Flair vs. Graft. In or Out. We’re Divided.

Times as a Stoke fan are becoming increasingly turbulent. It appears you either love a certain set of players or despise them, you adore the manager or can’t wait to see the back of him. Having such strong opinions is not a bad thing for fans to hold, it displays a passion for the club and the anger is born out of a frustration of underachievement. Many sects are blaming the others sects for the problems the club is currently facing, but there is one man, at the root of all this, who appears to be outside of the current dialogue. This man is Mark Hughes, who for some reason unbeknownst to all appears dead set on ripping the club into factions.

The treatment of Imbula and Bojan by Hughes on Saturday post-match was frankly, in my own opinion, appalling. Do not confuse this with a defence of those two’s performance on Saturday, they were way below their best and very close to their worst, but this is something that could be said for near enough the entire squad who took part in the clash. But back to Hughes. To call out two players in the manner he did, in the most public of environments, is frankly not on. Irrelevant of how poor times had been in Pulis’ final season, a time when the club embarked on the losing run to end all losing runs, he would never put his players in the line of fire.

Hughes’ scapegoating of Imbula and Bojan, yes scapegoating the two have often been singled out and blamed for poor team performances despite several being as poor as them, is a sign of failure and a total reversal on his previous style of management. Hughes made his mark on the club by bringing in formerly rejected players whose attitude was chiefly stated as their problem. With patience, care and support he managed to turn players into league beaters, there is no better example than Arnautovic who had a very troubled time prior to arriving at Stoke and is now on his way to becoming an outright club legend. So to see this complete overhaul of style to targeting two vulnerable players, and they are vulnerable. Bojan has a history of anxiety problems and Imbula cuts out a lonely figure in the side who still struggles with the language, is a worrying sign indeed.

I have no qualms with people suggesting Bojan is perhaps not reaching the heights that he has done formerly in his Stoke career, but the blame for this again lies with the manager. Bojan has scored 15 goals for the Potters, and 13 of these have come during sustained runs of starts in the side. Yet the Spaniard has not been given back to back starts this season, and is the only player in the side to have been dropped after every loss he has been involved in. The manager has given off a feeling that he is rather disgruntled at the rumours spreading that Bojan wants to leave for more first team football, yet as I write he has handed a man who constantly complains at being out of the side a new deal. It is this disparity in treatment that reeks of failure and loss of confidence from his players.

The division between ‘grafters’ and ‘technical’ players is an invention of Hughes’ own mind that has totally enamoured the fan base. The thought that a player such as Joe Allen is only capable of running around, or the thought that Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch put in high intensity performances is laughable. It is not a choice between one or the other, clubs require a balance of both, the Watford first half and the Wolves first half prove as much. It is another sign of failure that Hughes cannot balance these two made up camps.

There is a lot of anger, sadness and disappointment in the side currently and unfortunately this is being directed at other fans and the players of the side. This is not where these feelings should be placed, there is one man responsible for the state of the side currently, and he bares the weight of the clubs current woes, and that man is Mark Hughes.

Written by Tom Thrower

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