Ahead of Saturday’s trip to The Potteries for what many of us expect to be a complete waste of time and certain defeat, likely hammering, we caught up with Bunny, the editor of Stoke fanzine, Duck for a bit of craic. Here’s the patter.
TF: Have you got used to not being managed by Tony Pulis yet?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: What, he’s left!!!??!?!?
We had stagnated and indeed started to decline after the FA Cup Final in 2011. Whilst our first venture in European competition in almost four decades was a thrilling adventure and one which the supporters bought into completely, it was often used as the excuse/reason for poor league form. It didn’t help that the footballing authorities decided to give us long-trek awaydays the Sunday after our Euro Thursday night sojourns, mind.
For three seasons we lived off, and thrived on, siege mentalities. An up-for-it crowd; an up-for-it team; a national media that hated us, and still does; other club’s detesting us for kicking sand in their faces. It was thrilling to be honest, and our 4-0 drubbing of your good selves in 2011 showed a team playing at a high tempo and with two wingers.
But whilst some will say “look at Stoke, sacking Pulis after all he’s done for them”, they neglect to see just how much he’d spent (3rd or 4th highest net spenders in the division) and that we had only just escaped relegation at the end of the 2012/2013 season. Matchdays weren’t glorious affairs.
Tony Pulis polarised opinion, both with Stoke fans and everyone else. He did a fantastic job for us, and is doing so now at Palace. Perhaps certain other clubs should have thought about employing him, but obviously their support prefers the moral high ground of playing what they perceive to be better football, than staying up and winning points?
Pulis will always be rightly remembered a legend for what he did for us and is one of the few managers that got to leave us with his pride and dignity intact, his reputation embellished, and with our sincere thanks.
TF: How is Mark Hughes shaping up? Stoke had an unenviable reputation for playing hoof-ball, was that fair and has Hughes moved you on from that?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: Mark Hughes has done a fine job in my opinion. We’ve had tricky periods, and questions have been asked during the season, and we aren’t the most patient of supports. But we can now see what LMH has been trying to do since day one.
He’s had very little money to spend, but done quite well with it. We now have a left back who is a, er, left back. He’s added pace, guile and goals in Odemwingie, Arnautovic and Ireland, and we have a totally different footballing philosophy. We started off over-passing it until the New Year, and played ourselves into trouble, but since we have injected some pace in the team we have a cutting edge to our new-found patience on the ball.
An unenviable reputation? Not that we are particularly bothered about it, but how Soccer AM is it that certain people in football can have a go at others for the way they play? It’s all a bit post-1992, isn’t it? If the legacy of the Premier League is the growth of the football snob, then it wouldn’t bother me if we were in The Championship to be honest.
I go to watch Stoke City win. That’s the first port of call for me. If we do so in an aesthetically pleasing manner, then mint. But I gained little from our passing-across-the-back-four 1-0 loss to Norwich at home this season.
Under Pulis, we did well with an honest bunch of blokes who got stuck in, and made every slight advantage count. We’d be patted on the head and patronised if we were beaten, and slated if we won. Funny how much support we got from supporters of lower league clubs under TP, as we constantly stood up for ourselves, isn’t it?
As a city, we’ve been put down for decades. We are used to sticking up for ourselves, indeed we revel in it. What the likes of Arsenal don’t realise, is that by hating us they are feeding us. Why they turn the week of every game into a bitching-fest is beyond me, as it does them no favours at al.
TF: What were your aspirations at the start of the season and how far are you from where you thought you’d be?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: Good question. I expected us to be anywhere in the bottom 7 or 8 and still in a relegation fight to be honest. So in that respect, we are punching slightly above our weight. We now need to look at how we can pick up more away points, keep the best keeper in the league this Summer, and add two or three more players to a team that’s evolving.
I’d love us to target the League Cup, too. You remember cup runs, don’t you Mick? x
TF: Stoke fans have a decent reputation for whipping up a good atmosphere at home but speaking for St James’ Park you seem to bring very few away? What’s happening?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: Cost. Routine. The quality of ‘entertainment’ on offer in the past (and in some aways this season, too). The changing culture of matchdays…..
In fairness, when the likes of yourselves have had reduced allocations at ours (yes, night matches I grant you), then the problems are obviously not simply club and area related. £50 for us to go Chelsea last week and it’s a teatime kick off live on the telly? I doff my cap to anyone who went. It’s an utter joke, and I hate the fact that I am priced out of taking my kids to away games.
At least the club is doing something about it, with free travel, but I’ve always preferred the car/train to aways.
TF: For a few years you appeared to have become a retirement home for ex-Mackems, what’s gone on?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: We did some decent business with them, but then spoilt it by signing Danny Collins. Like winning a night with one of The Corrs and finding out it’s the brother.
Their irony-o-meter must have broke when they starting singing songs about us buying their rejects the very year we won 5-0 at Wembley in an FA Cup semi final and qualified for Europe.
