My friends, I can't express how much fun it was to watch Stoke City play Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup yesterday. Emma and I wandered along, had a beer beforehand, and took our seats next to a man who deserves a big medal for not managing to say anything positive about his team for the entire 89 minutes (he left before full time).
Good things about the Wolves ground: excellent cheese and potato pie. And the toilets. I knew things had moved on from the days when fans would just pee onto the terrace until a pleasing yellow waterfall effect was achieved, but I was stunned by the space, cleanliness and all-round sparkle of the men's loos.
The same could not be said of the first half of the match. Stoke were totally dominant in the set-pieces, while Wolves seemed better in the open play, though they did massively prefer to pass the ball back rather than try to score goals. That said, they did have the majority of the (few) chances in the first half. I politely applauded each competent Wolves move and tried not to openly eat oatcakes and throw pots.
The second half was loads better - both managers had obviously given their players the hairdryer treatment. The quality wasn't entirely apparent, but the effort was. Wolves had several threatening runs, but no finishing quality. Then late on, Stoke's Robert Huth (he's roughly 4 times my height) rose to meet a corner and headed in a great goal, which I was forced to acknowledge with a rueful shake of the head rather than a 'proper mental', which the Stoke fans opposite me did indulge in.
They were in good form - 4000 of them and only 7000 Wolves fans. 'Delilah' rang out many times, whereas the Wolves fans only managed 'We're the boys from the Black Country' once, preferring to sing 'Boring' at Rory Delap's wondrous long throws and 'You Fat Bastard' at Stoke's goalie, Thomas Sorensen. I thought that was a bit cheeky: fans from officially Britain's fattest region singing that to a lean professional athlete. Funny though.
The last few minutes were - in Alex Ferguson's words - 'squeaky-bum time': frenetic attacks from Wolves, one needing a fantastic save from Sorensen. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when Wolves were awarded a penalty - nobody saves those - but Sorensen did, and the Wolves fans started to stream out of the ground.
Not a classic match, but a decent one, and a brilliant afternoon out. Here's a professional's report.