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Stoke City

Stoke City should avoid re-signing Robert Huth and look to the future

Although a romantic idea, the Potters should avoid resigning the 34-year-old.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Leicester City announced that Robert Huth would be leaving the club at the end of the season after three-and-a-half years with the Foxes.

The German defender has made 93 appearances during that period, scoring six goals, and became a fans favourite at the King Power Stadium for the prominent role that he played in the club’s recent success.

He was a crucial facet of the Leicester team that were crowned Premier League champions in 2016 and was widely admired for his tough, no-nonsense style of defending.

However, Huth will go into the summer as a free agent after the Foxes decided not to renew his contract when it concludes at the end of the campaign.

The German has struggled to regain his place in the first team squad since suffering a string of injuries in the closing stages of last season and is behind the likes of Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire and Aleksander Dragovic in the pecking order for a starting role.

Huth remains a popular figure among Stoke supporters after his contributions helped to establish the club in the Premier League, reach an FA Cup final and progress to the latter stages of the Europa League.

His central defensive partnership with club captain Ryan Shawcross is widely perceived by fans as being the best in the club’s modern era.

With the Potters being relegated to the Sky Bet Championship and Huth set to leave Leicester in the summer, some Stoke supporters have been left wondering if the German is set for a dream homecoming.

The current Stoke squad will undoubtedly experience a dramatic overhaul during the summer as the club prepares for life in the second tier and the departure of Kurt Zouma, who returns to Chelsea when his loan expires next week, will mean that the Potters will be in the market for a defensive replacement.

However, the potential signing of Huth would not represent a positive move.

The central defender is now 34-years-old and has barely featured for Leicester over the last twelve months. In fact, the German has yet to make an appearance this season and has struggled with multiple consecutive injuries over the last year.

If The Potters are serious about reclaiming their place in the Premier League then they must avoid trying to relive the past and start to look to the future.

Regardless of the place that Huth has in the hearts of Stoke supporters, it makes little sense objectively to purchase an aging defender who has barely played in twelve months.

Attempting to recreate the glory days of half-a-decade ago is unlikely to solve the club’s current issues in the here and now.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

A defensive partnership of Huth and Shawcross would have a combined age of 64 – you have to question how effective the pairing would be in the intense world of football in the Championship where the games come thick and fast with often two matches a week in a congested fixture list.

There is little to gain from trying to relive the past.

Instead, Stoke should be looking to bring together a young, hungry group of players that are developing towards the prime of their careers and still have everything to prove.

It should be about building with the future in mind, rather than reminiscing about creating an ‘old boys’ club.

A return for Huth to the Bet365 Stadium would be an idealistic and romanticised concept in the minds of some supporters, but is he truly the best option?

Huth will forever be remembered as a genuine Stoke City legend, but he represents the past and it is the future that the club need to be focusing on.

A return to ‘The Potteries’ may be a romantic notion for some supporters, yet it would not represent forward thinking or progress for a club that needs to rebuild after a period of regression.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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Stoke City

Three key areas for Gary Rowett to address at Stoke City over the summer

Martyn Cooke

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On Tuesday evening Stoke City announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as their new manager.

The 44-year-old replaces Paul Lambert, who departed the club following relegation from the Premier League, and now faces the task of building a team capable of making an immediate return to the top-flight.

Rowett led Derby County to the Championship play-offs this season, ultimately losing out to Fulham, and is regarded as one of the brightest, young British managers in the country. Stoke were previously linked with the former Burton Albion and Birmingham City manager in January and have reportedly paid around £2 million in compensation to secure his services.

However, whilst the Potters may possess a superior budget to many of their counterparts in the Championship an immediate return to the Premier League is certainly not guaranteed. The playing squad requires a dramatic overhaul during the summer and the second tier of English football is notoriously unpredictable and competitive.

Here, The Boot Room highlights three key areas that Rowett must address in order to revive Stoke’s fortunes.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Convince big-name players to stay

When a club is relegated from the Premier League they normally undergo a rapid fire sale of their best players in order to reduce the wage bill and balance the books.

However, that is not necessarily the case with Stoke. The Potters are in a solid financial position and are funded by Peter Coates, owner of online betting company Bet365, who is a local entrepreneur and has the club’s best intentions at heart.

The first task for Rowett will be to try and convince some of Stoke’s star assets to remain at the Bet365 Stadium and lead a promotion challenge.

Whilst figures such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Jack Butland are almost certainly likely to depart the club during the summer, there are others that might be tempted to stay put.

Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer have already tentatively suggested that they might be willing to remain whilst Rowett should also focus on keeping hold of other key figures such as Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Badou Ndiaye.

