Arsenal, Rwanda, and the fight over shirt advertising that people tried to avoid

22/09/2021 - General

By Samuel Ketch, Editor-in-Chief

Do you know the name Paul Rusesabagina? Have you seen the film 'Hotel Rwanda'? If I'm still not getting through to you, then let me explain what I'm talking about. 

In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, a hotel manager - that's Paul Rusesabagina - saved the lives of upwards of 1200 people by giving them shelter. A Hollywood film - that's Hotel Rwanda - is based on this event. 

This week Rusesabagina has been given a 25-year sentence on charges of being part of a group responsible for "terrorist" attacks. Except... Well, it's clearly a "sham" (as Rusesabagina put it). Since that 2004 film, when Don Cheadle portrayed him, the former hotelier has been a prominent critic of the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame. 

His daughter, Carine Kanimba, told Al Jazeera the following: “This verdict means nothing for us. Our father was kidnapped. 

“He was dragged across international borders in violation of international law. 

“My father knows that his rights were violated … that’s why he decided to step out of the trial, and this is all political,” she said, adding that her father was “a political prisoner” and that “the charges are completely invented”. 

So, very clearly, something dodgy has happened. A prominent critic of the Rwandan regime has been arrested - well, the claim is kidnapped while in Dubai (Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen and US resident, who was actually given the US Presidential Medal of Freedom) - on trumped up charges and then found guilty in a show trial; it's hardly a glowing reputation that I have built for the Rwandan government, is it? 

Well let me now apply this story back to football. Arsenal - you've all heard of them, and you all know where this is going - have a sleeve sponsor currently: Visit Rwanda. 

Back to Paul Rusesabagina's daughter for a second, and this time her comments to ITV News: "Arsenal should turn down Rwandan money and ask for my father's immediate release". 

That's a strong, powerful message. But it gets better: she goes as far as to say Arsenal should never have signed the deal in the first place. 

"Out of respect for human rights, out of respect for justice, out of respect for the future of humanity, then a sports club like Arsenal should not take money from a dictator like Paul Kagame," she said. 

Well. Let's just put this on the record - I, and I think I can speak for Footrace too, agree. Arsenal should never have taken this money. A $39 million sponsorship deal with one of the poorest countries in the world? That's a shameful deal, especially when you look at Rwanda and see human rights violations and the poverty rate (estimated at 39% in 2020 by The Borgen Project). 

Now, let me bring this into Footrace's scope - gambling. The Coalition Against Gambling Ads are one example, there are so many more, of a group campaigning against gambling adverts in football. 

One point, prominent on a recent bus tour, was that 450,000 11- to 16-year-olds gamble - and that 55,000 are already addicted. That's underage gambling. Where might these kids be learning about gambling? 

I'd say that if football is going to start, correctly, thinking harder about the governments they support - such as Arsenal and Rwanda - then it should also think about the business and industries which it supports too. 

Gambling's relationship with football (other sports too, of course) is incredibly dangerous. Football has normalised gambling - in a way that it refuses to normalise, for example, fast foods, alcohol, and smoking - and allowed generations of young people to recognise at least a dozen gambling companies, as well as advertising the deals that you can get with these companies. 

Sky and BT take money from these companies to run gambling advertisements, football clubs take money to emblazon their shirts with these companies logos, and football players are used to advertise these companies - despite the fact that if they were to place a bet, they would be out of the game. It's a scandal, to me, that these companies are not brought in to the question in the mainstream by football fans; even when lived experience campaigners tell society just how damaging these companies can be to lives, little changes. 

Until now... 

There will be a white paper, hopefully later this year, to update the gambling laws here in the UK. This should, one hopes, bring football clubs to the mercy of new laws and remove - once and for all - the harmful gambling advertisements that these clubs don't rely on (but deliberately choose to pick for the money). 

If Visit Rwanda makes you angry, as it should, then maybe all of the following (all partners of Premier League clubs) should too: Betway, Bet365,, Coinjar, Dafabet, e-Toro, FBS, Fiserv, FUN88, GOMarkets, Hollywood Bets, HTH Bet, ManBetX, Marathon Bet, OB Sports, Parimatch, Rushbet, SBOTOP, Skrill, Socios,, Stake, William Hill, W88. 

Football shirts, football social media, football marketing. All will show these companies, and more, so where is the real outcry over this? The campaign to get to the stage where the government looks at their gambling laws after 17 years has not taken the long road, because we have seen that they've tried to be given a voice in the mainstream. It has been forced a bad hand, fighting back against years of positive gambling advertisements where warnings are weak. 

