Continuing with the fan previews, Lloyd Reddin from Vital Stoke talks about all things Stoke ahead of the 2013-2014 season.
Scott: How did you rate 2012-2013 for your club?
Lloyd: Stoke’s season was defiantly the cliche of a tale of two halves. We started the season extremely well, with some impressive performances against the likes of Arsenal and Man City at home, and even going to Old Trafford and producing their best away performance since they were promoted to the Premier League although they came away with a 4-2 defeat.
This was all happening as Tony Pulis looked to evolving Stoke into a more footballing side with a change of shape, seeing the Potters move into a 5 man midfield, this produced some interesting results for Stoke and saw them go on a 10 game unbeaten run, but the turn of the year came, and so did Pulis’ old philosophy of safety first.
The Potters went to pot! Pulis reverted back to a more rigid system and was just out to get to the magical 40 point safety mark which we would have easily achieved if he didn’t shake up the team. The side went on a woeful run and were sucked into a relegation battle instead of a hunt for Europe which the system looked to be heading before the start of 2013.
Pulis and his lads were very lucky to keep hold of their Premier League status, mainly helped by the fact that were at least half a dozen sides that were just worse than us.
Scott: Who was your best player?
Lloyd: Asmir Begovic by a country mile. He was a real rock in our team, he managed to keep Stoke in games seemingly single handed at times. His shot stopping is on par if not better than the keepers at the leading clubs and no wonder their has been so much speculation regarding him moving away from the Britannia but he has confirmed he will be going no where this summer. It is only a matter of time though that the big Bosnian will move onto bigger and better things.
Scott: Which player are you expecting most important in 2013-2014?
Lloyd: Charlie Adam had a disappointing season last year, it didn’t help that he was shackled down by Pulis but he did show some moments of brilliance, and the Potters faithful will want to see that more consistently this season. Steven N’Zonzi epitomised Stoke’s season, he started off really well but was close to awful after the new year, rumours are that he fell out with Pulis which may have been the issue with his on field performances, but after handing a transfer request, the young Frenchmen has a lot of making up to do with the vociferous Stoke following.
Scott: If you could take one United player, who would it be?
Lloyd: Realistically Tom Cleverley would be a great addition to the Stoke side. Mark Hughes has got Stoke playing some expansive, attractive football through pre season, and Tom Cleverley’s tenaciously and passing ability would help to continue to improve the evolution.
Scott: Are you pleased Fergie’s retired?
Lloyd: I have no real feelings about Fergie retiring, maybe if we were more your rivals than I would. It will certainly be weird not seeing Sir Alex in the Old Trafford dug out and David Moyes in his place though.
Scott: Where do you think your club will finish this season?
Lloyd: A top half finish is definitely the target. When Hughes has had a full season in charge at a club he has never failed to finish in the top half, so hopefully this is a good omen for the upcoming season. He has already resolved the troubled left back spot and with a few more signings in key positions the goal could be achieved.
Scott: Where do you think United will finish?
Lloyd: Even with Fergie going I thought you were going to win the title again, but with Mourinho coming back and getting in Moyes head early doors and certain comments from Moyes, I have started to move away from the idea. You could have a real struggle if Moyes can’t cope with the immense pressure of being the United coach, I think he will be ok though but I think you’ll finish runners-up to Mourinho’s boys.
Scott: What do you think about the decision to sack the manager last season?
Lloyd: It was the right time for Pulis to go. He did a great job at the club and that will never be forgotten, but he started to fall out with senior members of the playing staff and the fans were starting to turn against him. Coates has hopefully made a shrewd decision to let Pulis go and hopefully the club can continue to progress.
Scott: How did you feel when you signed Michael Owen and what did you make of his season?
Lloyd: I was very excited about Owen signing but always had a couple of doubts in my head. One being would he be able to stay fight and the other which definitely materialised was if Pulis would use him in the right way, and he just didn’t. Yeah Owen did pick up a few niggles throughout the season but he was fit more than he wasn’t and he just wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip in a team that was crying out for a natural goal scorer and that’s what Michael definitely is. I thought it was highly disrespectful that he was given a starting birth in his final ever match in what was a dead rubber game.