Out with the old in with the new
“Can they do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke”, became the archetypal question posed to new foreign players arriving into the Premier League and for any team with title aspirations, explains Steven Sheehan in this ComeOnLads.com article.
Thanks to Andy Gray’s inane comment about Lionel Messi, the industrial style of The Potters quickly became the epitome of the toughest game in the Premiership. If you could find a way to deal with the swirling winds of the Bet365 Stadium (then the Britannia), raucous support, a Shawcross cruncher, the Delap Launcher and the Warrior Walters, then everything else in the Premiership felt like a walk in the park.
Once built in Pulis’ granite like image, Stoke City have evolved over the past few years, achieving their highest finishes in the Premiership under the guidance of Mark Hughes. The fans have also been treated to the odd splash of flair with the very antithesis of a ‘traditional’ Stoke player — Bojan and Shaqiri — seen darting around the windswept pitch. So the question is, why have the club been marked down for relegation and their manager highlighted as the favourite to be sacked first this season?
A little perspective
The visit of Manchester United this weekend brings into focus the changes that have occurred in the post-Pulis era, with more 6ft plus giants likely to be seen in the away dressing room than in the home one. With Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan having also left in the past few months, Hughes has succeeded in moving on from the Pulis era while raising the club to three consecutive 9th place finishes. While last season saw them drop to 13th, it is worth remembering that they were only 2 points off Southampton and Bournemouth, who were placed in 8th and 9th respectively.
Perhaps it’s their modest activity in the transfer window that cast down on their ability to survive this season. While the signing of Darren Fletcher doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing, he provides great experience and depth to their squad. The purchase of both Kevin Wimmer for £18 million and Kurt Zouma on loan are solid signings that negate the need for both players to acclimatise to the Premiership. Jese Rodríguez has made a strong start to life in the Potteries, scoring the goal that claimed their first three points of the season against Arsenal, while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could add some much needed assists and goals from midfield.