Last week Stoke City had the great achievement of reaching the knock out stages of the Europa League (unfortunately they have received a very tough draw). Lots of people mock the competition, however I think it's great - not for the big clubs like the Manchester sides and Spurs (therefore I wouldn't give Champions League drop outs this "second prize") who could probably do without it, but for teams like Stoke. It wasn't too long ago that Middlesbrough reached the final and being from the North East I thoroughly enjoyed watching their entertaining journey. Fulham fans also seemed to revel in their achievement also reaching the final two seasons ago. The competition is great for giving the smaller clubs a moment in the spotlight. I genuinely hope that Stoke outlast City and United in this year's tournament (I do normally support the underdog but always support UK clubs in Europe). I'm sure all Middlesbrough fans remember them knocking our Roma, it would be equally as impressive for Stoke to trouble Valencia.
I think Tony Pulis is doing an really good job there, yes they are a physical team with a habit of scoring goals from long throws and set pieces but I think their style of play has improved each year in the league and in the three and a half seasons in the Premier League they haven't looked like being relegated (having achieved 45, 47 and 46 points respectively and 24 from this season's 16 games despite the distraction of Europe).
They are however wrong to rule out a complaint following the appalling treatment their players received in their final Europa league game away in Besiktas. I understand that Pulis, like many managers, like to forge almost a siege mentality where the rest of the world seem to want them to fail but that is no reason not to follow the proper procedures when another club/their fans have broken the rules. Nobody would find it acceptable to turn up to work and have objects thrown at you whilst you sit at your desk from people trying to injure you/cause your performance to suffer, so this shouldn't be acceptable on a football pitch when footballers are doing their jobs. UEFA really should crack down on this irrespective of a Stoke complaint. Obviously the benefits of playing at home include the familiar conditions and the home support, however there is a thin line between supporting your team and abusing the opposition. If it was up to me I'd throw them out, take a zero tolerance and if it happens next time ban the club from European competition for a number of years - the fans would then soon learn not to do that.
I am pleased to see UEFA have taken action against Celtic for their "illicit chanting" and also that Celtic chose not to appeal. There should be no room for this in society irrespective of it being at a sporting venue. I don't feel that the punishment was harsh enough, playing behind closed doors or throwing them out would have sent a stronger message - especially as their fan's don't seem to have gotten the message. I know this punishes the whole for a minority of fan's actions but this sort of thing should not be tolerated.
At it's best sport brings people from different cultures and societies together. This should not be threatened by a small minority who do their best to destabilise this/the opposition.