By Calvin Palmer
The summer transfer window has closed. For the past two days I have been glued to The Oatcake, watching and waiting for Stoke City’s moves in the transfer market. I know; it’s sad.
What is even sadder is my devotion to the fortunes of Stoke City and the amount of time my thoughts are preoccupied by the club. I am in my late fifties and thought I would have outgrown the hold a football team can have.
As a teenager, when Stoke City lost a game I was inconsolable and went into a sulky purdah for two or three days. By Wednesday, my thoughts slowly started to turn to the next game on Saturday and my enthusiasm would steadily grow, reaching a peak at 3:15 pm if Stoke City were at home or 3:00pm if they were playing away.
Going into a sulk if Stoke City lose a game still happens but it tends to last for a couple of hours rather than days.
Someone once said that supporting a football club is like marriage, except there is no prospect of divorce. My devotion to Stoke City really is a case of for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer… till death do us part.
That mindset goes some way to explaining why I sat in front of the computer yesterday for eight hours, watching transfer developments on deadline day.
Stoke City concluded deals that brought in three new players at a cost of some £20 million, maybe even as much as £22 million. The reporting of transfer fees paid is not an exact science.
Stoke brought in Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch from Tottenham Hotspur; Cameron Jerome from Birmingham City. Football pundits reckon the club did good business. Those three acquisitions have certainly take the club to a higher level.
I had hoped that Stoke would sign Nickolas Bendtner from Arsenal, not only for his footballing abilities but the Danish international’s ego would have meant Stoke would not have had to fill the corners at the Britannia Stadium. Bendtner’s ego would have done that.
Bendtner ended up going to Sunderland on a season-long loan. That deal suggests to me that Arsenal were having second thoughts about letting Bendtner go for good and I think Stoke City lost interest when the player was only available as a loanee.
Nine months in Sunderland, a grim place and a bit like Stoke-on-Trent by the sea, could well rid Bendtner of his delusions of grandeur and make him a more desirable option as a team player by the time of next summer’s transfer window. Stoke City could perhaps go back for him then.
In Peter Crouch, Stoke have gained a high-profile player entering the Indian summer of his career. His international and European experience will prove invaluable during Stoke’s campaign in the Europa League.
I watched Crouch play his last game for Spurs against Manchester City. He missed one header that should have been a goal. All strikers miss clear–cut chances from time to time so I will not hold that against him. I was impressed by his first touch and the way he can hold the ball up before laying it off to a midfield player.
Like I said, I would have preferred Bendtner but I think Crouch will bring a lot to Stoke City and may become the catalyst that attracts other quality players to the club in future transfer windows. I am not holding my breath on Stoke City landing Lionel Messi.
The video clips I have seen of Wilson Palacios in action have left me impressed. His tackling ability is immense and Stoke City have needed a midfield destroyer for a long time.
Before yesterday’s signings, I was a little apprehensive about Stoke’s next league game at home to Liverpool. With Palacios at the heart of Stoke’s midfield, I think Liverpool will have to work extremely hard to gain the upper hand. In fact, it occurred to me that Stoke could have Palacios man-mark Luis Suárez to nullify the Uruguayan’s goal threat.
But teams don’t seem to go in for man marking these days. Older Stoke fans will recall Eric Skeels was often given the task of sticking to a certain opposition star player to reduce their effectiveness and it worked more often than not.
Stoke City’s manager Tony Pulis will obviously have his own game plan. And that is where I start to worry. For all his merits as a manager, strategy and tactics are not his strong points.
Cameron Jerome, the third signing, is one of those players all mid-table sides seem to have. He is never going to set the world on fire but will put in a useful shift. I will retain an open mind on him as a player until I have seen him in action.
Of all the players on the sinking ship that is Birmingham City, I would have liked to see Stoke sign the Blues’ Chilean international winger Jean Beausejour.
Stoke City’s attacking threat comes in the shape of wingers Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant. When they are operating to their maximum potential, Stoke are an attacking force to be reckoned with – just ask Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal.
Etherington seems to be more injury prone these days. Beausejour would have been the perfect back-up signing. Maybe he will become a target for Stoke in the January transfer window.
All in all I am pleased with yesterday’s transfer dealings. Stoke needed to strengthen the squad, particularly in the face of the Europa League campaign. How Pulis employs his new signings remains to be seen. Sometimes I feel he is overwhelmed when he is spoiled for choice regarding the team selection and does better when his options are limited by injury and suspension.
The match against Liverpool on September 10 will give the first indication of what lies ahead for Stoke City. A victory against Liverpool will not automatically mean Stoke will be contesting one of the top four spots in the Premier League but it will give an indication that we could be heading for our highest finish. Seventh or eighth position would further cement the club’s status as an established Premier League outfit. That will do for me. Anything else will be a bonus.
William Hill bookmakers are giving the following odds for Stoke City:
Premier League Outright 5000/1
Top Four Finish 66/1
To Stay Up 1/50
FA Cup 40/1
Carling Cup 33/1
Europa League Outright 40/1
Europa League Group E 15/8