STEVE SIMONSEN is hoping his former side can extinguish Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League hopes on Sunday afternoon . . . and ensure a fitting finale to what he expects to be a memorable and historic afternoon at the Britannia Stadium.
The former England Under-21 ace has confirmed his attendance at the fixture, along with more than 80 other fellow former Stoke City stars, as the Club celebrates its 150th Anniversary at the final home Premier League fixture of the season.
The 34-year-old featured in 187 matches during his six-year spell, playing a prominent role in the side that etched itself into the history books in 2008 by securing a spot in the Premier League for the first-ever time.
Speaking exclusively to stokecityfc.com this week, he said that he was ‘truly honoured’ to have been one of the selected few to receive an invite to attend such a high profile occasion for the Football Club.
“I had a great time at the Club, everybody knows that, so to get the call five or six weeks ago asking me to come down for the celebrations really was touching to be honest with you,” he said.
“As soon as I was asked to come down it was straight into my diary, no messing about. It will be fantastic to see a few familiar faces again, and catch up with some really good people who are still at the Club now.
“It’s a great day for the Club to be celebrating their 150th anniversary - it’s incredible really. The day will be even more special now too having secured safety for another season, which will have come as a huge relief to everybody I’m sure.”
He added: “It will be a fantastic day off the pitch and hopefully it will be a great day on the pitch too. Tottenham are flying again this season, and they will want the points themselves, but hopefully Stoke can get the win and send us all home very happy.”
Simonsen fondly remembers an enthralling encounter against Spurs at White Hart Lane during the 2009-10 campaign - one in which he produced arguably his finest performance in a Stoke shirt.
Originally pencilled in for a spot amongst the substitutes, the South Shields-born ‘keeper was thrust into the side at the last moment after the Denmark international Thomas Sorensen fell victim to illness during the pre-match warm-up.
“It’s ironic that the game on Sunday is against Spurs, and it makes the occasion even more special for me because of the memories that come flooding back from that game against them,” he smiled.
“Tommy had a bit of illness before the game, but felt he would be okay, so I did my usual warm-up, then he came out and didn’t feel well enough to play, so I got my chance, and thankfully for me it proved to be one of those occasions where everything went my way.
“As a professional, you have days like that, and I remember thinking at the time if we could hold on and take the 0-0 it would be a great point for us, but for Glenn Whelan to score at the end and win the game for us made it even more special.
“They threw everything at us, they had Jermain Defoe on, Peter Crouch on, Robbie Keane on and Aaron Lennon too, but we just kept everything out, somehow. It was fantastic, and definitely a game that I will always remember.”
Victory for Tony Pulis’ side in front of the live television cameras on Sunday could incredibly catapult them back into the top ten of the Premier League table ahead of next weekend’s final day showdown on the South Coast with Southampton.
Simonsen feels that carrot could give the players the inspiration they need to record a third victory in four games, and end the campaign on a much brighter note, having endured something he describes as an ‘inevitable’ poor run of form.
“Listen, in the Premier League, it’s so easy to go through a period like Stoke have done. Look at the table this year, for example. There have been five or six teams down there who wouldn’t have expected to have been back in August.
“It’s relentless in there, and that is why it is the best League in the world. Big teams like Aston Villa, who have been in the top-flight for years and years, have almost fallen victim to it this year too, and they would never expect to be battling like they have done.
“Newcastle too, and Sunderland. Sooner or later, no matter who you are, unless you are one of the big five or six, you will get dragged into a battle. That’s football for you. Thankfully for Stoke, they have shown their true character in recent weeks and pulled a few fantastic results out of the bag.”
He added: “It’s so tight, and even now, despite all of that, the Club can still finish in the top ten this season. Four points from the last two games could be enough to secure that, and that really would then be another great season.”