Stoke City: Potters well worth their point at Anfield
NO prizes for guessing who the Stoke players were talking about in their post-match warm down at Anfield.
Dean Whitehead, Marc Wilson and Steven Nzonzi were involved in an earnest conversation on the pitch when Whitehead stuck out his arms and jumped forward – the universal sign of a dive.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Liverpool 0 Stoke City 0
The other two laughed, then joined Whitehead in shaking their heads as though they couldn't believe what they'd seen during the game barely half an hour earlier.
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To recap, Luis Suarez went down in the area, got up, then threw himself to the ground again while the Stoke players watched in amazement and the Liverpool players, presumably, watched with embarrassment.
Suarez probably only escaped a booking because the dive was so bad it was almost as though he was sending himself up. Liverpool's players didn't bother to appeal for a penalty, and neither did the crowd. This was a first because the home fans had done their best to drag their side to a victory they had rarely threatened.
However, had Martin Skrtel's late effort gone in rather than brushed the post, then the Stoke players would have been entitled to fling themselves to the floor in despair because they were well worth a point.
Stoke could even have claimed their first ever top-flight league win at Liverpool had Charlie Adam's shot not been saved by Pepe Reina after the Scot was gifted a back-pass by Nuri Sahin.
City won three times at Anfield in the 1950s, but that was in the old Second Division.
Their quest to win here in the top flight goes back to the 1890s, but Adam was probably feeling bad enough about his miss without us banging on about 120 years of history.
It's not meant as a criticism of Adam to suggest I could imagine him playing in those Victorian games.
He's an old-fashioned footballer, in the best-possible sense. When he signed for Stoke on deadline day, he didn't turn up in designer jeans and giant headphones. He turned up in a suit.
In the days of squad systems, he decided to join Stoke because he'd rather play 30-40 games a season for the Potters then 10-15 games at Anfield.
What's more, City's down to earth Scottish international sponsors and regularly watches Sunday team Blackhurst Budd, of the Blackpool and Fylde Alliance League.
He missed the Sunday League game to play for Stoke yesterday, and played his part as City produced the same solid away performance they showed at Chelsea when they were unlucky to be sunk by Ashley Cole's 85th-minute winner.
There were no unhappy endings this time to an afternoon which had begun with a lovely surprise for BBC Radio Stoke's widely-respected commentator Nigel Johnson, pictured below, who was celebrating his 70th-birthday.
After meeting assistant manager Dave Kemp for the usual team news, he was ushered into the dressing room where the players and manager Tony Pulis were waiting.
Nigel was presented with a signed team photo by captain Ryan Shawcross before being invited to say a few words to the team.
"It put me on the spot," he admitted. "But one thing I said really did strike a chord.
"I said, 'Let's hope in the next two weeks, Ryan, you get on the pitch for England'.
"At that point the dressing room erupted! That must epitomise both the dressing room spirit and what all the players think of Ryan."
Shawcross was superb again yesterday as he led by example from the back to show why Roy Hodgson has included him in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.
He rarely looked ruffled as Stoke added a point at Anfield to the draws they earned at Wigan and Reading.
Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession, but this was nothing like the goalless draw Stoke earned a month into their Premier League debut season, in 2008, when they only survived at Anfield thanks to some heroic defending and a little luck.
Talking of that team, it seems Charlton boss Chris Powell has started to put the Stoke side back together which won automatic promotion from the Championship in 2008.
Ricardo Fuller ran the Blackpool defence ragged yesterday while Leon Cort headed home a corner to send Charlton on their way to a 2-0 win at Bloomfield Road.
It's a cunning plan by Powell, but he can forget about signing Shawcross.