Football Season Review

№9: Stoke City

Stoke City can look back positively on their season as the transition from Tony Pulis proved more seamless than many expected. The long-serving manager cut his ties in the summer after both he and the club grew all to familiar with each other and the upward momentum had stalled. Mark Hughes was the main to take Stoke further up and he cherished the challenge having seen his career hit the roadblocks in recent seasons. The Welshman was reluctant to change too many things at the start and the singings were limited. The squad was pretty much the same as the year before and the results at the start were not too impressive. The team secured just a couple of wins in the first 11 games in the league and went eight games without a victory from August onwards. That run saw a particularly shabby display at home to Norwich and there was overall little excitement on show, something that fans were expecting more after the dreary previous campaign. Yet, no one at Stoke was getting too worried as that was a period of adoption for the new man and the players were still getting used to him. The partners of more proactive and coherent football were starting to show eventually and the Potters claimed a brilliant 3:2 win over Chelsea in early December in what was easily their high point of the season up to then. Ousama Assaidi was proving a useful capture on loan from Liverpool while Stephen Ireland was showing some good football and was certainly thriving under his former mentor. Yet, a new poor run of form started in the last days of 2013 and heavy defeats to Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool kept the team too close to the bottom three for comfort. The turnaround moment of the entire season came at the start of February when they managed to upstage Manchester United for an enjoyable 2:1 win. That resulted stopped a run of one point in the previous six games and gave the players real belief and determination for the rest of the season. They would lose only jus three games for the remainder of the season, all to teams in the top six, and played some excellent football. They deservedly beat Arsenal and also dismantled ruthless Aston Villa for their best away win since they entered the top-flight a few years ago. All in all, there was a real feel-good mood about the Potters in the closing third of the campaign and a top-half finish, clinched on the last day of the season, is a due reward for the excellent work done by Hughes.

Player of the Season: Ryan Shawcross