So here it is, our 150th year as a club and what better way to celebrate that landmark than looking forward to another consecutive campaign in the best league in the world; the Barclays Premier League. Can I first of all say thank you very much to Adidas for coming up trumps with the shirt designs that are exclusively for Stoke City Football Club. We appreciate not being handed a set from deep inside the storerooms somewhere that at least three other clubs have already got, one of which included them blasted Baggies! Well done lads, they`re pretty smart! Right then, lets forget about the latest fashion must-haves and focus on the important stuff; the football!
Let`s kick off this series of articles by talking about the players who`ve sadly, or thankfully, left The Britannia Stadium. We`ve had one shock, a couple of surprises, and couple that encourage breathing a sighs of relief, but all of which open the door for replacements (we hope). So, who has gone, and what positions need filling now?
Now the most notable of those to depart The Brit is fan favourite Ricardo Fuller. After a mere 18 appearances in all competitions and only one goal, Fuller`s fitness depleted, especially after suffering repeat shoulder and knee injuries, and thus wasn`t offered a new contract by gaffer Tony Pulis. If to say the reason for not offering Fuller a new deal was because of his injury woes recurring more frequently, then surely we must be asking; what the hell is Sidibe still doing here?? As much of a servant as Big Mama has been for us, he hasn`t played a competitive game for 2 years nearly. Yes Fuller has lost a bit of pace and whathaveyou, but his intelligence on the ball and his agility to ballet dance the whole of Swan Lake in and around the area, leaving defenders in a spin, is a trademark of his that has never been lost. He has always mesmerised the terraces with his skill and it`s something that we won`t be forgetting for a long, long time. There were rumours during the previous transfer window about his departure, so this hasn`t been a major shock, but it`s been one that has split fans down the middle. Did he demand too much wages for an impact sub? Possibly, and if that`s the case, then it would have been a major spanner in the works during negotiations. The pressure now lies on Tony and whether he can swiftly bring in a striker with equal quality and perhaps higher work rate. Only time, and the very last minute of this transfer window will tell, as per usual.
The floodgate opened for Jonathan Woodgate`s departure to former club Middlesbrough, with not many Stokies being sad to see him go. Acquiring him on a pay-as-you-play deal, taking into account his individual NHS and physio bill over the years was a smart move, but it was a risky player to bet on. A fit Woodgate would have brought vital experience at the back, just in time for the European adventures, but an unfit Woodgate would scupper the already brilliant unit we had in the defensive third. Credit to him, the super glue holding him together saw him through the season without falling apart physically, but it didn`t help when Pulis decided to gamble further by sticking him out on the right-back position; something that requires pace and committed tackling. Wingers ran rings round him and he wasn`t able to handle the threats at all. Still, a new start at an old club might help him to boost his confidence and see out his career, so good luck to him.
Danny was, in my eyes, to be one of the first ones to go if I was in charge and sure enough, he`s gone to the legendary club of Nottingham Forest who reside in the Championship. He never really did much and it showed when a central midfielder in Marc Wilson was favoured for the left-back spot for the majority of the season. He made school boy errors and caused The Brit to groan simultaneously quite frequently. Not a bad back-up mind you, but he didn`t really do it for me.
Thank the Lord Almighty above that the hindrance and complete pile of useless excrement that somehow managed to secure a position in the defensive midfield over other, more obvious selections, has finally left! It`s honestly nothing personal Salif Diao, nothing ever is, it`s just that I didn`t see how you managed to fit into our current squad and at the same time aspire to be a quality Premier League team. Thanks for that goal a while back when you ran from the half-way line and into the box to volley it home; that was a special moment. Thanks also for helping me win a few quid by correctly predicting that you would receive the first yellow card every time you played, almost. Moving on from pretending to talk to Salif, the real reason from my perspective as to why he stayed so long was because he was a fantastic ambassador for African nations, and a window of opportunity to have the first pickings at African youth players. As logical as that sounds, it didn`t pay off as such, yet Salif was offered a coaching role to keep him at the club for longer. He turned it down and decided hang up his Stoke boots and leave. Perhaps now Wilson Palacios will have more games now.
All in all, I think the players that have gone have gone for a good reason, one way or another. Whether it`s because they`ve had their spell with us and, although having served us brilliantly in the past, are now surplus to requirements, or that they just never really hit the ground running in a Stoke shirt. My only concern now is whether we are able to bring in the right players to fill in the vacant positions, and players that will equal or add to the quality we have already.
Other players to have left the Britannia include Andrew Davies (Bradford), Ryan Brunt (Leyton Orient), Mathew Lund (Bristol Rovers), Florent Cuvelier (Walsall), and Tom Soars (free transfer); only Collins so far has brought in some money at the sum of over half a million pounds towards the transfer fund.