Now, in 2021, we may finally see football looking at its sponsors more wisely; not choosing to walk around with 'Visit a human rights violating country, where people, who are in serious poverty, could have been helped with the money we spent on this advert' or 'BetEverythingYouHaveGotBecauseWeAren'tProperlyRegulatedYetAndWon'tHelpPeopleWhoCan'tHelpThemselves'. 

The Oldham Athletic Protests - A Once Proud Club Clinging On

22/09/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, League Two Editor

The team currently ranked 72nd of all 72 EFL sides are Oldham Athletic. The side from Boundary Park are currently bottom of League Two, thanks in part to a first eight games that has yielded just one win, over EFL newcomers Sutton United, one draw and six defeats. That draw came on Saturday 18th September, a 0-0 stalemate against Hartlepool United. Off the pitch, is where the real problems lie. Peaceful protests have been going on pretty much all season, from the fans towards the owner, Abdallah Lemsagam who they believe should sell his stake in the club.

Before the Hartlepool game, Oldham fans were seen carrying a coffin with ‘RIP OAFC’ written on it through crowds of protesters, some of which were seen wearing clown and grim reaper costumes. When Lemsagam took over the club in 2018, he went on record with an announcement at the time saying he “promises to work hard for the club” but he admits that “mistakes have been made”, in an open letter he penned to the fans recently .The fans he addressed feel let down by the clubs ownership as they see the club start the season on a downward spiral, fearing the worst for the remainder of the campaign.

The protests have been and will continue to be lawful and peaceful, however the club had taken some precautions for the game v Hartlepool, prohibiting alcohol sales and reducing the ability to ‘pay on the day’ for tickets. These protests have been organised by Push the Boundary fan site, who say that they have been advised that Lemsagam wants to work with the fans and not against, but then contradicted his own words, by reducing the pay on the day facilities.

Since Lemsagam took controlling stake at Oldham in 2018, things haven’t at all been plain sailing for The Latics. Relegation and a place in the fourth tier in 2018 for the first time since 1971 didn’t exactly spell the sign of good things to come. The former Moroccan football agent had only taken over the club in the January of 2018 but was soon overseeing his club in the fourth tier of the English Game.

After taking a 97% stake in the club, the takeover didn’t include the north stand of the club’s stadium at Boundary Park, the club has use of this on matchdays but doesn’t own the stand. A winding up order was put on the club by HMRC, two years prior to the 2018 takeover over unpaid tax bills, which also saw the club raided by HMRC in 2017.After the club were relegated in 2018, they faced more winding up orders in 2019 and 2020, with former owner, Simon Blitz seeking to put the club into administration for debts against his company, which owned the clubs Boundary Park stadium. This case was thankfully adjourned in April 2020 after a ‘significant sum of the debt’ had been paid off.

Lemsagam was the man who appointed former Manchester United midfielder, Paul Scholes, giving one of the greats of the game his first managerial job in February 2019, but it wasn’t long before Oldham were looking for another manager again. Scholes lasted just seven matches and just thirty-one days at the club, following an interference in first team affairs from Lemsagam. After Scholes came Pete Wilde, Laurent Banide, Dino Maamra and Harry Kewell, before current boss, Keith Curle stepped into the role in March 2021.

It's clear to see that the fans frustration is justified, Lemsagam’s tenure at the club has brought about 8 permanent managers, a relegation to the Fourth tier and a struggle to strengthen the playing squad under Curle, due to the COVID Pandemic, fan protests and an EFL transfer embargo. Curle hasn’t even met the owner yet, saying before the Hartlepool game that, “No, we haven’t met yet, but we have good dialogue”. The fans patience is wearing thinner every passing week, but Curle isn’t letting himself or the players get dragged into it, ‘Would it quieten down if we were top of the league, yeah massively. Negativity courts company, if you get involved in that negativity, it drags you down”. Oldham’s next assignment is a Carabao Cup third round tie to Premier League side Brentford. A cup run may be the last thing on the Oldham minds at the moment but it gives them a chance, as they did against Leyton Orient a few weeks back, to take their protests on the road and male more people aware, of the dire situation at Boundary Park.

We have seen clubs such as Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale (of more recent) and Blackpool all absorbed and nearly brought down by poor ownership, the Oldham fans are determined to peacefully make sure their club doesn’t go the same way and that it doesn’t fall out of the Football League, for the first time in their history.

