Stoke City F.C.
Nickname: The Potters
Chairman: Peter Coates
Manager: Tony Pulis
Ground: The Britannia Stadium
Best League Finish: 11th
Player of the Season: Robert Huth
Last Time Out: Norwich 0 Stoke 1
One to Watch: Matthew Etherington
After managing to obtain very respectable positions in the league for the last two seasons Stoke were looking to establish themselves as a Premier League team. Their home record again was respectable and helped them to finish mid table.
Their away form was to be improved if they had hope for a top half finish. A 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns saw Stoke break two new records – the result was their largest away win in the Premier League and the largest top division away win since 1982. It was also the first time since the 1983/84 season that Stoke had won three top-flight matches on the bounce with Tony Pulis hailing the new records as ‘a fantastic achievement’.
The 210/11 season will most be remembered for Stoke fans as they managed to make the final of the FA Cup for the first time. Overcoming Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers, who they destroyed 5-0 at Wembley for a place in the final. However, after a spirited performance they lost the final 1-0 to Manchester City. By reaching the final though, Stoke managed to qualify for the Europa League, after Manchester City confirmed a place in the Champions League.
A fairly quiet summer has seen only two players join on free transfers in Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate. The two centre backs will help to add depth in the defensive position while adding more strength that Stoke are known for.
A few players have been let go by the club with the disappointing Eidur Gudjohnsen leaving for AEK Athens, and Abdoulaye Faye leaving on a free for West Ham United. Pulis has also let a few of his young stars go out on loan to a number of respectable football league teams.
A former Welsh player, Pulis obtained his FA coaching badge at the age of 19, followed by his UEFA ‘A’ licence aged 21 – making him one of the youngest professional players ever to have obtained the qualification.
Pulis has a reputation within the game for achieving solid results on small budgets and also maintains the proud record of never being relegated as a manager. He is sometimes criticised for using a direct style of play; however, Pulis has defended his approach.
Tony Pulis is in his second spell at Stoke after the current Chairman Peter Coates brought the club and approached Pulis who was manager of Plymouth at the time. Missing out on a play off place on the final day of the season, Pulis used the loan market to help fill the void of departing players.
The next season Stoke managed to achieve promotion. He has then gone onto keep Stoke in the Premier League successfully, winning over neutral fans who judged Stoke`s tough approach when they first joined the top flight.
This season is the first time that Pulis has managed a team in European football and look good to qualify for the group stages after a 1-0 win away in Switzerland this week.
When the fixtures were announced most fans saw this as a winnable first home match, but after an impressive start of the season as the club have yet to concede a goal in three matches in the Europa League and a very respectable clean sheet against Chelsea.
Paul Lambert will have a tough choice with his team selection with the arrival of Daniel Ayala this week, and some nervous performances from a number of players during certain phrases of last week`s game.
With the long European travelling that the Stoke players have had to endure this week with their trip to Switzerland – the whole of the Stoke squad travelled to the match – there could some tired legs especially with playing on artificial pitch midweek.
Stoke are known for their strength and tough tackling, but if Norwich look at their weaknesses they could have some joy. The full back area will need to be attacked with Pulis playing centre backs in these positions, and width was something was missed last week for Norwich at Wigan. The pace of Bennett and the quick feet of Pilkington and Hoolahan could be important for Norwich.
With a sold-out Carrow Road welcoming Premier League football back to Norfolk the atmosphere could help Holt and the boys to a first win of the season, but a fast paced start could be vital. Norwich 1-0.
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In Profile: Stoke City
Stoke City F.C.