TF: Generally speaking Stoke away isn’t seen as a particular great away trip for us as you seem to have had a group of tits in Stone Island and Burberry acting the chap with ordinary fans .. particularly going back to a certain League Cup tie in the mid-90s which has created a bit of needle that we never ever knew was there until the mid-90s. There was a bit of an organised “off” a few years ago in Gateshead when but for the intervention of the Polis some of your lads might have been heading for the hospital given the numbers our lot had out. What we done to upset Stoke?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: I’m a lover, not a fighter, so you’d be better off asking the fighters.
TF: Away from all that, what would you recommend as a good place for ordinary Mags to go to before the match for a decent drink and some craic with the locals?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: You will be fine in virtually all pubs near to the ground and beyond. Parking is still a bit of a pain, so you might be better drinking en route, and pubs near the ground tend to be your Harvester-type establishments.
You rarely get trouble at Stoke now, but I suppose the same things apply as if I was going an away: act like a grown up, and you should be fine.
TF: What’s your take on everything Newcastle United related these days?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: Great area, sound people from what I’ve met. I do find the ‘Geordie Nation’ tag a bit cringy at times to be honest, and I’m a bit baffled (doesn’t take much) by the “I love Geordies” chant – isn’t that a bit like, say, Bournemouth singing, “I love, I love, people who are from Bournemouth”?*
But it’s a cracking city that loves its football team, and a number of Geordies buy DUCK, too, so taste and refinement are obviously not in question.
As for your club? It’s always seems a bit pantomime and it never seems to be on an even keel to me. With your crowds you really should be competing for silverware on a regular basis, and wouldn’t finishing where you are now and a mint cup run be the least you expect?
In 2014, the main problem I see with football is patience and stability. They shouldn’t be rude words, but we live in a drive-thru, want-it-right-now world where things don’t grow organically any more. They are bought and disposed of. That’s why I suppose our mag constantly harks back to the ‘good old days’. In fairness, it’s because they were the good old days.
TF: You are a recently formed paper fanzine, what made you go down that road when the direction of travel for established titles like When Skies Are Grey and now us to go digital?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: The printed word must never, ever be allowed to go out of fashion. There’s nowt better than going an away game and picking a zine up or sending off for one. Possibly a night on the Belgian ale with Scarlett Johansson, but it’s a close second! I fully understand why some magazines go digital – I mean, I’m nearly 46 and too long in the tooth for spotty brats to walk past me shouting witty stuff like “quack, quack”, every month or so!
I love the day I pick the boxes up from the printers: loading them in the car; the anticipation as you carve that first box open and see the fruits of your labour; the smell of fresh print; taking pics for Twitter and the like; and sending them out to subscribers.
Whilst some zines are going digital, there are more and more zines and magazines creeping in now. Good to see.
TF: Tell us about the Stoke fanzine/webzine scene?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: The Oatcake has been going for well over two decades and 550 issues now. I write a piece in it each issue, and it comes out fortnightly. The Oatcake is also the main forum/messageboard too. There are some cracking Stoke blogs, but we don’t seem to be as into our blogging as the likes of Arsenal fans. Perhaps we like living life than writing about it and taking pictures of it?
DUCK comes out every 5 or 6 weeks. It’s not our job, so we are dependent on a brilliant army of contributors, which includes supporters of teams such as Aberdeen, Newcastle United, Manchester City/United, Bradford City, and even Port Vale.
The Oatcake and Duck (now there’s a pub name) are very different. We can’t compete with a mag that’s out for every home game and so we tend to leave the topical stuff to them. We take a more eclectic look at football supporting in general: big coats, weirdos on trains, gigs in the city, trainers, and a good dollop of nostalgia are our staples.
I’d like to think that on the day our two mags are out, Stokies are pretty lucky in what they have to read when they get home from the game.
TF: Are Port Vale really your rivals? Tell us about that local needle.
Bunny, Duck Magazine: If you share a city there has to be a rivalry. Simple as that. It’s far more one-sided from the black and white nineteen-twentieths of the city, but that’s to be expected. Whilst some crave to be in the same league as them, I hope to never play them again. Why? We have absolutely nowt to gain when we do.
I’ve got just as many mates who are good, solid Vale fans. They don’t wash, but I see my friendship as missionary work. Bless.
TF: How do you think Saturday will pan out?
Bunny, Duck Magazine: Get up, and probably have the wife moaning at me for something trivial; watch ‘Catch the pigeon’ and love seeing my kids howl with laughter at Zilly and Clunk; take my five year old lad to his training (he’s got a mint left foot); come back and have 3 oatcakes with cheese and tabasco sauce with a glass of milk; take my carful to the game and have a quick pint by the ground; listen to that cringy Premier League ‘anthem’ and watch blokes shakes hands on the pitch for no reason when no ones bothered about it anyway…..
The rest is then up to the manager and players….
Many thanks to BUNNY for his time, even though I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about with that song he thinks he’s heard*
The next issue of DUCK can be pre-ordered this weekend from http://duckmagazine.bigcartel.com/product/duck-7-pre-order