Match analysis: Stoke City 0, Chelsea 4
FOOTBALLERS have been driven out of town for far less in this part of the world.
Can you imagine a Keith Scott or a Kyle Lightbourne conceding two own goals, missing a penalty and living to tell the tale?
But Saturday's final whistle was greeted with chants of "Super Jonny Walters" from Stoke fans happy to offer sympathetic acclamation to a genuine trier.
Such generous support was hopefully ringing in his ears when he finally got off to sleep sometime in the early hours.
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Walters might have guessed he was trapped in a 90-minute audition for Les Miserables from the moment he smashed a volley into his own face.
What transpired was comfortably the most wretched of his 73 consecutive Premier League starts – a current top-flight record – as he unwittingly helped Chelsea to reduce Stoke's 11-month unbeaten home record to a pile of rubble.
Stoke were so close to drawing at Chelsea earlier in the season, and they had drawn on the Blues' two previous visits here, so how could they suffer their worst home defeat to the Londoners since promotion five seasons ago?
Against United, City and Chelsea – consistently the top three over the last five seasons – it's now just one win in 14 league games at the Britannia Stadium.
And in some respects it is becoming even harder to beat them, for Stoke have now earned such respect that Fergie and Co are taking fewer liberties with their selection at Stoke and the players fewer liberties with their approach to playing at the Britannia.
We should also place Saturday's 4-0 hammering into some kind of perspective because for a good hour Stoke were comfortably the equal of their more exalted visitors in terms of pressure and chances.
Some are still shaking their head at Kenwyne Jones flicking one past Petr Cech and a foot past his far post early on, while Chelsea's returning goalkeeper was at his agile best to palm over Steven Nzonzi's thunderbolt early in the second period.
Stoke's more battering ram approach was in contrast to the more clinical approach Chelsea twice employed to pierce the home defence to force Asmir Begovic to save with his feet from Frank Lampard and Demba Ba.
Chelsea's possession was more spasmodic than we might have anticipated in the first half, but then a prolonged period on the ball was greeted with chants of "Boring, boring" just as they were about to score right on half-time.
A mini overlap on their right allowed the ball to be arced into the middle with such intensity that Walters felt compelled to get there at all costs before Juan Mata and duly rocketed a header past his own goalkeeper.
Stoke's early second-half response gave no indication of the carnage to follow and, if there was a turning point, it came when the referee pointed to the spot after Matthew Etherington chased a cute pass from the improved Charlie Adam and went down under the challenge.
Within seconds, however, the referee was forced to acknowledge a late offside flag from Sian Massey which, in all fairness, was subsequently justified by TV replays.
It was then that it all began falling apart.
A right-wing corner might have been attacked by the keeper, but instead it brushed off the head of Walters under pressure from Lampard and careered into the far corner for 2-0.
Chelsea sensed Stoke's temporary disarray and moved in for the kill.
Eden Hazard had long been barracked for hitting the deck too early, usually with the voracious Andy Wilkinson snorting down his ear hole, but it was Mata who stood accused of disengaging the use of his legs when given the softest of shoves from centre-half Robert Huth.
Frank Lampard's thumping penalty down the middle left some of us hoping for some recompense – like Stoke not conceding four at home in the Premier League for the first time – but even that little morsel was denied us when Hazard found space far too easily against weary opposition and fired one towards Begovic's top right-hand corner from at least 25 yards.
It says everything about Walters that he should not only win a stoppage-time penalty by turning a little too sharply for John Terry's liking, but that he should then grab the ball to resume his customary spot-kick duties.
After all, his day could hardly get any worse.
Oh dear. What followed was enough to drive a grown man to tears – very nearly Walters himself it seemed – as he blasted his penalty true, straight and just a fraction too high to send the ball fizzing off the top of the crossbar and towards Row Z of the Boothen End.
It says much for Walters, and the home support come to think of it, that it was his name echoing around the stadium by the end of Saturday's calamitous events.
Even the Chelsea fans, albeit for rather cheekier reasons, were happy to sing his praises too.
Well they are hardly likely to clear their throats and launch into a deafening eulogy to their new manager any day soon.