Origins of 'can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke' | OneFootball

Origins of 'can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke' | OneFootball

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·13 January 2024

Origins of 'can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke'

Article image:Origins of 'can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke'


  • The phrase "Can they do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?" originated in 2010 during a discussion about the Ballon d'Or contenders Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
  • It implies that Messi wouldn't perform well under tough conditions and against physical teams like Stoke City, while Ronaldo had already proven himself in England.
  • Stoke City's defensive style and Rory Delap's long throw tactic made them difficult to play against, even for top teams like Arsenal. Arsene Wenger famously struggled to find a solution to counter their strategy.

There are many infamous phrases in football. 'It's still 0-0 lads' and 'squeaky bum time' are two that spring to mind. But, has there ever been one that caught fire quite like the saying: 'Can they do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?' Other variations on the phase include: 'Cold, wet and windy night at Stoke City' and more simply, 'A cold wet Tuesday night in Stoke' – you get the gist.

Without context, the expression merely seems to just be a tongue-in-cheek remark about the treacherous conditions you are likely to find in the midlands of England. However, over the years it has morphed into a phenomenon in a manner which is very hard to explain. So much so, that it has become a part of many football fans' vocabulary.

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Here at GIVEMESPORT, we are going to attempt to answer what the origins of 'Can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke' are, what it actually means and how it has transformed into one of the most popular turns of phrase in English football.

Andy Gray first said 'can they do it on a cold, rainy night in stoke'

The term originated in 2010

The first time the phrase was ever said on camera was following a Premier League game that, interestingly, didn't involve Stoke City. The two teams in action on Monday 20th December 2010 were Manchester City and Everton. First-half goals from Tim Cahill and Leighton Baines helped secure a 2-1 victory for The Toffees.

As per Goal, this game was being analysed by former Sky Sports pundits Richard Keys and Andy Gray. The pair are well-known for having controversial takes, but on this occasion, comments from the latter helped spawn the now-famous saying.

The 2010 Ballon d'Or contenders came up in conversation. The two favourites, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were the main talking points as the pundits debated who was most deserving of the award. At the time, there was a stigma surrounding the Argentinian magician that he didn't produce against English competition. Seemingly alluding to this belief, Gray suggested that Messi "would struggle on a cold night at the Britannia Stadium."

Although not used in the exact way it is known and loved today, this was the first time that anyone suggested that someone would struggle in tough conditions against Stoke City.

A 'Cold, wet and windy night' explained

Ronaldo had proved he could do it in England, unlike Messi

In this statement, Gray is insinuating that the conditions Messi found himself playing in at Barcelona suited his style of football. The tiki-take style that was perfected under Pep Guardiola during this time, was easier to implement due to the perceived better weather in Cataluna as opposed to the rain and wind in England.

Gray was under the impression that Messi would not be able to handle the combination of the poorer conditions and the physical nature of a team like Stoke City. It was the belief at the time that whilst Spanish football was far more advanced in its technical aspect, the Premier League was far superior in its physicality and that someone of Messi's stature could be more easily bullied by English teams.

The term was also a good way of giving Ronaldo a few extra points in the debate about who was the better player. This is because the Portuguese forward had done so well during his time at Manchester United, and thus there was no debate over whether or not he had the ability, temperament and physicality to do it on a 'cold wet Tuesday night in Stoke'.

Messi's record against English clubs in the Champions League proves any doubts over him to be a myth, however. As of 2021, Messi had managed to score 27 goals in 35 games against Premier League clubs in Europe – 15 more than any other player in the competition. This included two against Manchester United in two separate Champions League finals.

Stoke City were awkward to play against

Tony Pulis' long-throw tactics shocked even the biggest teams

When Stoke City got promoted to the Premier League in 2008, they brought with them a style of football that unsettled many of the status quo in the division. They were an incredibly difficult team to break down defensively, with the likes of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross becoming a pivotal part of their defence over the years.

What the Potters were arguably most famous for, however, was the long throw of Rory Delap. The midfielder was a veteran at this point, having previously played Premier League football for the likes of Derby. Yet, never before had fans witnessed his superhuman ability to throw a football seemingly further than anyone in the competition's history.

Speaking on an episode of the Fozcast, former Stoke boss Tony Pulis spoke about discovering Delap's hidden talent and how he was able to use it to his advantage. Pulis said:

"We finished training one day and the lads were having a competition to see who could throw the ball the longest. "Kempy [Dave Kemp] is watching them...I come over and Kempy says 'have you seen Rory?' "He throws it almost over the pitch. I said 'Rory, where have you been hiding that?'"

It turned out that Delap was a javelin thrower in his youth and had never had the opportunity to showcase this skill on a football pitch. From that point on, it became a lethal set-piece weapon for Pulis' men, with the former manager claiming that the long throws were more accurate than any corner.

One team who really struggled with this tactic was Arsenal. Despite having maestros such as Samir Nasri and Cesc Fàbregas in their team, The Gunners were famously undone by Stoke's style of play in several meetings. In fact, between 2008 and 2018, Arsenal only won at The Britannia Stadium on two occasions. Once in 2010 and once in 2017.

Pulis spoke of Arsene Wenger's hands-on nature with regard to Arsenal's training against the long throw, claiming:

"Patrick Vieria and Jens Lehman were on a coaching course with me. They were waiting for me afterwards and I was thinking 'what are they going to say? Two Arsenal players. We've absolutely mullered them most of the time. "They wait for me and tell me this story that the only time Arsene Wenger ever coached defensive work was when they played Stoke in a cup game. "He had us there for ten minutes saying 'this is where they throw it, this is what I want you to do. They'd never known him to be so uptight."

A tactic so simple yet so brilliant that even one of the greatest managers in Premier League history couldn't figure out an answer to it.

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