Something for the FA Cup Weekend

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The Independent Football

The mind games begin...

Stoke find their hotel taken

Manchester City started their FA Cup preparations with some pre-match chicanery that might have embarrassed even Jose Mourinho: they pinched Stoke City's hotel. Tony Pulis's side thought that they had reserved the Grove Hotel in Watford, after a provisional booking in March. When they tried to confirm after their win over Bolton, they were told that their reservation no longer stood. And who should be staying there instead? Roberto Mancini and team. It is not the first time that City have thrown their financial weight around, and so surprise is misdirected. Stoke have mistaken underdog status, and this slight should provide further ammunition to a belief that the forces of capital are lined up against them.

Man City prepare for glorification

With a 'bluffers guide'

For a team that prides itself on the authenticity of its support base, Manchester City seemed rather keen on attracting their own glory supporters this week. Presumably anticipating floods of traffic to their official website after Champions League qualification and before the Cup final, they published a "Bluffer's Guide" to the club. Glory-supporters, it said in so many words, would be "welcomed with open arms into our 'family'", while it taught that "Francis Bell" and "Yaya Dzeko" were not player's names but combinations thereof. It even taught readers "the Poznan". City fans online were ashamed and horrified. Fans of Manchester United, less so.

The haunting of Pulis's dreams

He has been to Wembley before

In 1999 Tony Pulis was manager of Second Division Gillingham. His team made the play-offs, and met Manchester City in the final. 2-0 up with one minute left; they could smell the First Division. But two late goals and a penalty shoot-out sent Manchester City up. So sickening was this turnaround that Pulis did not return to Wembley until the Bolton semi-final. "The fates were against us," he said. "I never watched the game afterwards. I just wanted to wash it away." A repeat today and Pulis could be forgiven a lust for arson.