Complacency at Stoke

Posted by James Whittaker

Stoke City fans celebrate after the final whistlePA PhotosStoke City fans are starting to vote with their feet

I see Tony Pulis is garbling out the old complacency chestnut again as the tide slowly turns against him on the Stoke City terraces. The negativity in the stands is in response to his negativity on the pitch away from home and more worryingly, signs that the same attitude is starting to feature at the Britannia.

- Pulis defends poor Stoke run

Pulis thrives on fire fighting, on backs to the wall defiance and in that respect he is the man you want, as indeed he was in Stoke's first couple of seasons back in the top flight. Us against them, the big boys against the minnows, he loved it, the team loved it and for a time the fans loved it. Fast forward to 2013 and an outlay of almost £100 million later and the manager is still trying his best to keep that mentality going. The problem is, the Potters have a lot of players capable of so much more than the weekly war of attrition they're subjected to and Pulis now finds himself face to face with his arch nemesis, expectation.

The fire fighting is over, there's no need to strangle the life out of a game anymore in hope of nicking one on the break, no need to act like the fans should thank their lucky stars every time they hear the Premier League tune on a Saturday afternoon. Stoke City are an established Premier League side, a team that have spent the majority of their time in the top flight. That the manager chooses the word complacency against the fans is ironic as you might suggest it is he that is most guilty of that. Which other manager could spend so much money and win one away game in 23 attempts with no fear of reprisal?

Pulis knows his job is safe and the weekly platitudes aimed at the Coates family, often on the back of another away defeat are starting to grate now, especially when he launches an offensive on those who dare to criticise one of the worst away records the league has seen in some time. Yet in the same breath calls on the fans to be the 12th man.

'Where's your famous atmosphere' is a taunt so often heard at what is left of the 'Bearpit' these days and it doesn't take a genius to see that the reason there is no atmosphere is that there is little to shout about. Angela Smith, host of the excellent Sunday Sports Show on Knot FM, has spoken to the manager explaining this point and how it's a two way street, his response was: "Haven't I given you enough to sing about in the last five years?"

There's only so long you can dine out on former glories and the fact is, since Stoke's amazing FA Cup run Pulis has spent tens of millions of pounds but the team have actually regressed with Steven N'Zonzi being the only player recruited in that time who you can say has been an improvement. Pulis says the fans will be needed as the home form is vital, of course it is! Stoke don't win away from home so the pressure to win at home is huge and not for the first time.

The negativity on the road has now crept onto the hallowed turf at the Britannia and the constant selection of square pegs in round holes and favourites ahead of players more suited is a sure fire way to kick off that downward spiral.

The online forums and radio phone-ins paint a picture of significant discontent, of fans who have simply had enough, who are sick of the enjoyment being sucked out of what used to be a day out to look forward to. Stoke's away following has dropped considerably and if the club is not careful the same fate will befall the home attendances.

People are starting to vote with their feet and the empty seats in the last couple of games were telling - they may have been relatively small in number but they are indicative of the current supporter feeling, that's not complacency, its apathy, and it's worrying. Complacency is thinking the fans will keep turning up happy to endure the same mistakes and excuses week in week out when the truth is they won't.

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