The Stoke City job appears to be going to former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, QPR and Fulham boss Mark Hughes, although Roberto Di Matteo (who has managed MK Dons, WBA and Chelsea FC) looks to be the latest of the ex-Chelsea contingent (Gus Poyet has been approached too) to be linked with one of the Premiership’s toughest asks. Chelsea charm comes with cash, whilst Stoke’s Premiership lineage has been forged as much through perspiration as inspiration. Pulis power is about physical prowess, under him the realism of the artisan’s toil, reaps hard won returns and the reliability of regular rewards. But that is not enough for some, who chastise long ball football and the stiff necks that come from looking skywards. But how many ex-Premiership chairmen later lament reaching for the very same sky.
Thankyou for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.
Tony Pullis has never been relegated as a manager, but image and perception is so much more than substance, facts & stats and the boring, solid day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes. We live in a media-orientated world alright, where the people’s game seems to be less and less about traditional values and the virtues of hard-work, particularly once the Premiership glitz and glamour has caught owners in its midst. Stoke’s owners may feel they are secure and ready to take the next step, but in reality they start on zero points in three months time like everyone else. Ambition may also be a great virtue, a wonderful way to fill a stadium, but failure empties a stadium of the fickle fans, faster than a winger can skin a full-back.
If carpet football is the top priority for Stoke City, then Roberto Di Matteo is the man to bring it. But he, like favourite Hughes, who will bring a more physically robust approach to the table, will need plenty of cash to take the Potters to the next level. Many have tried and failed to break into the Premiership’s platinum plated cartel. Failure in the Premiership brings a short sharp shock to many sides who fall not once but twice before steadying the ship again. Ask Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City, Norwich, Charlton et al. But football is about theatre, dreams and optimism, so here is a run down of the two who could take Stoke City to the next level.
Mr Di Matteo started his career well at MK Dons, succeeding Paul Ince in 2008. He took the, perhaps unfairly nicknamed, Franchise club to the League 1 play-offs in his first season, losing the semi to Scunthorpe. It was enough to get him the WBA job, where he repaid the faith with an instant return to the Premiership, as runners up behind Newcastle. Despite getting hammered at Chelsea on the opening day of the 2010/11 season the Baggies recovered well earning Mr Di Matteo a manager of the month award in the September. The swashbuckling style was superb, sweeping counter attacking carpet football, played, perhaps, as only a sweet-toothed Swiss-Italian can conjure. The defensive side of the Italian game let him down when the wheels well and truly came off the cart. One win in ten cost him his job, with Michael Appleton replacing him, steadying the ship sufficiently to finish 11th.
After failing to get the Birmingham job, Chelsea cast him a lifeline as assistant manager to AVB. Upon his sacking in March 2012 Mr Di Matteo took the helm, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Although this was a fantastic and unique double, many will argue he did little but reverse the square pegs that had been put into round holes by AVB. That Chelsea side was and still is, nothing short of breath-taking on their day, with a midfield that is a credit to world football. To follow that first three months anywhere, would be a tough ask, but then to please Mr Abramovich is a whole different ball game. After just 8 months in charge he was gone ,dividing fans and pundits alike. Even a champion of the glass half-full club five minutes before closing time, could not envisage Stoke being able to give him the head start he enjoyed at MK Dons and Chelsea. To change the style of the side to his way of thinking will take the sort of time and cash they will not have in the Potteries next season. The romantic in us hopes so for the underdogs sake, but surely it is to dream the impossible dream?
|Milton Keynes Dons||2008||2009||52||27||11||14||51.92|
|West Bromwich Albion||2009||2011||83||40||19||24||48.19|
Mr Hughes has a decent win percentage (39.53%) but he has had the money at every club he has been at. After the less than dreamy, perhaps impossible and deary, dragon’s den days in the fiery Wales job, he guided Blackburn to a top six finish and UEFA cup qualification. The expensive rebuild in the summer of 2005 saw Rovers finish tenth, with a somewhat physical reputation. In the four years Mr Hughes held the helm at Ewood Park his side finished bottom of the Premier fair play League, but never finished outside of the top ten and managed three FA Cup semi finals. Mr Hughes then chose Manchester City over Chelsea (2008/9) but, despite spending tens of millions (Robinho alone cost £32 million) City could only finish a disappointing tenth. They did reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but alas, decent home form cannot make up for frequent no shows on the road. Mr Hughes card was marked, much to the benefit of his bank balance one supposes.
After a year out he also managed just a season at Fulham, before questioning the club’s ambition. Will Stoke be able to afford him that level, or will it end in a spat similar to the one at the Lillywhites, one that saw owner Mohamed Al-Fayed call Mr Hughes a “strange man” and a “flop”? Mr Hughes soon returned to management with awash with money club QPR in January 2012 and kept them up. An expensive rebuild saw Rangers worst ever start to a top flight season, as they went 12 without a win. Stoke, at a crossroads, will certainly hope history does not repeat itself should he get the job.
The Mark Hughes Clues.
|Wales||Sep 1999||Sep 2004||41||12||15||14||29.27|
|Blackburn Rovers||Sep 2004||Jun 2008||188||82||47||59||43.62|
|Manchester City||Jun 2008||Dec 2009||77||36||15||26||46.75|
|Fulham||Jul 2010||Jun 2011||43||14||16||13||32.56|
|Queens Park Rangers||Jan 2012||Nov 2012||34||8||6||20||23.53|
Tony Pulis Record
Just for the record, here is what Tony Pulis has done. One has to feel that some club will be lucky to have him. Bournemouth (Div 3 Champions 1986/87), Gillingham (Promoted as runners up Div 3 1995/96 and Div 2 Play-off winner 1998/99) and Stoke (Promoted as Championship runners up 2007/8, FA Cup runner up 2010/11) all did well under him, albeit ‘enjoying’ some physical, long ball tactics.
|Bournemouth||9 June 1992||5 August 1994||107||31||38||38||28.97|
|Gillingham||31 July 1995||1 July 1999||216||94||62||60||43.52|
|Bristol City||5 July 1999||14 January 2000||33||10||14||9||30.30|
|Portsmouth||13 January 2000||12 October 2000||35||11||10||14||31.43|
|Stoke City||1 November 2002||28 June 2005||131||47||32||52||35.88|
|Plymouth Argyle||23 September 2005||14 June 2006||39||12||15||12||30.77|
|Stoke City||14 June 2006||21 May 2013||333||122||98||113||36.64|