Give pace a chance

Posted by James Whittaker

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesCameron Jerome once again came off the bench to spark Stoke to victory.

With Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones saving Stoke's skin from the bench yet again, the forums are alight with fans questioning why manager Tony Pulis is so unwilling to pair them together from the start in a league match.

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Pulis' comments after the 2-1 win against Reading that Jerome will remain on the bench infuriated many in the stands and it doesn't take a genius to assume it will have done the same to the player himself. It's fair to say that Jerome hasn't been treated well during his time at Stoke and, much like last season, there is zero incentive to do well as no matter how many goals he scores or how well he does, he will remain sat with the substitutes for the next game.

If you listen to the manager, Jerome gets lost when he starts a game; this raises a couple of immediate questions. Firstly, Pulis has been chasing Jerome for years and given his self aggrandising proclamations of in depth "DNA" checks, hadn't the fact that he apparently struggles when starting matches ever been spotted in scouting the player or relayed in conversations about him? Secondly the statement is complete and utter nonsense from a man trying to justify leaving out his more suitable players in favour of his shining lights, who continue to hold the side back.

In fact, there is very little evidence to suggest that Jerome struggles when he starts a game. He has started only EIGHT league games since he joined the Potters, none of which were alongside Jones. Six of those being away from home in Pulis' "bonus" games and five being out of position. In fact, even when he has started as a striker, he is almost immediately shifted into a wide position or deeper towards midfield, such is the manager's penchant for keeping the likes of Peter Crouch and Jon Walters on the pitch.

Jones and Jerome as a partnership makes perfect sense. The manager gets his target man (the most effective he has) and also the much needed pace of Jerome which is so fundamental to his rigid system being effective. You only need to see the effect of their introduction to gauge their influence on those around them and most importantly they quite clearly enjoy playing with each other. They have an understanding not yet shown by Pulis' strikers of choice.

Pulis' reluctance would appear to stem from the fact that Crouch cost so much and with the chairman's words ringing in his ears about him not being comfortable with the deal, may feel the need to prove a point by including him as the 'preferred' selection. The time has come though for Pulis to swallow his pride and do what is best for the team. That means handing a starting berth to the two most effective strikers Stoke have. All we are saying is give pace a chance.

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