Getting the message across

Posted by James Whittaker

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesThe future of Tony Pulis at Stoke likely hinges on how well the Potters finish their current Premier League campaign.

Stoke today announced that sales of their Early Bird Season Tickets had, for the first time since their promotion back to the Premier League, gone down. The considerable loss of 12% in sales at this stage is a significant and telling message from the fans of the level of their discontent which I think has come as a bit of a surprise to the Chairman.

I've written for a while about how away attendances have fallen markedly given the fare on offer (more spine in a bap than steak and chips), and with the home performances and attitude starting to follow suit, it was only a matter of time before people thought twice about renewing at the Britannia. There are many reasons why people don't renew from season to season, but it would appear that on this occasion the finger of blame can largely be pointed at the manager, with some fans having had enough of the match day experience under the current regime. The atmosphere has changed dramatically and not just in the stands, but in the concourses behind them, in the walk to and from the ground and in the pubs before and after.

- Pulis denies unhappiness over budget

In the run-up to the deadline, that mood and associated apathy in respect to ticket sales prompted a response not seen before where seemingly barely a day would go by without a message coming out of the club through the media. Players have been calling fans at home and pleading in the local press; the club's Twitter account tweeting videos of great goals from years gone by and even a letter from the Chairman himself. While it may be fanciful to suggest that the record-breaking sales on the penultimate day were related to a national newspaper reporting Pulis was to leave, it's fair to say news of the overall drop in sales comes at a difficult time for the manager.

In the last week alone, Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly and Michael Owen have all spoken out at their frustration of not being involved, indeed the latter cited his frustration at Stoke as having been key to his decision to retire at the end of the season. While you might expect players to profess their unhappiness at not playing, in the cases of Adam and Owen, the reasons the manager had used to justify their exclusion were roundly denied in public and apparently pointed retorts.

Pulis, often touted as having the safest job in the league, now finds himself a mere 3/1 not to be manager of Stoke next season (odds courtesy of ice cream toting Paddy Power). It's going to be a nervous end to the campaign for manager and fans alike in the hunt for those vital points to push the club over the line to ensure the Potters can look forward to another season at the top table. And while those fans and indeed the manager are here for now, what happens on and off the pitch these next couple of months will dictate whether that remains the case for either next season.

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