Stoke City F.C. are leaving no stone unturned in their meticulous preparations for the club’s first European campaign in 37 years. With work afoot to build a squad that can cope with the rigours of playing twice a week, they have also embarked on the gargantuan task of making thousands upon thousands of sandwiches.
After being drawn in a tough Europa League group with visits to Turkey, Israel and Ukraine, Tony Pulis remarked that he was “amazed those countries are in Europe“. Though some pundits have already expressed doubts over the ability of fancy-dan foreign bread to withstand a wet Wednesday in Stoke, the draw has reinforced Pulis’ determination that they will not fall prey to “any of that foreign muck” by using the money saved from removing Eidur Gudjohnsen from the wage bill to purchase the Icelander’s exact weight in Staffordshire oatcakes.
Already famed for their set-piece expertise, the squad are staying behind on the training ground for hours in order to work on a variety of sandwiches in order to cope with any eventuality.
Aware that their robust style may come under scrutiny from less tolerant European officials, the players have been subjected to a variety of continental breads, including pide, pita and paska. At the start of the day’s training, Ryan Shawcross swiftly demolished a plate of sujuk sandwiches, taking to the task with relish. At least, we think it was relish. Asked to comment on his experiences, a visibly shaken Jermaine Pennant requested to be excused so he could buy a car he could forget about.
Goalkeeping coach Andy Quy has been working with Asmir Begović on specific situations: claiming high sandwiches under pressure, and dealing with two sandwiches in quick succession. The rigorous training regime has not been without incident though, with Jonathan Woodgate getting a crumb trapped under his headband and developing a yeast infection.
Keen not to compromise their unique style, Pulis insists that none of the players actually pass the sandwiches to each other, but should always look to hurl them 40 yards, directly onto Kenwyne Jones’ head.