With the news that Stoke are willing to listen to offers for Bojan breaking late on Tuesday night there seems to be a feeling that this is the final nail in ‘Stokalona’s’ coffin. ‘Stokalona’ as a concept is hard to nail down and there’s plenty of places you can go and have the debate on what it was, but it certainly was one thing, exciting.
Excitement was the one word that could truly describe the brief Mark Hughes was given when he was hired as our manager. Crowd numbers were dwindling as the fans were no longer satisfied with grinding out a 1-0 win, we wanted to be entertained. And my God did Mark Hughes do that. We went from having scored 4 goals in a league match once in Pulis’ five years at the helm, to doing it twice in one month under Sparky.
Joe. Allen. Is. Not. A. Number. 10.
Right it’s time to admit it, the Joe Allen played as a number 10 experiment needs to come to an end, quickly. I love the Welsh Pirlo banging in goals as much as the next Stoke fan but he is truly wasted in that role. Don’t take this as a criticism of Allen, although he is not free from blame, it is more a focus on what skills he actually possess.
“Oh lay off it he scored at the weekend and we won” right I’m finished rolling my eyes, but thank you for that valuable input. The game last Saturday against Palace was the perfect example of Allen being wasted in the role. Allen scored a wonderful goal making a late, Lampard-esque, surging run into the box, something more akin to a box to box midfielders game than a number 10’s.
Saturdays defeat against West Brom consigned Stoke to another season where the promised land of 7th place, and the hopes of European football that brings with it, is out of reach of the Potters. This season has seen a reversion to a more direct style, and with Bojan being pushed out of the club the movement known as ‘Stokealona’ is all but deceased. Yet this does not mean Hughes cannot reawaken the fluid passing football that he sought to bring to the Potteries, and doing so now will only be of benefit to Stoke.
It is undeniable that Hughes is beginning to upset some of the fan base with his move away from the flamboyant style. And this is no surprise, Hughes was supposed to be, and at a point he was the revolutionary to lead Stoke away from the long ball system we were synonymous with, and this style adhered many fans to Sparky. The reversion has not benefited Stoke, with the Potters being lower in the league than where they were at this time last year.
After years of transfer speculation, a couple of tantrums and a short journey up the M6, Saido Berahino finally moved away from West Bromwich Albion. He joined the Potters in a deal which could excess £15m and has signed a five-and-a-half year deal. Most Stoke fans seem delighted that the club have brought in a young, mobile, proven Premier League goalscorer; especially as Saido’s caught the eye of manager Mark Hughes for some time now. For the recipient club and the player, it seems like a happy ending to an elongated tale; but how do Baggies fans feel about the episode? I got in touch with Alex Newton from Read West Brom and asked him to divulge his feelings about how Saido was brought through the ranks, how the transfer talk looked from the other side of the glass and what we can expect from our new recruit.
Can you tell us about the emergence of Berahino, particularly during the 2013/14 season and your first impressions of him?
Saido Berahino burst onto the scene early in the 2013/14 season with a hat-trick in the second round of the then Capital One Cup against Newport. This saw him open the eyes of the Albion fans and management. A month later he made national headlines with a goal against Arsenal in the next round of the cup, then just three days later scoring the winner at Old Trafford as the Baggies recorded a 2-1 victory.
In his debut season in the Albion first team, he went on to score nine goals which saw him end the season top scorer at the club. He was a breath of fresh air into the team, and you could see he was a special talent. Everytime he started you feel he was going to do something special, nobody knew how to play against him.
If you haven’t seen the tragic news, it has been announced that Dionatan Teixeira has departed Stoke City by mutual consent. ‘Johnny’ Tex signed for Stoke in the summer of 2014, after completing a short trial and impressing Mark Hughes. Fans named him the Slovako-Brazilian Ryan Shawcross, whilst Sparky himself said Tex reminded him of Ryan Nelson and Chris Samba who he had previously signed after trials.
Tex has an illustrious record as a Stoke player, with a 100% win record in the league for the Potters. His first appearance came against Aston Villa in a 2-1 victory. Stoke had initial trailed and Mame Diouf had brought the Potters level, but it was after Teixeira’s introduction that the game changed in Stoke’s favour. Minutes after the Slovako-Brazilians introduction Stoke won a penalty which Victor Moses buried with composure. Many point to Teixeira’s introduction as one of the most important turning points in Stoke’s modern history.
It is not hard to notice the similarities between the deal for Berahino and that of Odemwingie. Both have a somewhat unhappy relationship with West Brom, both are pacy, clinical attackers and both were Hughes’ go to man to rectify the sides style. Peter Odemwingie joined a Stoke side littered with Pulis’ players that Hughes had been brought in to replace. And that had only amassed 21 points from their first 19 games of the season. Berahino joins a Stoke side that had only amassed 21 points after 19 games and is littered with players from the previous regime.
The direct, pacy and clinical nature of Odemwingie entirely transformed the Stoke side in 2014. After signing in mid-January Odemwingie amassed 6 goals in 15 starts, making him the 3rd highest scorer in the side. The run the Potters went on after the Nigerians signing is quite remarkable: 8 wins, 4 draws, 4 losses. And there is near universal agreement in the hope that Berahino will provide the same positive effect, and thrust the side into the top half. Such a run would see the Potters reach around 57 points besting the record of 54 and putting Stoke in with a chance of 7th place.
An emphatic win at The Stadium of Light helped to ease the early elimination pain from the FA cup last weekend. Our consecutive league wins see us move into ninth position in the table, but how do the next run of fixtures shape up?
Manchester United- Saturday 21 Jan- Home
Mourinho’s men have finally found some momentum, going on a run of nine consecutive wins in all competitions. They will travel to Stoke the favourites and will be looking at the fixture as a good opportunity to extend their streak. As for Stoke, we showed that we can put up a fight against the high-fliers, taking the lead at Liverpool and scoring two goals at Stamford Bridge. If Hughes gets it right on the day, there is a chance we could get something from the game.
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.
Whether you like Bojan or not the recent breaking story and reaction from Hughes displays one thing and one thing only, a totally pathetic case of mismanagement. In February 2016 Bojan Krkic was handed a long term contract and in January 2017, 11 months later he looks set to leave the club. Irrelevant of your opinions about Bojan’s ability or Mark Hughes’, this is a categorical, unquestionable disaster. To award someone considered to be a key player a new contract and within 11 months have them locked out of the team and surplus to requirement is nothing short of disgraceful short-termism that is unacceptable in a Premier League side.
This is a worrying sign for everything that Hughes has attempted to turn Stoke City into. After completing his first year at the club Hughes sort to further the technical ability of the side, and what a way to do it. By bringing in an ex Barcelona player who had once been compared to Messi as he kept the likes of Henry and Ibrahimovic out of the Barcelona side for a measly 500,000 pounds what could go wrong? Fast forward two years and the side is regressing into one baring the marks of our former manager.
Having been a season ticket holder for I think 19 seasons and of all but two had a parking badge, I like many of the people who park at the ground, have probably spent more time staring at a fat man in a High Vis jacket waiting for him to lift a barrier than I have looking at loved ones. In all those seasons the parking has never improved. There are more people in High Vis jackets, and not all of them are overweight, which I suppose is a plus. But their actual purpose seems to be on a par with Kardashians.