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Stoke - Manchester City's Bogey Team?

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What a difference a week makes in this sport we all love. The two league game winless streak followed by defeat away to Juventus in the Champions League may have soured some City fans grapes but progression to the Semi Final of the Carling Cup, with a convincing display on the back of defeating Southampton has changed those grapes back to wine. Off the pitch, investment news ad talk of Messi has really put a Pep back in our step but you are only as good as your last game. At the moment we are good, but how will we feel when the morning sun greets our eyes for the first time Sunday?

Traveling away to play any side in the Premier League is never easy but with the Potters there is that other level, having only won once in seven attempts. The 4-1 win last February was the exception rather than the rule for Manchester City, with an Aguero brace and goals from Milner and Samir Nasri. In fact, historically, City have only won a quarter of the fixtures, in all competitions, when played at Stokes ground. Stoke City, on the other hand, have enjoyed winning almost half.

Stoke would first host the mighty blues in the 1901/02 season and secure a 3-0 win. Manchester City were eventually relegated that season with Stoke barely surviving themselves. The first game of our first season back in the top flight was a different story though, with City 2-1 winners. Goals from George Livingstone and an own goal secured the points.

We have played Stoke City in the league in each of our four title winning seasons, but never won. In our first title back in the 1936/37 season we played Stoke away on March 10th and came away with a 2-2 draw. The next time we would lift the trophy our visit to Stoke resulted in a 3-0 defeat on August 26th of that 1967/68 season.

Roberto Mancini could only manage 1-1 draw thanks to a Yaya Toure equalizing goal with less than 15 minutes to play in the second half in 2011/12 (although we had beaten them at Wembley only a few months earlier to lift our first trophy for three decades). Pellegrini at least kept a clean sheet as his Manchester City side drew 0-0 on our way to our last title, so if tomorrow is another point a piece, it may not be all that bad.

This current Stoke City side have a management team of ex Manchester City boss Mark Hughes and his assistant, also while at City, Mark Bowen. On the playing staff side of things you have Superman, Steven Ireland and ex City goalkeeper Shay Given.

Links from the past between the two clubs come in the guise of Orlando FC head coach, Adrian Heath who played for Stoke a total of 101 times in two spells with the club. After moving to Everton then to continental Europe his return to England was with Manchester City in 1990. Making 75 appearances, Heath would stay there until returning to Stoke briefly in 1992.

Ex United player Sam McIlroy would sandwich 133 appearances for the Potters in between the two Manchester clubs with City enjoying only 13 appearances in the 1985/86 season before he would head to Sweden.

Another player putting in more time at Stoke would be Nigel Gleghorn. At City first in 1988/89 Gleghorn would make only 34 appearances for the Blues before he played his last game at Maine Road against Southampton, scoring a goal in the process. A move to Stoke saw Nigel get more game time and enjoy 166 appearances for Stoke from 1992/96.

Mike Doyle also left City before heading to Stoke where he would enjoy over 100 games for the Potters. The difference is that he had already won everything with City and with 448 games under his belt the time was right. Manchester City player of the year twice (and Stokes once) Doyle won the Community Shield and League Cup twice along with the league title, FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup. Not just a City player, but a City fan who loved to hate United, a local boy who became the fourth City captain to lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium.

An interesting side note is that Sam Meredith, brother of Billy, played 45 times for Stoke. When you think of Meredith and football you think of Billy and Manchester City, United and his involvement in the first players union. He won the FA Cup with both Manchester sides and died in Manchester aged 83 only two months after the Munich air disaster. Despite his contribution to the sport he was in an unmarked grave for many years until the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), Welsh FA and both Manchester clubs agreed to cover costs and he now is also in the Manchester City hall of fame.

As for Managers we have a number preceding Hughes and Bowen. The first was Peter Hodge who managed Stoke in 1914/15 who led the side to re-admission into the football league until the outbreak of the First World War halted that. In 1926 he joined City with good and bad results. He also guided us back into First Division and then third in the top flight. On the negative side he signed Matt Busby as a trainee, convincing him not to emigrate to the USA. Busby, of course, would go on to give United their first successful spell as a club when he became their manager two decades later.

Alan Ball did the same, managing Stoke from 1989-91 before a bad spell at City in the 1995-96 season. Asa Hartford has also managed both clubs at one point, in the caretaker role, although remembered more by City fans as a player.