Stoke once again have compounded the critics and not only avoided the dreadful “second season syndrome”, but actually improved their points and placing from last season. It’s a fantastic achievement for the club and its passionate and noisy fans. I have to say that as an away fan at either the Brittania Stadium or the old Victoria Ground, listening to the Stoke fans regal you a blast of “Delilah” is an experience you have to witness. Hats off to them, it’s an impressive sonic attack that seems to come from everywhere.
To the modern fan, most people assume Stoke have seemingly come from nowhere and when I started watching football, Stoke City were unfortunately on the way down. They have suffered over modern seasons, but don’t be fooled by the clubs league standings over the last 20 years. Throughout most of the 20th century the club were a well established First Division side.
Now they’ve begun to re-establish themselves and a lot of credit has to go to Tony Pulis for the work he’s put in at the club since he returned for his second stint as manager. Today he’s had an interview with the BBC’s underated Juliette Ferrington in which he’s opened up about some of the leaks and gossip that threatened to derail the clubs progress earlier this season. Following on from Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s refreshingly honest interview in the Guardian, it makes such a refreshing change for someone to deal with the issues fans actually talk about.
I find Pulis an interesting interviewee, his experiences in the lower leagues as a player and manager stands him in good stead. He’s been where it really matters in football, rather than the cossetted world of top flight football. He has an astounding record of never being relegated as a manager so far at the 6 jobs he’s had since he replaced Harry Redknapp at Bournemouth in 1992 and he knows what a club needs to keep it up. It may not be pretty sometimes, but it works.
In the interview today, he’s named names and laid it out for all the fans to see. He’s fed up with people running to the press and leaking stories, which in his opinion destabilises the club.“I thought Beattie was one of the main reasons we stayed up in the first year, he was exceptional, but he hasn’t had a good season in my opinion. “Kitson was our record signing, and I don’t think we’ve got what we thought we were going to get, to be perfectly honest.”
Regardless of what players may think or what John Terry may say to the press, the power at a football club has to lay with the manager. Fans may have favourite players, but ultimately it is the manager who’s neck is on the line every time his team kick off. He’s the one who gets the stick if the side loses and stands back when the team win. Players don’t get sacked when the team struggles, the manager does. The last thing a newly promoted side needs is a couple of ego fuelled players thinking they’re the only thing that matters at a club.
The two players he names can point the fingers all they want, but they simply haven’t performed this season at all. Kitson’s tenure has been a bit of a disaster to be honest, but you can’t go shouting your mouth off about the manager. He was bought to score goals and simply hasn’t produced anywhere near the form he showed at Reading. Beattie on the other hand, has always had a reputation as a bit of a “prima-donna”, so it was seemed more a question of when he’d blow up rather than why. He is a classic example of potential being wasted by poor off field discipline. Ironically both have drink driving convictions.
Martin Keown tonight criticised Pulis for his comments, but I applaud him for his honesty. I’m sick to death of pampered players whining because they are not the be all and end all at clubs they clearly feel aren’t big enough for them. Pulis would do well in selling the pair of them and investing in some raw talent that has it all to prove rather than two players who feel they are bigger than Stoke City. No doubt, someone will want them but Stoke City are better of without them.