The power vacuum – the story behind Stoke’s inability to find the right manager


Following the sacking of Nathan Jones today, Stoke City will be looking for their fifth manager since January 2018.  Mark Hughes, Paul Lambert, Gary Rowett and now Jones have all faced the chopping block at the bet365, so as the Potters continue their descent into the abyss of the English Football League, one might ask: “Where did it all go wrong?”

Mark Hughes

For a period of time, Hughes was the man at the helm of the steadiest ship in the Premier League. For three consecutive seasons, he was able to steer Stoke away from relegation trouble, and into comfortable mid-table success.

Despite breaking the club transfer record on more than one occasion, on talents such as Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri, Hughes was unable to progress any further with the Potters, finding himself jobless in January 2018, after a poor start to the season left his side in the relegation zone.

Paul Lambert

Having left Wolves in May 2017, Lambert ended his seven months of unemployment by taking over at the bet365, with the unenviable job of helping Stoke to rise out of the relegation zone.

A change in form and fortune was needed, and with an energetic 2-0 win over fellow relegation candidates: Huddersfield, in Lambert’s first game, this change appeared imminent.

However, that game against the Terriers would form half of Stoke’s total wins under Lambert, as they took three points in only two of his fifteen games, and found themselves relegated in 19th place. Unsurprisingly, Lambert left the club soon after ‘by mutual consent’.

Gary Rowett

Naturally, going into the 2018/19 season, the board wanted swift, damage-limiting promotion from the Championship, and felt that Rowett was the man to achieve this. Having dragged Derby to the playoffs, this was a man who knew the recipe to succeed in the Championship.

After a busy summer where over £30 million was spent on proven talent such as Benik Afobe, high expectations were immediately humbled by an opening-day defeat to Leeds, and it took until the fifth game of the season for Rowett’s Potters to win a game.

By January, Stoke sat in 14th, and despite being only eight points away from the playoff places, the perceived negativity of Rowett’s tactics began to match the attitude of the fans and board, which became equally negative. Inevitably, he was sacked just after the new year.

Nathan Jones

An unprecedented recovery job was needed to rescue Stoke’s season, and the Potters poached their would-be hero from Luton Town, after he guided them to second place in League One.

However, rather than doing the same with Stoke, and guiding them into the playoffs, Jones fell flat, as he continued Rowett’s legacy with an extremely disappointing 16th place finish.

Going into this season, the board maintained their faith in Jones, hoping that a full summer would help him change the fortunes at the bet365. However, with fortune traditionally favouring the brave, it seems poetic that Jones’ negative, fearful style of football led the club to sit in the relegation places for the majority of the season.

Unsurprisingly, this torrid form led to the news that broke earlier today, that Jones was sacked and Stoke were looking for their fifth manager in less than two years.

What Now?

Stoke still find themselves not only in 23rd place on only eight points, but also without a manager.

Michael O’Neill and Chris Hughton are the bookies favourites to take the job at the Bet365, however whether they will accept the seemingly poisoned chalice that is the manager’s seat at Stoke City, is another question.

The bigger question, however, for either of those candidates or any others, is whether there is any manager in football today that can prevent Stoke City from entering their darkest period since the 1990s.


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