to be clever when you play physical teams – you have to be careful not to be sucked into the physical battles around the pitch.
Stoke’s direct approach is often criticised. Where do you stand on that?
I’ve never been somebody to complain about that sort of approach. I always hear people criticising it – even my dad does it, he says football shouldn’t be played that way – but I disagree. I don’t have a problem with it. There’s nothing in the laws of the game that says you have to play the ball on the ground. Teams that do that aren’t breaking any rules. Perhaps in order to be successful at the very top level you have to be able to play the ball on the ground. And that style is probably more attractive to watch, which I guess should be considered because football is entertainment and fans pay to watch. But, that said, I’m sure Stoke fans aren’t complaining too much. Their team’s in the Premier League, they’re competing in Europe...
It’s about playing to your strengths, isn’t it?
Exactly. I come from Northern Ireland and when we play international football we can’t always expect to play pretty football and pass our way through teams. Sometimes we have to resort to a style of play that suits us and gets us points on the board. Like you say, you have to play to your strengths and your manager’s strengths. Tony Pulis is a well-organised manager and he has his side well drilled.