Now that the transfer window has finally been slammed firmly shut I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of Stokies are extremely happy with our dealings over the last few weeks.
If you had offered us Kenwyne Jones, Jon Walters, Marc Wilson, Carlo Nash, Jermaine Pennant and Eidur Gudjohnsen before the season started you’d have had a very positive reaction from pretty much every Potters fan. Everyone in football knew that Stoke were short on goals; we are incredibly solid and have rarely been “turned over” since our promotion but have really lacked a cutting edge. TP has had to rely heavily on Ric and Ethers for moments of inspiration over the previous two campaigns so some assistance to our two main men was desperately needed.
The arrival of Eidur Gudjohnsen has certainly generated much excitement around the Potteries and almost as much confusion as to how TP is best going to utilise the new arrivals. Most people expect our record signing, KJ to start pretty much every game when fit as we all know that the gaffer likes a target man. He certainly seems like the ideal “Mama upgrade” given his ability in the air, general hold up play and much better scoring touch.
So does TP view Eidur as the man to link up with Jones? Personally I’m not so sure and still see Ric as having a huge part to play in the season ahead. If anything I have wondered whether we see Gudjohnsen as first change for KJ if we are looking to try “Plan B” and allow him to drop deep to try and feed the ball to Ricardo’s feet.
To make matters even more difficult to understand we have the recent arrival of the impressive Walters along with the often-overlooked Tuncay to muddy the waters even further.
Of course the great thing is that all these options make for a much stronger looking, forward thinking Stoke City. The abundance of riches at our disposal will no doubt occupy the conversations throughout the offices and pubs in and around North Staffordshire between now and the Aston Villa game at the very least.
Perhaps the two signings that could make the most difference to our fortunes have maybe not taken up as many column inches as the arrival of our two high profile forwards. I haven’t seen much of Marc Wilson but I’m told he has an excellent range of passing which is something our midfield has been devoid of for quite some time. The addition of Jermaine Pennant to our right flank should also give us great balance to the team as well as giving the opposition more to think about than just stopping Ethers from delivering balls into the box.
While on the subject of right-wingers it would be remiss of me not to mention Liam Lawrence who left as part of the Marc Wilson deal. “Lennie” has been a superb servant to Stoke City and was an integral part of our promotion to the Premier League as well as playing a pivotal role in our battle against the drop during the second half of our first season back. As honest as the day is long, Liam provided Stokies with many wonderful memories as he scored and created so many goals in that fantastic 2007-08 season that culminated in our return to the top flight. My personal highlight was Liam’s winning goal away at Coventry in a game where we really started to believe that the Premier League was in touching distance. On the way back we even had the pleasure of seeing Lennie driving back up the toll road, which allowed our carload to belt out a raucous rendition of “There’s only one Liam Lawrence” as we were waiting to pay our toll fee. I think he appreciated the gesture although he may have felt we were all a touch insane!
Last week I touched on Arsene Wenger’s totally unnecessary comments about our club (and players) and I see that the F.A. have unsurprisingly chosen not to take the matter any further. To be honest I have no problem with any manager as desperate as Wenger trying to play silly games through the media. The pressure must really be on at the Emirates so perhaps this was an indication of the cracks begging to show. As most in the Potteries have been at pains to point out though, the issue that riled us more than anything was the fact that Wenger stated that Ryan Shawcross “kicked” Gomez in the Spurs’ goal. Playing games in the media is one thing Mr. Wenger but making stories up to try and prove a point is another matter entirely. Clearly the football authorities have no backbone where dealing with the top clubs are concerned so it will have to be left to the Stoke faithful to leave Mr. Wenger in no doubt about what we think of him when Arsenal arrive in Stoke next May.
Roll on the Villa game and all the best to Liam at his new club, at least he will always be guaranteed a much warmer welcome than a certain London-based manager I could think of!