Triumph as Stoke march on in the EFL Cup

22/09/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

Stoke broke out a fantastic performance to surprise Premier League side Watford in the Carabao Cup. Michael O’Neill lined up with changed tactics, going for four across the midfield and three strikers up top instead of the usual five across the middle and two in the front line.

There were three changes to the starting eleven that played against Derby County in the league at the weekend. Jacob Brown and Nick Powell joined Sam Surridge upfront, whilst Josh Tymon led a changed midfield from the middle of the park.

The back three had two fresh faces in Danny Batth and James Chester, as Ben Wilmot moved from left centre back to right centre back. Adam Davies featured in nets in place of Joe Bursik. Watford lined up with an entirely different starting side from their weekend win at Norwich, as manager Xisco Munoz looked to give chances to some fringe players.

Stoke went ahead in the game after 25 minutes, as Jeremy Ngakia was disposed near the corner flag by Alfie Doughty, who played a low ball into the box for Nick Powell to turn in past keeper Rob Elliot.

Watford were encouraged by the goal, pressing Stoke high, coming close with chances from Adam Masina and Dan Gosling in quick succession producing fine saves from Davies in nets.

Adam Masina came close again off the back of a looping ball into the box by Ngakia was headed down by centre back Christian Kabasele, but the shot cleared the keeper and the bar.

Watford pressed on after the break, finally drawing level through an Ashley Fletcher goal at the near post as Stoke and Davies scrambled to clear their lines after a Cucho Hernández shot was saved. The young Colombian came close moments later with a header that hit the post and Fletcher hitting a rebound sent out for a corner.

The Potter’s would march on, though, as substitute Sam Clucas fired from over twenty yards out into the bottom corner after a deflection from Moussa Sissoko guided the ball past Elliot.

Five minutes later, and with only five minutes left on the clock, Stoke put the game beyond the Premier League side with a worldie, or miss-hit cross, from midfield youngster Josh Tymon that looped over the head of Rob Elliot to give the visitors a two-goal cushion going into stoppage time.

Michael O’Neill’s side displayed quality and tenacity to show off Premier League opposition to reach the round of 16.

Another trip back to Molineux for Nuno as Spurs get their EFL campaign underway

22/09/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

Tottenham have a tough away trip on Wednesday in the EFL cup as they face a struggling Wolves side that have only won once in the league this season. This game will come down to managers Bruno Lage and Nuno Espírito Santo and the strength of the teams they chose to field, but with both managers desperate for a win, I strongly suspect both sides to be at full strength. This is a really important fixture for Spurs who could do with a massive confidence boost before they travel across North London to face Arsenal on Sunday.

To put it simply, Tottenham are having a terrible September, two 3-0 losses against London opponents, a 2-2 draw with an average Rennes side and the squad in chaos, with players returning from South America and injuries to key players all over the field. All though it feels like a lifetime ago, it has only been a month since Spurs just about came out 1-0 winners against Wolves where they were fortunate that Adama Traoré couldnt finish one of his many chances. Once again this will be a tough fixture and anything less than a positive performance will heap huge pressure onto Nuno, only a few months into his Tottenham reign.

Spurs will have a similar pool of players to choose from as they did against Chelsea on Sunday. However, Japhet Tanganga returns from suspension following his sending off against Palace, who could potentially replace Emerson Royal at right-back. Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn are carrying ankle knocks and are still unavailable so Nuno could turn to youth players such as Bryan Gil and Oliver Skipp to give his squad some much needed rotation, while Pierluigi Gollini ought to be handed the gloves as Hugo Lloris is rested.

Footrace cant choose a favourite for this game with both teams being offered 18 points for a win, whilst you can claim 20 points for predicting a draw. My personal prediction is a 2-1 win for Spurs which will get me a respectable 100 points. Hopefully Spurs can return to winning ways before the North London derby!


The Word of the Week: Sustainable

21/09/2021 - General

By Maurício Alencar, Footrace Football Expert

In the football climate, when clubs find themselves to be devastated by a colossal mess, ruined by gross mismanagement, and made sapless by insurmountable debt, football’s false heroes know, or think they know, what word to use to cushion the hard blow: sustainable. When some of Europe’s most despicable club owners created “The Super League”, Andrea Agneilli, the Chairman of Juventus, said that the league was “putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future”; on the (still standing) website for the (failed) Super League, “Solidarity and Sustainability” is listed as one of the crushed competition’s 4 main targets. When Derby released a statement announcing that they were going into administration last Friday, it claimed that “the irony is that the Club’s financial forecasts show the emergence of a financially sustainable picture”. Shortly before Bolton went into administration, the EFL, which had been criticised by the Bolton Supporters Trust for their belief that the club could feasibly support its own weight, stated that their “overriding objective [was] to ensure the long-term sustainability of all EFL clubs, including a strong Bolton Wanderers”. Etc. It’s football owner’s go-to word when they are faced down by their own financial wreckage. 

