Any supporter that has suffered the despair of relegation will tell you that the biggest fear that they have in the ensuing summer is that their club will be forced to sell many of their prized assets.
That fear tends to be exacerbated for clubs that drop out of the Premier League. The top flight may be awash with cash, big money signings and astronomical wages yet these can quickly become a burden in the financial wasteland of the Sky Bet Championship.
Relegated Premier League clubs often undergo a rapid-fire sale as they try to ensure their financial sustainability by reducing the wage bill whilst their star players tend to jump ship as quickly as possible.
It is a fine line balancing the books and ensuring that a team remains competitive and, as Sunderland supporters will tell you, a few bad decisions can quickly lead to a devastating downwards spiral.
Those fears were certainly prevalent around the Bet365 Stadium when the current campaign came to its conclusion as Stoke City’s decade-long spell in the top flight came to an unceremonious end.
After ten years in the top-flight the squad was full of star names, such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Jack Butland and Joe Allen, and expensive transfer failures that were sitting on long-term big-money contracts, including Saido Berahino and Giannelli Imbula.
The expectancy was that Stoke would be resigned to losing many of their prized assets whilst being forced to scramble as much money back on other transfer flops as possible. A major rebuilding job would be required over the summer and the squad would have to be overhauled – there was certainly fears of aa dramatic fire-sale.
A clear signal of intent
It came as something of a surprise earlier this week then when the club confirmed that Joe Allen had signed a new four-year contract.
The Welsh international had joined The Potters in the summer of 2016 from Liverpool and was only two years into a five-year deal. He had been one of Stoke City’s star performers in what had been a disastrous campaign and it had been widely assumed that the 28-year-old would depart in the summer.
Allen’s loyalty to the club will come as a huge boost to new Stoke manager Gary Rowett as he attempts to mould a team capable of challenging for promotion. It is a definitive signal of intent that sends a clear message to their Championship rivals that they have little intention of being excluded from the Premier League for more than a season.
To have a player of Allen’s quality and experience playing in the second tier of English football suddenly provides The Potters with a new sense of positivity, optimism and momentum. This is a player, remember, who was named in the team of the tournament at Euro 2016.
You also have to applaud the 28-year-olds moral compass. It is clear that he has an affinity with the club and it would appear that he is willing to shoulder some of the responsibility for the club’s relegation whilst attempting to correct matters for the forthcoming season. Such loyalty following relegation is something that we see desperately little of in the modern game.
His decision may also have a bearing on some of Stoke’s other star names.
Allen’s willingness to sign a new contract may just make the likes of Jack Butland, Bruno Martins-Indi and Badou Ndiaye think twice before jumping ship at the first opportunity. The question is no longer how many players Stoke will sell, but rather how many they are going to keep?
Ultimately, Allen signing a new contract can only be a good thing for Stoke as they prepare for life in The Championship. His quality on the pitch will be crucial if the team are to secure promotion whilst it provides a clear message to rival clubs – that Stoke City will be a force to be reckoned with in the forthcoming season.