish (aren’t they all when a decision goes against your team?) but that doesn’t prompt me to question their parentage.
Then there are those fans who believe that shouting abuse at their own team’s players is some sort of genius reverse-psychology which will make them perform better.
All I can say is it wouldn’t make me want to work any harder.
At this juncture I should point out that I don’t believe Port Vale or Stoke City supporters to be any worse than fans of any other football team in England when it comes to the abuse they dish out to visiting teams, managers or officials.
Arsene Wenger may hold a special place in the hearts of some Potters fans but I would suggest that is more because he has made a habit of belittling a Potters team whose style of play has become a real thorn in the side of his high-flying Gunners.
Let’s not forget, he also didn’t endear himself to the red and white half of our city with his over-the-top rant against Ryan Shawcross for the tackle which broke the leg of Welsh international Aaron Ramsay.
The Frenchman certainly has a penchant for melodrama and hyperbole – which, of course, makes him perfect for the role of a Premier League manager.
When I spoke about terrace chanting previously, one bloke told me that, as it’s a football match, I have to accept that abuse of players, managers and officials goes with the territory.
Pardon me, but I don’t think children should have to be excluded because certain people need to wash their mouths out. Or is football no longer a sport which families can attend together?
Strangely, I never hear any of this sort of thing when sitting in a packed crowd at Lord’s, Trent Bridge or Edgbaston watching England’s cricketers.
The players may indulge in a little light ‘sledging’ of the opposition batsmen but you simply don’t hear the sort of abuse prevalent at football grounds from cricket followers.
Football, it seems, has its own low standards which I believe have as much to do with the game’s governing bodies, so-called celebrities and national media hype as they do with the fact that it is still regarded as the game of the ‘working classes’.
After all, this is a sport where some of the game’s leading lights excuse racist and bigoted comments by blaming ‘cultural differences’ and fail to challenge the most cynical actions of high-profile players.
It is a game where those top players continue to earn vast sums of money and are still allowed to represent their country after getting away with the kind of behaviour which would see them in clink if they did it in front of a copper up ’Anley on a Friday night.
It is a game where some fans think it is OK to boo an opposition player for having suffered an horrific injury or think it is acceptable to abuse people on account of their sexuality or brand them a ‘gypo’ because they have long hair.
Arsene Wenger may indeed be a whingeing Frenchman but he also may have a point when he says that one day soon football will have to get its house in order.

Chin up Ryan, Wenger’s in the wrong here

I don’t know Ryan Shawcross from Adam. And, as a Port Vale fan, it’s fair to say I’m unlikely to have him around my house for dinner any time soon.
However, the Stoke defender has been in my thoughts since the moment he went in for a tackle against Arsenal starlet Aaron Ramsey and fate spat in his eye.
As we hacks sometimes say: “There’s only one story in town right now”.
The incident involving Shawcross and Ramsey on Saturday night is such a story and the human aspect of it transcends sport and reminds us all that, ultimately, football is just a game.
Ramsey’s injury was so bad that Sky initially refused to re-run the images. Not that we needed them. The faces of the Stoke and Arsenal players and coaching staff said it all.
Shawcross was obviously in a state of shock. He was distraught. Tears rolled down his face.
For several moments he looked like a frightened schoolboy – not knowing whether or not he should leave the pitch, as directed by the referee, or go to the assistance of the stricken Welsh international.
He was then inconsolable as he trooped off the field several minutes before the ambulance carrying Arsenal’s teenage prodigy sped away.
Just minutes after the game had finished, Gunners manager Arsène Wenger was ready for the TV cameras.
Never one to mince his words, he described Shawcross’s tackle as “horrendous” and called for the Stoke player to be banned for longer than the requisite three games his red card demands.
In the heat of the moment, and given previous awful injuries to two of his stars, some would argue the Frenchman should be forgiven for the hyperbole.
I have to disagree.
In many ways, Wenger’s ill-timed and over-the-top comments sum up much of what is wrong with our national game and its cult of personality.
Far too much credence is given to the opinions of the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Rafa Benitez and the theatrical Mr Wenger. All too often their comments are blown up out of all proportion by the media. So much so that they themselves become the story – irrespective of what transpires on the field.
Perhaps it would have been circumspect for Mr Wenger to have waited a wee while before condemning a young man who was clearly suffering enough.
The truth is, given a little time, even the most one-eyed of Arsenal fans would have to acknowledge that there was no harm intended by Ryan Shawcross’s tackle on Saturday night.
Clumsy? Yes. Ill-judged? Perhaps. Horrendous? No. Only the end result can be described as such.
In the cold light of day Mr Wenger should reflect on the fact that numerous pundits and experts have exonerated Stoke’s rising star of any malicious intent.
Indeed some photographs appear to show the Arsenal player’s own momentum and the positioning of his foot and leg contributed greatly to the sickening injury.
One former professional summed up the awful accident with the words: “there but for the grace of God go all of us”.
Hopefully such comments will help Ryan Shawcross come to terms with an awful incident early in what I hope will be a long and successful career.
On Saturday night his tremendous achievement in being called up to the England squad for this week’s friendly against Egypt was soured by the injury to Aaron Ramsey.
But I was heartened by the decision of England manager Fabio Capello to keep faith with the young defender.
It goes without saying that we all wish Aaron Ramsey a speedy recovery. That should, of course, be uppermost in our minds.
By the same token we should be supporting Ryan Shawcross as he deals with the understandable guilt over what happened and the brickbats being thrown by the likes of Mr Wenger.
Fortunately, football has a wonderful habit of redeeming its own.
I’m told by those who know him that Ryan Shawcross is a hard-working, committed and fair professional on the field and a lovely, reserved fella off it.
Thus I, for one, am sure the way he conducts himself in the years to come will ultimately demonstrate the calibre of the man.
Keep your chin up, Ryan.