Enough of it. Football fans know the story all too well by now. Sustainability, anyway, more pertinently and exclusively relates to the wider discussions surrounding climate change. And finally, it was in this guise that “sustainable” re-emerged in a football context on the weekend. 

Tottenham vs Chelsea on the 19th of September 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will certainly not be remembered for the day Tuchel deployed Kanté after half-time to defeat the Spurs midfield and come out as deserved winners. Instead, Tottenham vs Chelsea, 19/09/21, will likely be tagged as ‘football first ever official “net zero carbon” match’ on the archives. Sky, together with Tottenham and Natural Capital Partners, led the initiative under the title “#GameZero”, working to cut emissions from matchday activities and offset remaining carbon emissions through creating new UK woodlands and a reforestation project in East Africa. It comes under two months before COP26, an important UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. In the truest sense of the word as it is today in 2021, elite football at last showed a sign of its ability to be “sustainable”, in the environmental sense of the word.

Sky and Tottenham Hotspur join a defiant, albeit little-known, class of already-existing football fighters against climate change. Thom Rawson founded “Sustainable Football”, a new consultancy looking to help the football climate become more aware of what it needs to do to tackle climate change. He also works as the “Chief Sustainability Officer at Hanwell Town”, a role you’d hope to see in place at clubs across the country. And, of course, there’s Forest Green Rovers, owned by green-energy-enthusiast Dale Vince. Forest Green are the net-zero carbon football club of the world, though playing at League Two level. 

The football projects mentioned appear to be genuine courses of action taken, but the scale of the work being done is miniscule in comparison to the multi-billion pound operations to move players around the globe to different clubs. Where there are multi-billion pound operations being done to combat climate change in the football world, there is hypocrisy and dishonesty to take into account. FIFA and Qatar pledged to deliver a fully carbon-neutral World Cup in 2022 by “including energy efficient stadiums, low emission transportation, and sustainable waste management”, as they “aim to set a benchmark for environmental stewardship in the region”. Praising the country’s efforts would let Qatar and its money-generating crude oil sector off. It also circumvents criticism for the country’s violation of workers’ rights. 

“Sustainable”, when used in a financial context, is a misfire. It is a word used to signal a sense of safety and prosperity. In the context of despondent club statements announcing a severe sense of struggle to survive, or worse administration, it is a word that has no actual effect, no actual action, no result. It has no place there. So when people in football use “sustainable” to refer to the problems regarding climate change, let’s hope it takes a different tone. Hopefully, it does in fact result in strong action reducing carbon emissions. Otherwise, our whole human race will be going into liquidation, if you like.

Stoke travel to Vicarage Road in hopes to continue their EFL Cup run

21/09/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

After a poor showing at the weekend against Derby County in the league, Michael O’Neill’s lads will be looking to reverse their form against Premiership newcomers Watford this Tuesday night.

Watford on the other hand look set to continue their league form after a 3-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday, a game in which Ismaïla Sarr scored twice taking his seasonal total to three games in five appearances. The youngster will be hoping for a start against the Championship side in order to rack up his seasonal tally despite not having featured in the previous EFL Cup game for Watford as they breezed past Crystal Palace in a 1-0 win.

As for the Potters, they look to continue their run of cup form that saw them past Doncaster last time out in a 2-0 home win against Doncaster Rovers. This month 50 years ago Stoke City began their EFL Cup campaign that resulted in a coveted trophy at Wembley Stadium.

Michael O’Neill will be looking to make changes to the side that started against Derby County in the league at the weekend, though insists he will be putting out a side he believes can get the Potters into the next round.

In terms of injuries, the Potters will remain without Tyrese Campbell who is still playing with the under-23s as he returns to fitness. Steven Fletcher remains out of training with an ankle injury and midfield regular Joe Allen looks unlikely to play as he has only resumed light training after his toe injury.

Watford will be without three players in the midweek clash, as confirmed by the club. Kiko Femenia will be out due to picking up a knock in the second half against Norwich, but the club insists it is not a recurrence of his previous injury.