Stoke will be more capable of building a squad capable of challenging for promotion if Rowett can convince some of the key figures in the squad to stay.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Get things right in the transfer market

One key factor in Stoke’s downfall over the previous two years has been the club’s horrendous transfer policy.

It is amazing to think that the Potters have spent £12 million on Saido Berahino, who has yet to score a goal for the club, £18 million on Kevin Wimmer, who was demoted to the under-23 squad for much of the season, and a further £18.3  million on Giannelli Imbula, who spent the year on loan in France.

Quite simply, Rowett cannot afford to make similar, costly mistakes as he overhauls the team during the summer.

The club need to move away from so-called ‘big name’ players who have little affection for the club, such as Jese Rodriguez, and ageing stalwarts that are entering the twilight of their careers, such as Darren Fletcher. Stoke need to build a young, hungry and dynamic team that are motivated, driven and still have everything to prove.

However, that is certainly easier said than done.

Rowett will be handed a significant transfer budget, which will be further increased by players sales, to build a team capable of securing promotion and he needs to ensure that the money is spent much more wisely than it has been in the recent past.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Re-discover Stoke’s identity

Over the previous two years Stoke have gradually lost their idiosyncratic identity – much to the detriment of the club. The Potters have always been at their best when they have a clear identity, philosophy and direction.

Under Tony Pulis, Stoke were characterised as a hard working, well organised team that employed a direct style of football that relied on transferring the ball into the opponents eighteen yard box as often as possible. It was not to everyone’s taste, but it was effective and supporters knew exactly what they were going to get.

Mark Hughes altered that identity and built a team that was characterised by foreign flair, technical brilliance and a possession-based style of play. Three consecutive top half finishes followed and the media referred to the club as ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to the team’s new style of play.

It was when Hughes began to move away from that definitive identity that the Potters lost all sense of direction.

It is vital that Rowett implements his own footballing philosophy and creates a clear, definitive identity that the Stoke supporters can unite behind. The philosophies of Pulis and Hughes probably sit at extreme, contrasting ends of the spectrum and the 44-year-old may be aiming to find the middle ground that balances hard work, discipline and creativity.

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Derby County

Sam Winnall to Stoke looks inevitable after Gary Rowett arrival

Josh Kerr

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Sam Winnall
Photo: Getty Images

Gary Rowett’s move to Stoke City from Derby County has added further fuel to the fire regarding Sam Winnall’s future and a potential move to Staffordshire for the new season.

The two have previously been together during their time at Burton Albion, and Rowett opted to bring the 27-year-old to Pride Park on a loan deal this season.

Winnall scored four goals in 16 Championship games for Sheffield Wednesday after arriving at Hillsborough in January 2017 from local rivals Barnsley.

He was underwhelming for the Owls initially and hence the club decided to loan him to his former manager.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, he has enjoyed some success at Derby this season, winning the club’s Goal of the Season award for his memorable strike against Ipswich Town back in December.

Injury has restricted Winnall to just six Championship starts but despite his time spent on the sidelines, the fans have enjoyed the Englishman’s time at Pride Park and are crying out for him to stay.

Nonetheless, Rowett’s move to Stoke was the icing on the cake for Wednesday supporters and unsurprisingly talk of a switch to the Bet365 Stadium has surfaced on social media.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should resist the signing of Stoke midfielder Joe Allen

Max Cohen

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Joe Allen
Photo: Getty Images

Reports this week in The Guardian suggested that Crystal Palace have registered interest in signing Joe Allen following Stoke City’s relegation.

Further reports in The Sun claimed the Potters are seeking £20 million for the Welsh international, a hefty price tag that should deter Palace, as they already have sufficient options in the centre of midfield.

During the 2017/18 campaign, Yohan Cabaye, Luka Milivojevic, and James McArthur have all been excellent for the south Londoners.

Between the three, the midfielders have contributed 15 goals and three assists in the Premier League- impressive numbers considering Palace’s goal-shy start to the season under Frank de Boer.

In addition, Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a commanding presence in midfield at Selhurst Park. Even though injury hampered his year, the Englishman left his mark at Palace and should be targeted for a permanent deal this year.

(during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield on April 28, 2018 in Liverpool, England.

It is clear that the Eagles have a wealth of options in the centre of the park, and their midfield repertoire was given a boost this week when the Evening Standard reported the club was confident that Cabaye would sign a new contract this summer.

With the influential Frenchman securing his future at Selhurst Park, there is simply no need for the services of Joe Allen in SE25.

Add in the Welshman’s exorbitant £20 million price-tag (which is £7 million more than Palace paid for Cabaye in 2015), it would be a foolish decision for Roy Hodgson to buy the midfielder.

Crystal Palace should resist the urge to splurge for Joe Allen, as money would be best spent on purchasing a top-class striker rather than bolstering an already-impressive midfield.

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