Back to the Future: Part 1
I’m bored, you’re bored, we’re all bored, life without football is an empty hollow one, well it is if you are as sad as the bloggers here. So to keep us all interested I decided to imagine what fresh hell our club would be in if we decided not to sack Pulis four summers ago. Whilst his style of play did get us to the Premier League it was stagnant, boring and just plain awful. So let’s hop in the Delorian and try not to shag our mothers.
The summer months were very dry for transfers under Pulis and the summer of 2013 made no difference. Erik Pieters signed for the club for 3 million (he really had no idea what he was doing to himself signing up as a full back in Pulis’ squad). Then nothing happened, at all. Carlton Cole was seen having a tour around Clayton Wood, but the transfer fell through due to a mysterious injury crisis at his current club West Ham. Nothing happened, until the night of the 2nd September, when the entire transfer team descended on the training ground, pizza deliveries in hand. With promises of new wingers and a clinical finisher to change the attacking dynamic of the squad the only player who had a photo with the Red and White shirt come the end of the night was James Collins.
Pulis’ radical new 6-2-2 formation saw Pieters playing a defensive left wing role, whilst long throw specialist Ryan Shotton continued on the right hand side, with 4 centre backs in between them. Collins allowed Huth to move to his more natural position of right centre back, whilst Shawcross and ‘the best left back in the league’ Marc Wilson occupied the left hand side of the defence. The Midfield saw Glen Whelan coupled with an ever increasingly frustrated Steven N’Zonzi, who was instructed that he could only pass forwards 5 times a match and dribbling was certainly not playing by the percentages and was banned for the whole squad. Whilst Jon Walters and Crouchy led the line somewhat unsuccessfully.
The start to the season was poor for the strike force with Asmir Begovic joint top goal scorer until December, yes some things cannot change. However the defence was solid and kept 13 clean sheets at home all year. The media’s traditional lack of coverage for Stoke continued and came to a head when we met Sunderland at home in November. The game was Stoke’s third goal-less draw in a row, and unfortunately the producers of Match of the Day forgot to schedule the match into the show. Things continued to degrade when N’Zonzi played a through ball to Erik Pieters in the 13th minute of a December fixture against Hull.
Pulis immediately called for a replacement to be brought on, as he had specifically instructed Steven to not play through balls to the full backs as this encouraged them to get forward and join the attack. This sparked a major incident as Pulis was seen leaving the changing room with a bloody mouth and N’Zonzi was declared injured for months due to ‘tripping over his pet Iguana’. January came and silly season rolled into the Potteries like an everlasting hail storm that no one really wanted to be there. It began with N’Zonzi quickly being moved onto Spanish side Sevilla, with rumours of him unsettling the dressing room. Promise of signing young attacking flair was met when on the final day of the window when 24 year old Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe was signed from Everton for a club record 16 million pounds. Kenwyne Jones mysteriously vanished during a training session and was never found or heard from again. Whilst the club fended of many large offers for the prolific Ryan Shawcross who had managed to bag 6 goals in 21 matches.
The 40 point mark was met in April and heralded another year of success and stability for the club. Fans were angered by the measly figure of only 28 goals scored all year with 22 of these coming from set pieces. Shawcross gained top goal scorer with 9 goals, and Stoke managed to finish 15th one place ahead of local rivals West Brom. The board stood behind their manager despite some heavy criticism shown mainly by the average attendance falling again to 23,500.
We have successfully made it back to 2016, and that was certainly an interesting experience. Join us again next time when we plunge headlong into Pulis’ 9th season of tyrannical reign.
Written by Tom Thrower
Trackback from your site.