Stoke City: Hardy breed of Norwegians brave the icy wind at the Britannia
AS SOMEONE who has been known to moan about the walk to the Brit from the South car park, I can only tip my hat to the 60 supporters who made the trip from Norway to Sideway for this game.
We should know the Norwegians are a hardy breed. After all, their countrymen include Roald Amundsen, the first man to the South Pole. Mind you, I'm not sure he'd have bothered if he knew he would have to sit through a goalless draw against Sunderland at the end of it.
However, 'we'll be back' was the message from Runar Kvernen and Richard Prestegard, president and vice-president respectively of the Norwegian Stoke City Supporters' Club.
"There are 600 in our Stoke supporters club," said Richard.
"There are too many Manchester United and Liverpool supporters in Oslo, so I'm trying to convert them.
"I've been following Stoke since 2000 when I saw us on Norwegian television. We've been more and more successful since then; it's been fantastic to see us in the Europa League and the FA Cup final."
This dour game, at a freezing Britannia, probably won't make the hall of fame in Oslo, but the success of the Norwegians' weekend in the Potteries didn't depend entirely on the match itself.
Runar explained: "We flew over on Friday and had a great night at the Tollgate Hotel.
"Terry Conroy, Denis Smith, Carl Beeston, Brendan O'Callaghan and Mike Pejic were among those former Stoke players who were there. We didn't get in bed until 2am.
"Then we had a coach trip before the game. We visited the training ground at Clayton Wood and also the site of the old Victoria Ground to just, you know, get a feeling.
"It's just very sad to see it in its state. There are 119 years of history there and it's just a wasteland. I'm surprised something hasn't been done to preserve the history there, even if it was just a plaque."
At least we all got to enjoy a little time travel on Saturday when substitute Andy Wilkinson was kicked up in the air by Craig Gardner.
The combination of Wilkinson rolling round and an outraged Seddon Stand would have put enormous pressure on referee Mark Halsey.
Instead the old-school Stoke defender leaped straight back up to his feet, offered a hand to a relieved and probably stunned Gardner, and simply got on with the game as the Sunderland player was booked.
It was a fantastically honest response in a game which was packed with honest endeavour, but too little goalmouth action to have any chance of avoiding the last slot on Match of the Day.
Stoke shaded the action, but couldn't really complain about a draw against a well-organised side who, like City, look extremely solid defensively.
The two well-matched teams are level on points after two months of the season and it would be no great surprise if they are level on points in May.
Stoke would have hoped to do more going forward, but the clean sheet was some consolation after an unusually poor defensive display in the 4-2 defeat at Manchester United the previous week.
Yes, they were playing Manchester United, but seeing a Tony Pulis back four all at sea is as unlikely as seeing Geoffrey, George, Bungle and Zippy getting slung out of a dodgy nightclub for brawling. (leave it Bungle, it's not worth it).
However, the Stoke boss has one problem at the back after Marc Wilson caught his studs in the turf and broke the fibula in his left leg in Saturday's second half.
This is a crying shame for Wilson, but it's also awkward for City because left-back is one area where they don't have any obvious cover.
Wilkinson filled in on Saturday and the natural right-back could get the gig on the left again at Norwich next week. Personally I hope he does, not least because it's great to see someone who plays with so much obvious pride in both his own performance and the shirt.
I was going to say the Yarnfield-born defender is a great example of Staffordshire grit, but I wouldn't want to exclude the Norwegian Stokies who made the 1,400 mile round trip to this game.
Talk about tough. Richard, Runar and the rest of the Scandinavian Stokies were the only ones not shivering in the concourse as I de-iced my notes.
Richard said: "We've come from snow in Norway to this – this is like summer for us."