Britannia History Season 02/03

By Rob Stanway
Last updated : 02 February 2005
"Quitterall"
At the start of the season, upcoming manager Steve Cotterill was announced as Stoke's new manager to succeed Gudjon Thordarson, who was sacked due to disagreements with the board only a few days after gaining promotion. Cotterill had a weakened squad to what won promotion, Burton, Gunnlaugson etc all returned to their clubs - but the squad was good enough to survive, so we thought.

Suddenly, Cotterill resigned out of the blue and was announced as Sunderland #2 to Howard Wilkinson, a friend who first got him onto all his European Coaching Certificates.

Stoke City MAD reported this article on October 10th..
http://www.stokecity-mad.co.uk/news/loadnews.asp?cid=TMNW&id=67767
Which Included - "From www.stokecityfc.com : "Stoke City have not been approached by another club with regard to the manager and the club is shocked and surprised at the news. The search for a replacement will begin immediately"

We then broke the news that he was announced as Sunderland's #2 only hours later, Cotterill had quite obviously been having talks with Sunderland before his resignation which breached the laws of the game. Stoke we're left managerless and betrayed.

Kevan
So, David Kevan took position as caretaker manager, stating he did not want the job but would do it for the club. He went on to lose 4 games although the team did show grit and determination - but the luck went against them.

Pulis (Saviour)
Stoke then made the appointment that nobody wanted. Tony Pulis, a man with a bad reputation with alot of fans because of a public fall-out with an ex chairman was appointed. He had been out of work for a while and was thrilled to be given the chance to manage Stoke. The fans were ancious.

We we're invited to meet the manager himself on several occasions and he won almost every single person over. What we didn't know was that who we had was an honest, successful man who was fully competent of putting something together at this club.

3 points from 9 games saw Stoke slump to a very bad position but Stoke started to string the results together - Pulis had made some good signings and the team began to pick up - playoff form in fact. They crutially beat Sheffield Wednesday, followed by Preson - drew at Leicester away with a fantastic performance, Beat Brighton at home - a really important win for us in front of the Sky Camera's and then went on a 7 match unbeaten run.

Crossley
Signings such as Mark Crossley from Middlesborough and later, Ade Akinbiyi from Crystal Palace really helped the squad and added that quality. Akinbiyi also had a bad reputation but Pulis has always stuck by him, even when he started off at Gillingham and Pulis was the manager.

It all came down to the final day. A win for Brighton and a Loss for Stoke would mean Stoke would be relegated. Anything other would see Stoke stay up thanks to some terrific form - meaning Stoke needed only a point or a Brighton "non-win". Stoke vs Reading kicked off on Sky - alongside Grimsby v Brighton.

22,000 packed the Britannia Stadium to show their support and Stoke put up a fantastic fight. The Grit and Battle on display was something we just hadn't seen all season - not only that - we looked sharp in attack with youngster Lewis Neal a suprise addition to the squad.

Stoke secured survival with a fantastic goal starting from a Stoke free kick on the half way line taken by James O'Connor. The ball went out to Lewis Neal, being misjudged by the defender - a great cross found the head of Ade Akinbiyi who knew exactly what to do.

These words will bring a smile to Potters faces for a long time to come..

Akinbiyi
"Now here's Neal - Akinbiyi wants it AND GETS IT AND SCORES!! ADE AKINBIYI RULES BRITANNIA AND BRINGS A WAVE OF RELIEF ROUND THIS GROUND - ITS THE GOAL THEY'VE BEEN WAITING FOR - ITS PUTS THEM BACK IN THE DRIVING SEAT - AND IT MAY WELL KEEP THEM IN THE FIRST DIVISION!" - Rob Hawthorne, 4th May 2003

An exiting season brought to a fantastic climax, another season in succession where we can go away and have a great summer feeling proud to be a Stokie. A fantastic achievement with so much to look forward to next time round.

Tony Pulis turned from Villan to Hero, a true saviour and the right man for the job.

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