All the pressures, frustrations and perceived injustices that cloud the vision of Premier League managers appeared to revisit Kenny Dalglish at the Britannia Stadium, with his suggestion that Liverpool are being victimised by referees' decisions smacking of faint paranoia.
For a fourth Premier League game running, reckoned Dalglish, contentious decisions had worked against his side, including the penalty award for Jamie Carragher's foul on Jon Walters which saw the bustling Stoke striker -- and, as he reflected cheerily later, Everton fan too -- pick himself up and smash home the first-half winner from the spot.
"If we continually get battered by things which are out of our control then we're not going to have much chance," said Dalglish. "We would like to be respectful to the referees, and I feel we have been respectful, but more importantly is them having respect for Liverpool Football Club. And if I feel we're suffering in any way, shape or form then I may need to go the same route as some other people and see if I can gain some benefit from that."
That route, on which he would make no decision until he had talked to the team's owner John Henry "because the last thing I want to do is for my behaviour to impinge on the club's success in any way", presumably could entail an official protest.
And what a waste of everyone's time that would be. Despite Dalglish couching all his grumbles under the cloak of being respectful, it still all seemed faintly absurd on an afternoon when the raging penalty injustices he saw were not so blindingly clear to everyone else.
Dalglish's "contentious" decisions were exactly that. Not travesties, not scandalous, just contentious. Carragher had his arms wrapped round Walters like an octopus so the penalty decision was always eminently "giveable".
When Rory Delap handled, it was not even obvious enough for Liverpool players to make anything more than half-hearted appeals. And when Luis Suarez screamed for handball late on, it would have been a very harsh penalty for Mark Clattenburg to award against the sliding Matthew Upson.
As for the wider concept that Liverpool have been "battered" by bad decisions all season, even those who have chronicled their every game so far seemed wholly unconvinced. The truth was Dalglish's men, inspired by Suarez's livewire excellence, created enough chances to have won. Was it Clattenburg's fault that the Uruguayan side-footed wide when it seemed easier to score?
To Dalglish's credit, he ended up shrugging that he would not say any more because "I don't want to take the gloss away from Stoke". Quite right too.
The home side, displaying commitment, courage and defensive resilience, hurled bodies to maintain their own eight-game unbeaten start. Asked about the Potters' extraordinary fortitude, Tony Pulis just shrugged: "It's the DNA of the football club."
And it was evident from seeing Peter Crouch knuckling down as a third centre-half to help lift the late siege. Pulis could hardly help smiling when it was suggested Stoke are in danger of becoming fashionable. Heck, even Mrs Abigail Crouch, supposedly not the greatest admirer of the Potteries, loved her afternoon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)