Joao Pedro will also be unavailable due to a lack of fitness after his recovery from a knee injury. Peter Etebo will of course be unavailable to Xisco’s side due to restrictions in his loan agreement that prevent him from playing against his parent club Stoke.

Three points take Tics top

20/09/2021 - League One

By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer

Wigan Athletic go to the top of Sky Bet League One after an impressive 4-1 win over Accrington Stanley.

Jack Whatmough got his first Wigan goal when he opened the scoring at the Wham Stadium, followed by Will Keane bagging his fifth of the season.

After half time, Michael Nottingham pulled one back for the home side but a brace from Charlie Wyke secured all three points for the Latics and sent them top of the table.

It took just six minutes for Wigan to take the lead when a James McClean corner fell into the path of Whatmough who was able to hammer home his first goal in a Wigan shirt.

Wigan had a chance to score their second shortly after when Keane sent his effort from the edge of the area just wide of James Trafford’s goal.

Keane did not have to wait long to bag his fifth league goal of the season when he rose high in the box to head home after a brilliant cross from the League One assist leader, Max Power.

After half time, Keane had another opportunity to get on the scoresheet when a chance opened up for him on the edge of the area but his shot glanced just wide of the post.

Ben Amos was then tested between the sticks at the other end of the pitch when Sean McConville’s effort from outside of the area looked to be going in, but the Wigan keeper did well to preserve Wigan’s 2-0 lead.

Further chances fell for Wigan when McClean had an effort tipped just wide of the post by Trafford and Kell Watts almost scored from the resulting corner but his effort glanced wide.

Accrington dealt with the early pressure in the second half from Wigan and pulled a goal back thanks to Nottingham who blasted the ball into the roof of the net – no one was stopping that.

Any hope the home side had of a potential come back was quickly shot down when Wyke finally scored his long awaited first goal in blue and white.

Tom Naylor did excellently on the right wing to find Keane on the edge of the area who was able to play a lovely ball through to Wyke, he dinked the ball over Trafford and into the back of the net in front of the travelling Latics faithful.

It was an eventful injury time for Wigan as Wyke got his second of the game, his shot from just inside the area was converted in off the right post to put the 2,500 Latics supporters on cloud nine and sent Wigan top of the pile after Sunderland conceded in injury time.


Owls frustrated by Shrews

20/09/2021 - League One

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer

Sheffield Wednesday’s dip in form continued this Saturday as they made it three league games without victory following a 1-1 home draw with Shrewsbury Town.

Darren Moore handed full league debuts to Saido Berahino and Olamide Shodipo as The Owls hoped to bounce back after their 3-0 thrashing at Plymouth last weekend.

The Hillsborough crowd were given the ideal start when the former Premier League star, Berahino headed home Barry Bannan’s corner to bag his first goal in front of his new supporters just six minutes in.

Two minutes later Berahino should have doubled his tally with a free header on the edge of the six-yard box but the forward glanced it wide of the post.

In a dominant opening the home side were presented with another opportunity for a second when Shodipo was fouled inside The Shrews box winning a penalty kick. The captain had the duty of taking Wednesday’s spot kick but Bannan dragged his penalty past the post.

10 minutes before the break the inevitable happened when Elliot Bennett broke into The Owls’ box, had his cross spilled by Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Ryan Bowman turned the ball into the Wednesday net to equalise. A sickening blow for Darren Moore’s side who were punished for failing to take their chances.

In a disappointing second half, the hosts were fortunate not to go behind when Shrewsbury’s Luke Leahy ran through on goal but stuck his effort just wide.

The Yorkshire club will however feel aggrieved following a controversial disallowed goal midway through the second 45. Bannan slipped in Shodipo who appeared to be in an onside position, with the winger slotting the ball into the back of the net only to see the linesman’s flag raised for an offside. The decision was one that frustrated The Owls manager who says he ‘knew it was a goal’.

A deflated Wednesday side were unable to find a winner and slumped to a disappointing draw. This result sees the promotion hopefuls drop down to 12th place with 11 points from their opening 7 games. A few positives Wednesdayites can take away from the game is a much improved performance to the display at Plymouth last week. Shodipo and Berahino both looked very sharp with the latter now off the mark in blue and white. On another day Wednesday may well have put away their chances early on and cruised to victory and with it still early days for this much changed Owls squad, it may take a bit of time before we see the best of this team.

