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Stoke City show that stagnating success becomes boring

Friday 10th March 2017
Stoke City earned a tough point away at Manchester City on Wednesday night. Their stagnant success is in stark contrast to that of their hosts. Is money the only way to get to the top?
I often feel deeply sorry for the fans of clubs such as Stoke City. The middling Premier League is a difficult place, with delusions of grandeur all too faint to ever become a reality and the threat of relegation all too real for it to ever become a mere memory, rather than a prominent worry, driving the obsession with hitting the seemingly magical 40-point mark.

I remember listening to the radio after Southampton had just sold Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren. At the time, everyone expected them to get relegated. But fast forward six months and, under the guidance of Ronald Koeman, who had rejuvenated the depleted squad that was initially struck by the sudden departure of previous manager Mauricio Pochettino for Spurs, the Saints were marching once again. A fan had phoned into the radio show to discuss Southampton's unheralded success and, in an extremely measured and thoughtful manner, proceeded to explain how, while he still wanted to see his club achieve great success, he was afraid that too much success would only see them fall back to the pack after yet another summer ravaging at the hands of the big Premier League clubs.

It was a point well made. But I felt a sense of melancholy as I sat and listened to this clearly impassioned man detail how he would quite like his side to lose just so that they can keep their players. It is this stagnating success that is crippling the progress of many of our Premier League clubs. Stoke are the perfect example.

First under Tony Pulis and now with Mark Hughes at the reigns, the Potters have some gifted members in their midst. Xherdan Shaqiri is a wonderfully talented wide man; Joe Allen, an industrious midfielder with creative distribution; Ryan Shawcross, a man who embodies the leadership qualities that even Bobby Moore would be proud of.

They were promoted in the summer of 2008. They have never been relegated from the Premier League. This, their eighth season, is yet another piece to add to their growing collection of consistency. In their first season in the top flight, Pulis guided them to 12th. They have finished below that just twice: 13th in 09/10 and 13th again in 12/13. The other four years, including the last three seasons? They have finished in 9th. As of writing, they currently sit, yep, you guessed it, 9th.

And yet, despite being a club steeped in heritage, boasting a stable ground with an ever-growing fanbase, with an astute manager, the finances to back him and a squad far deeper and more varied than many would care to admit, there is still a sense of plateau; there is still the prevalent feeling of apathy. Who really cares about Stoke outside of the realms of the Britannia?

I am not a Stoke supporter. But I am a Stoke admirer. This is not a critique of the club or how it is run or how it is managed or how their fans behave. This is a critique of the Premier League, where mediocrity is the norm and greatness is for a very select few. Teams like Stoke are very quickly becoming boring. Without due care attention, the Premier League will follow in Stoke's footsteps.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!

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