Time to take a leaf out of Stoke’s book

by Edward Watson

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Who would’ve thought ten years ago that Stoke City would be splashing out an impressive £18million+ on transfer deadline day as they embark on their first year in Europe since 1975? Well how times change as this year they join a limited group of clubs that are recognised as ‘established Premier League clubs’.

It was ten years ago this season that The Potters won promotion from what was then Division Two. In that ten years there have been many teams that have tried, and needless to say, failed at establishing themselves in the Premier League. Some teams survived for a season then failed miserably the second, and some teams have found themselves in a sort of yo-yo effect between the Premiership and Championship. Some teams have even been all the way down to League One and back.

So what has Stoke done that has made them different from all the others? I believe it’s down to both the manager and boards members’ ability to understand that patience is the key to success. Not once has the board put pressure on Tony Pulis to produce beyond what the squad is capable of, and therefore he’s been given the time to let his squad evolve into one that is now pushing on top 10 Premier League finishes.

It tends to be the case in football that it pays to stick with the same manager; Manchester United and Arsenal are obvious examples, but also look at Everton and Wolves. Stoke have done this – other than Pulis’s “year out” as the club describe it, where he spent a seven month period at Plymouth Argyle before being reappointed as manager – and it seems to have paid off.

Stoke’s progression through the Premier League seems to be at a similar rate to their progression through the Championship. They spent six years as a mid-table side in the Championship before finishing runners up in 2008. They were quickly written off in the Premier League, to the point where bookmaker Paddy Power paid out to customers who bet Stoke would go down on the first game of the season. How wrong they were!

Some shrewd low-key signings by Pulis, including Danny Higginbotham, Thomas Sorenson and Abdoulaye Faye, helped to quickly prove any doubters wrong as they finished the season a healthy looking 12th, 11 points clear of safety.

Since then the Britannia Stadium has earned a reputation as being one of the toughest places to go in the Premier League, Stoke have completed three seasons in the Premier League, reached the FA Cup final for the first time in the clubs history and is now playing in Europe for the first time in three decades.

It seems to me that if you want to stay in the Premier League, this is the way to do it. Throwing daft amounts of money around for often past it players which then disrupts the nucleus of the side before completely backfiring, sending the club miserably back into the Championship, having to sell all their players and then start again – which let’s face it, far too many clubs have done – isn’t.

I believe that Stoke have earned their right to go splashing the cash, and I think they can go far in both the Premier League and Europe. They’ve got themselves to where they are in a sustainable fashion and in my mind for as long as Tony Pulis is at the helm Stoke City will be in the Premier League.

So who will be the next side to join the likes of Stoke, Bolton, Fulham and don’t forget Manchester City who have all successfully established themselves in the Premier League over the last decade, and who will be the ones that fade back into the obscurity of the lower divisions?

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  • Richard

    We won promotion from division 2 under Gudjon Thordarson NOT Pulis!

    Sloppy research.

  • Matt Quinn

    I like Stoke and think theyve made some good purchases but £12m for Crouch??? Unbelievable… he is the very opposite of what Stoke need. He squanders possession every time the ball is hit up towards him by giving away unneccessary foul after foul.

  • Edward Watson

    Richard: Point noted and edited. Clearly I mixed some dates up.

    I think the point to my article still stands regardless of that however. He has been the mastermind behind your success since 2002.

  • John Potter

    Matt, I think you misunderstand the nature of the Crouch deal. Stoke have made no secret of the fact that their wage structure is pretty rigid and well below that of most Prem clubs. Crouch almost certainly got at least £20k more per week at Spurs than he will get at Stoke. £20k per week is £1 million per year and he is on a 4 year contract. My guess is that the inflated price paid for him enabled Spurs to fund a big bonus meaning he would accept a much lower wage at Stoke. If you had read he had been bought for £6 million and would be paid by Stoke the same as he got paid at Spurs you might have thought that was a reasonable deal all round. Yet both deals would actually cost Stoke the same amount over the life of his contract.

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