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Stoke City

What now for Stoke City and Paul Lambert following relegation?

The Potters were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Stoke City started the season celebrating their tenth successive year as a top-flight club but there was little to celebrate yesterday as relegation to the Championship was confirmed following a defeat against Crystal Palace.

There were tears on the pitch and in the stands following the final whistle, yet relegation will have come as little surprise.

In truth, the Potters have been limping along for some time now and the fact that they started the day still with an outside chance of securing survival after just one win in their previous 13 games says more about the paucity of quality in the bottom half of the table than their own endeavours.

It was all incredibly predictable.

Stoke started brightly and went into the half-time interval with a narrow need courtesy of Xherdan Shaqiri’s spectacular free-kick.

The Swiss superstar has been one of the few bright sparks in a disastrous campaign, scoring 8 goals from midfield, and will be first through the door when the transfer window reopens.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

However, Stoke have developed an unwanted habit of falling apart in the second half of matches in recent months.

After the break, the Potters sat back and found themselves pinned into their own half, invited Crystal Palace to launch wave after wave of attacks. The team gradually became more disorganised and disorientated with James McArthur netting the equalising goal in the 68th minute.

There was only ever going to be one winner from that point.

Over their last seven games, Stoke have conceded five goals in the final 10 minutes, so it was no surprise when Patrick van Aanholt hammered home the final nail in their coffin in the dying stages of the game.

Wilfied Zaha and Christian Benteke had both already wasted golden opportunities prior to the Dutchman’s winner whilst, in contrast, the Potters, who had to win this contest, had no attempts on goal worthy of note in the entire second period.

There were boos at the final whistle, but a large section of the home supporters remained in the stands to applaud the efforts of their players.

Indeed, it has not been a lack of effort that has resulted in relegation but rather a distinct lack of quality, complacency in the boardroom and an abject managerial appointment.

The focus will now shift towards Paul Lambert.

The 48-year-old succeeded Mark Hughes in January but has failed to stimulate any positive change in the club’s fortunes –  if anything he has compounded matters.

Lambert has overseen just one win in his 14 matches in charge and has failed to secure victory in any of the club’s previous 13 games.

He has faced only four of the so-called ‘big six’ during that time and has been incapable of finding a way to secure victory against the teams around them in the table.

Taking into account his final months in charge at Aston Villa, Lambert has won just three of his last 35 games as a Premier League manager.

There has been little to suggest that he possesses the managerial prowess to be successful in the top-flight and, in hindsight, his appointment was a catastrophic mistake.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Of course, Lambert did inherit a limited squad, but it was far from being an impossible task to save Stoke’s Premier League status.

When he walked through the door at the Bet365 Stadium the club were one point from safety and he was handed three new players during the January transfer window.

He has ultimately been in charge of 40% of Stoke’s games this season and has one of the worst win percentages of any manager in the club’s history.

To provide context, Darren Moore has earned more points since being named as the interim manager at West Bromwich Albion than Lambert has at Stoke despite being in charge for nine fewer fixtures.

Lambert may not entirely be at fault for the disastrous campaign, blame also lies at the feet of Mark Hughes, the players and the board, but he must ultimately accept responsibility for his own inadequate contribution to this mess.

The big question for Stoke supporters is simply, what now?

The club hierarchy have some big decisions to make in the summer.

Do they retain Lambert or look to bring in a new manager? How much money will be made available to rebuild the squad? How much effect will relegation have on the club’s finances?

The fear for supporters is that the core of the team will be sold almost immediately.

Shaqiri, Jack Butland, Joe Allen, Badou N’Diaye and Bruno Martins Indi will all attract offers in the summer whilst Kurt Zouma will return to Chelsea when his loan concludes next week.

That will leave a mixture of aging professionals (Glen Johnson, Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch), unproven, inexperienced youth team proteges (Tyrese Campbell, Tom Edwards and Julien Ngoy) and unwanted signings (Saido Berahino and Kevin Wimmer).

The future is certainly not bright and there will need to be a completed overhaul of the squad in the summer.

There is no guarantee that Stoke will immediately bounce straight back up to the Premier League and they should take note of Sunderland’s plight as an example of the dangers of poor decision making when dropping into The Championship.

It took Stoke 23 years to earn their place in the Premier League and supporters will be hoping that they do not have to wait that long for a return.

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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