On Tuesday Tony Pulis left the club after seven years in charge and it was possibly a surprise to him as he was expecting to be conducting an end of season review, plus look ahead to potential new signings during the summer. For me a sad end to what has been a great time at Stoke City under his reign including an FA Cup Final, European football and becoming an established Premiership team. I will always remember our 5-0 thrashing of Bolton at the FA Cup Semi-Final and some of the players he has brought in like Ricardo Fuller, Rory Delap, Asmir Begovic, Mama Sidibe, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Matty Etherington, Richard Creswell (very important role in our promotion), Peter Crouch to name but a few. Of course there have been duffers like Michael Owen, Diego Arismendi, Eidur Gudjonsson…
Two things why I personally think he needed to go. The biggest was our massive drop in form after beating Liverpool on Boxing Day. Not sure what happened after but we were not a classic Pulis/Stoke team leaking goals, bad defending and some players hardly putting a decent shift in. N’Zonzi a classic case as he was superb up until Christmas and then fell away in form, bar the last couple of games. He has since handed in a written transfer request which has been turned down, which may have been submitted as early as late last year.
Secondly youth development and the Academy. Pulis seems to regard youth players at the age of 23 or 24 with few exceptions and the chairman Peter Coates has made the Academy and the development of young players a major priority, something I am not sure Pulis bought into. We do need a decent youth set-up as we can’t rely too heavily on experienced players all the time, some of whom are driven more by money than playing for the club.
So who next in the manager’s hot seat? Mark Hughes is gaining momentum on the BBC and other media, a manager who was awful at QPR and appears to be Pulis less the baseball cap and a more positive view of youth players. Wigan’s Roberto Martinez is the other front runner, although he has yet to declare he is leaving Wigan and Everton are after him as well. Then we have Brighton’s Gus Poyet, currently suspended by his current club and according to ESPN keen to speak to Stoke. Rafa Benitez, who has helped Stoke with player and tactics knowledge during our Europa League campaign. Roberto Di Matteo looks to be the other possible and then you have the usual suspects like Alan Curbishley, Martin O’Neill (a Coates manager if ever there was one) and Jurgen Klinsman going by some internet rumours. Me? I’d be happy with one from Poyet, Martinez, Benitez or Di Matteo.
Quick thanks to Rory Delap who leaves the club after seven years. His long throw missiles were a superb surprise in our first season in the Premiership, Aston Villa and Arsenal I both recall being stunned by them. He was a good defensive presence and popped up with the odd goal. Off the field a real hero as well raising thousands of pounds for the local Donna Louise Trist charity. In hindsight he should have maybe gone last summer as this season he has been on loan and not made the 25 man squad list. Would have liked to have seen him kept on in some form of coaching role.
Pulis’s coaching team have all been dismissed including former player Dave Kevan, his assistant manager Dave Kemp and the lion’s mane hairdo that is Gerry Francis. Also off is Jermaine Pennant who was side lined after some incident off the field. Matthew Upson, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Lund and Carlo Nash all look set to leave as well as their contracts are up. Michael Owen has already gone after announcing his retirement form football.
Going to be an interesting summer to be a Stoke fan…