Next up for Darren Moore’s men it’s a trip to fellow promotion favourites Ipswich Town, where The Owls will once again be backed by a sold-out away end.

Chelsea run riot at Tottenham

20/09/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Spurs writer

Chelsea inflicted a consecutive 3-0 defeat on Tottenham in a dominant performance. After managing no shots on target in the opening 45 minutes, Chelsea looked like a different team after the break and outclassed Spurs in every department resulting in three well taken goals for Silva, Kanté and Rüdiger.

Spurs collapsed in the latter stages of the game, undoing all their promising work in the first-half, where they gave a very promising account of themselves. To Nunos credit he opted for a very attacking lineup, starting Ndombele, Lo Celso and Alli, prompting Spurs to play on the front foot. This tactic paid off, Son and Sergio Reguilón were both put through on goal early on, but could not provide the finish. Ultimately, it fell apart in the second-half, Chelsea flexed their squad depth by bringing on N'Golo Kanté at half time who changed the game for the European champions, running Tottenhams midfield ragged.

The goals Spurs conceded were poor, shambolic defending by Dier and Alli allowed Silva to score a well placed header, uncharacteristically Højbjerg was caught napping for Chelseas second, failing to close down Kanté, allowing his shot to deflect in and the third goal was the result of tired legs. Rüdiger was given way too much space in the box allowing the German defender to place the ball into the bottom corner.

Tottenham were outclassed in the second-half against unbelievable quality, they wont have to face a team that good every week. There were positives to take from the game, especially the first half, where on another day they could have been ahead. Playing on the front foot is undoubtedly the way forward for Tottenham and this result should not put them off this style of football. We have two of the best forwards in the league in Kane and Son, if we consistently feed them chances the goals will come.

I have full faith in Kane to return to fine goal scoring form imminently, hes had the most testing summer of his career and it will take him time to get back into the swing of things. Im not a fan of his insistence on dropping deep into midfield to link up play, he is the best goal scorer in the league and he needs his hunger back to be in the box for every attack. Worryingly, over two matches hes only had two touches in the opposition's box, this must change.

Thankfully, Spurs now have a week to prepare for a monumental North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday. I think this is a perfect time to play Arsenal, admittedly they have won back to back games, but against poor opponents. If Spurs take the game to Arsenal like they did against Chelsea in the first half, I have full faith they will get the victory.


Stoke receive another early blow to promotion chances

19/09/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

After a midweek stumble against Barnsley, in which Stoke City shared the points after picking up a red card on the pitch and two off the pitch for the technical staff, Michael O'Neill’s side looked to regain their winning form away to Derby on Saturday.

Stoke City lined up with three changes at Pride Park, with new Brighton loanee Abdallah Sima coming in upfront to replace Jacob Brown, Tom Ince coming in on the right-hand side for the suspended Tommy Smith, and Sam Clucas taking the place of Joe Allen in the centre of the field after the Welsh man picked up a toe injury during the midweek game against Barnsley.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby was looking to take away the focus from the off the pitch noise surrounding the team’s twelve-point deduction due to entering administration and a previously agreed nine-point deduction for misdemeanours in their accounting.

The game began evenly with few chances at either end until a miss cleared ball from the Stoke defence found its way to Max Bird who rifled home a screamer from well outside the 18-yard line. Joe Bursik in the Stoke net barely moved as the shot flew past him into the top left corner. This was the youngster’s first goal for Derby County which put his side ahead in the 31st minute.

Three minutes later Romaine Sawyers gave away a freekick as Derby looked to break on the counter-attack, tripping Louie SIbly, and the ball was floated into the box by Graeme Shinnie. Joe Bursik came flying out of the Stoke net to catch the ball but was left stranded as Curtis Davies headed the ball from the edge of the 18-yard line into the net with no keeper.

Derby continued with pressure, with Joe Bursik again coming out and letting Ravel Morrison in behind to slot it into an open net, only for the Derby forward to hit the side netting/

The Potter’s managed to pull a goal back in the 58th minute as Mario Vrancic set up former Derby County man Tom Ince to finish the ball into the bottom left corner at Kelle Roos’ near post. This was Ince’s first league goal since July 2020.

Stoke continued to apply pressure throughout the second half, with two penalty claims going unheeded by the referee as the game ended with a Derby win. Michael O’Neill’s side looked unprofessional in defence during the first half, allowing a galvanised Derby side to take advantage of a shaky start in nets for Joe Bursik against his run of form recently.




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