Why I’m Optimistic About Stoke City’s Chances This Season
Now that the English Premier League season has begun, I have became interested in the movement around Stoke City, the club who often seem to be facing tough odds against top teams in the Premier League.
I am not a Stoke City supporter but reading all the transfer deals that have been taking place, Stoke has caught my attention. Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, has been busy in attempting to strengthen his side with new arrivals and doing it on the cheap. I have been impressed by Stoke in their attempt to strengthen their squad. Unfortunately this is something I am not seeing at Spurs, I am sad to say. I am not going to make any bold comments about a league title win or anything close to that but they Stoke could make things interesting and perhaps create some surprises along the way. Isn’t that what most neutrals want?
Granted Stoke isn’t a Manchester United, Man City or a Chelsea but they do have some talented individuals in their squad. From what I have witnessed I think Matthew Etherington, Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones are just a few of the quality players. Plus, Stoke can be a very stubborn team to beat in addition to their ability to pull off surprise upsets for a middle tier team. They were able to advance to the FA Cup final last season and played a tough and hard match against Manchester City and doing so booked their place in the Europa League. Although not Champions League football, Stoke will be able to showcase their talent to some of the top sides in Europe this season.
An impressing signing so far is former Tottenham defender Jonathan Woodgate. The injury plagued player has made a surprising turnaround and has had a positive pre-season. I know some will say Woodgate is over the hill or too risky. I will admit I am a huge Woodgate fan. But if Woodgate stays fit I think Stoke may have gotten the best deal out of the summer transfer market. You can’t beat a free transfer and Spurs might end up kicking themselves in the end. From what I saw of his performance against Hajduk Split in the Europa League play offs, I was very impressed considering his long absence from playing. Stoke has also brought in Matthew Upson on a free transfer from West Ham. Again another player that some may consider his best days being over, but a fresh start with a new club could be just what Upson needs. Certainly Pulis is attempting to strengthen up the defense with already established defenders Huff and Shawcross practically in the center. Stoke now have a strong defense that can push their players even harder to improve their playing ability.
Currently Stoke are in talks with Tottenham in the hopes of securing Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios. I have really never been a fan of Palacios. I will say he is an aggressive football player and I do like that, but I think he needs to improve his overall playing ability. A new club could provide that for him. I do like Crouch. Although I will admit I have been disappointed in his performances last season at least in league games and think he can do a lot better. Crouch could be a good addition for Stoke. Stoke has made it clear they are in need of improving their front. His European record has been impressive for Spurs and European teams did have trouble containing him. Since Stoke are in the Europa League that could provide them with a great asset. His height is a great advantage on the field and just like Palacios a new team could turn his fortunes around. Furthermore, Pulis has been in discussion with Joey Barton’s agents about a possible move to Stoke from Newcastle. I have written a story advocating that Barton moves to Spurs. I certainly would welcome him to Tottenham but hopes of that happening seems to be fading each day. I understand all the baggage concerning Barton but I consider him a great player and I really think he could provide dynamics to their midfield. It appears the midfield is an area that Pulis wants to strengthen and Palacios and Barton could provide that for him. I think before the transfer window ends we will see a few more additions to the club if history is any indicator.
As I said stated before I don’t expect any super miracles of finishing first or in the top four or anything like that but I think this year Stoke might give us all an interesting surprise. Stoke had a fairly positive pre-season, a good home result against Chelsea and their Europa League competition is off to a successful start. They also could be one of the clubs to embrace the Europa League with a good squad to select players from and if they can make the long haul they just might see themselves in the final. There is always the League and FA Cup and we could see a repeat of last season’s FA final.
Stoke plays hard, aggressive and can be a difficult side to be beat. I might be overreaching here but I think we can look forward to some good football being played and maybe a piece of silverware along the way.
I would be very interested in hearing what anyone has to say — especially Stoke City supporters.