Stoke manager Mark Hughes has made his first move in the transfer market by re-signing forgotten wide-man Jermaine Pennant on a one-year deal. It seems quite significant that a player who suffered so much under Tony Pulis would be the manager's first signing as he looks to put right those things that went so wrong under the previous regime. Pennant's ability has never been in doubt and regular readers will know that I have remained well and truly in his corner throughout his time at the club, writing only last week about the player's own confusion around his last year or so in the Potteries.
It was claimed last week that, whilst he was no longer under contract with the club, Jermaine Pennant's future at Stoke City wasn't necessarily over and a meeting has been scheduled for the player to meet Mark Hughes to discuss a potential new deal. Whilst many are happy at the prospect of a player of Pennant's undoubted ability pulling on the red and white shirt once more, there are some who feel that his recent exclusion from proceedings was justified. The fact is that no-one truly understands the reasons behind his omission, with confusion and bemusement still surrounding his last year in the Potteries from both his team-mates and the player himself.
Since Steven N'Zonzi handed in his transfer request, which was flatly refused by the club, there have been some embarrassing reactions across social media, with an entirely disproportionate level of abuse aimed squarely in his direction. Abusing the player because of one's own interpretation of events is foolish; to discount his ability in an attempt to justify that, even worse. N'Zonzi was a revelation upon his arrival form Blackburn last summer and his ability on the ball is better than any of his team-mates, despite the midfielder's dip in form, which appears to be related to his dispute with the club.
While Mark Hughes' to-do list as Stoke City's new manager is as long as Rory Delap's arms, one of his priorities will be to sort the wide midfield positions. He'll no doubt start that process by looking to players he knows well in those roles. Two former players I think will be his first port of call are Junior Hoilett and David Bentley, who both have enjoyed successful times under Stoke’s new gaffer and are said to be available on free transfers from QPR and Tottenham, respectively. -Hughes aims to put Stoke on attack -Macintosh: Hughes bags best job of summer Bentley's and Hughes’ successes at Blackburn went hand-in-hand.
Mark Hughes has been named as the man to replace Tony Pulis at Stoke City, the Welshman signing a three-year deal. His swift recruitment means Stoke were without a manager for a relatively brief spell and can now quickly start plugging some of the gaps left by the previous regime. Whilst Hughes can be considered as a sensible choice, his appointment hasn't been universally celebrated as many saw the exit of Pulis as an opportunity to change direction completely. Hughes' arrival is likely to mean incremental improvement rather than revolution.
Tony Pulis has left Stoke City by mutual consent, bringing to an end his long and successful career at the club. I'm actually sat in the sunshine with a bottle of beer in Spain as this is written. Having promised myself I would try to stay offline for at least a day, I bit the bullet and paid 5 pounds for a day's internet pass (it hurt) as I had a feeling we would get some news Tuesday. It's finally happened, Pulis is leaving. While this news realises everything I have hoped for over the last two seasons -- now it has happened and my own personal campaign is over -- I find myself reflecting on the good times.
Stoke City played out a final-day 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday and in doing so ended the season on 42 points and in 13th place, maintaining their record of never winning on the last day in the Premier League. With manager Tony Pulis' future at the club uncertain, it's more than possible that this was his final appearance in the Stoke dugout, so it was almost poetic that the game personified the man and so many of his idiosyncrasies. - Rann: Lambert brings the curtain down for Saints - Pulis hails Owen after finale Here they are in all their frustrating beauty; Players out of position: This is standard fare for Stoke now.
Asmir Begovic was seen calling on all his handling abilities as he left the Player of the Year Awards clutching no less than four gongs for his, at times, herculean efforts between the sticks this season. Begovic's form was perhaps one of the few highlights of a campaign best forgotten for most as the Potters narrowly escaped the fate of relegation, but it is still unclear whether or not he will return to claim the number 1 jersey next term. The popular Bosnian has been linked with the biggest and best in this country and is even said to be a target for Catalan giants Barcelona as they seek a long-term replacement for goalkeeping stalwart Victor Valdes.
Stoke lost 2-1 amid a backdrop of red and white at the Britannia as Tottenham spoiled their 150 year celebrations with a late winner, the home side having hung on so long with ten men. - Match report: Stoke 1-2 Tottenham Former Stoke City greats flooded the pitch to take the applause of the Stoke fans before kick-off, but feeling left out it was referee Kevin Friend who proved to be anything but to the Potters and seemed intent on stealing the limelight of the day. The team that started was unbalanced and the dropping of Cameron Jerome was incredibly harsh given his impact of the last few games, with Tony Pulis opting to bring back an unfit Matthew Etherington and re-pair the proven-to-be-useless-together Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters up top.
With Stoke City all but safe following Wigan's loss to Swansea Tuesday, the last two games give Tony Pulis a great opportunity to try out some of the younger players available to him. Midfielder Florent Cuvelier is the obvious candidate for consideration, having returned to his parent club following a disappointing spell at Peterborough. While the rules dictate three clubs can hold a player's registration during a season, he can only play for two. But there is a loophole which could see Cuvelier come into contention for the Potters, one FIFA intend to outlaw next year, and that is around those who have moved under the Emergency Loan system.
Stoke City threw away a winning position against a Sunderland side reduced to ten men for over an hour to come away with a solitary point as they drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light. The former heroes of Sunderland's Cup winning side were clapped onto the pitch before the game but they weren't the only ones celebrating former glories. Tony Pulis, once again, went about handing his CV around to anyone he encountered to deflect attention from his failings on the night. His insistence that it was a hard fought draw before saying he was delighted with a point sought only to further infuriate those who had to watch their side sit back against a team that conceded six goals the week previous, only this time they only had 10 men.
One swallow does not a summer make, nor does one week absolve the management team for the last two seasons of underachievement. The majority of Stoke City fans have been well and truly on the back of the manager these last few months, but it seems that a portion of those are now beginning to turn back to supporting Tony Pulis based on the fact that Stoke have won their last two games to all but secure their Premier League safety. It seems some are quick to forget the last two seasons of dire management and results given the euphoria of two much-needed wins, ignoring that they got to the point of being much-needed because of those very failings.