Stoke's Berlin Wall shows no signs of crumbling

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It has taken Robert Huth longer than he expected to make his debut for Stoke City. His debut, that is, as a centre-half, the position in which he played for Chelsea and Middlesbrough, and in which he won his 17 caps for Germany before being bought by the Potters for a club record £5m last summer.

The man known in his own country as "The Berlin Wall" might not have expected to begin his Stoke career at right-back, the more so since he is left-footed, but as manager Tony Pulis said, Huth hasn't once questioned his thinking.

"I talked to [the then Middlesbrough manager] Gareth Southgate, because I had in my mind I wanted a Joleon Lescott-type player, one I felt could play at full-back as well as centrally, to make us a bit stronger across the back four," said Pulis.

"Whether it was what Robert anticipated I'm not sure, but I've been really pleased because his attitude has been fantastic. Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but he's been typically German – nothing has fazed him, he's just got on with it and proved he has two good feet. Of all the players we've brought in, he's fitted into the groove so easily."

Abdoulaye Faye's suspension, incurred for being sent off at Hull two weeks ago, should see Huth playing as one of a central pair against Portsmouth today. Huth himself has served a three-match ban after the cameras caught him punching West Ham's Matthew Upson, The 6ft 3in stopper admits he is looking forward to starting in his favourite position.

"It feels like it's been a long time, and obviously the ban didn't help," Huth said. "It was out of character, I don't go around hurting people, but I reacted badly and was punished. The important thing is to learn my lesson and not do anything like that again."

Judging by their performances this season, Stoke are a club where lessons are learned quickly. As Pulis pointed out, a number of promoted sides have had good first seasons but have gone on to struggle in their second.

"We reckon it takes three years to establish yourself in this division," said Pulis. "Within that period you need to be bringing in the likes of Robert every year, players with that extra bit of quality, until you reach that sort of level where, for example, Fulham are – a club which, though it hasn't got the resources of the top 10, have been in the Premier League for a few years and have built up a basic level of quality."

For Pulis, it was telling that there were a few boos around the Britannia Stadium when, with Stoke having led Wolves 2-0, the game was drawn. "The players had everything to prove in the first year, and achieved it, and the supporters were magnificent, they treated every game as though it was the Cup final. But now there's that bit more expectation, and that's why this season has the potential to be even harder," said Pulis.

Comments