Tony Pulis accepts Stoke are in deep trouble following defeat to Aston Villa
Stoke City 1 Aston Villa 3
Monday 08 April 2013
The view Tony Pulis had on the final whistle was of banks of empty seats with barely a quorum left to boo his team off.
The Britannia Stadium, Stoke City’s great fortress, the club’s insurance against relegation, was deserted. Before a game that he knew would be critical, the manager talked of the need for a “kind of national service”. Now, with a solitary Premier League win in 2013, he will have to mobilise for a fight to save the club he has transformed.
Aston Villa, who began the weekend as the more likely of these two Midlands sides to go down, should not have had to rely on one of the goals of the season from Matthew Lowton, the full-back, for their 3-1 victory. The margin of their superiority was sometimes ridiculous.
Stoke are the polar opposite of Wigan. Their season seems to stop in January and the previous two have seen them drift down from eighth at the turn of the year to 14th. They were 14th when Mark Clattenburg’s whistle sounded and may go lower.
Pulis accepted that Stoke are now clear candidates for relegation. He said he had his opinion on why Stoke keep faltering once a season goes into its second half but “now was not the time for excuses”. However, he admitted there was a lack of confidence seized his side once Villa scored. Thereafter, Stoke were something they have never been under Pulis. They were incompetent.
Both Stoke’s results – one clean sheet in almost four months – and a fixture list – they finish with games against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – are causes for concern. “The league table does not look too good,” said Stoke’s keeper, Asmir Begovic.
“We realise we are in a dogfight. We have been in this position before and, hopefully, the spirit of the club will take us through. But it is going to be difficult. We have six tough games to go and nobody will give us anything. That is the way it is. People always panic and look for the worst but in our dressing room and, more importantly, in our manager we have good characters who are going to stand up and fight.”
There are many who think that after 11 years in the Potteries, separated by the forgettable interregnum of Johan Boskamp, the end of the season would be a natural time for Pulis to take his leave.
His disciplined, physical brand of football now looks exhausted. But Pulis has known worse times, not least his first season when dragging Stoke clear of the old Third Division. He has carried them a long way and this is no time to be letting go.
Bookings: Stoke Shotton, Shawcross, Adam. Villa Agbonlahor.
Man of the match Lowton.
Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Stoke 46%. Villa 54%.
Attempts on target: Stoke 3. Villa 6.
Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).
Latest in Sport
Royal Rumble 2015: Roman Reigns triumphs after The Rock returns to set-up Wrestlemania showdown with Brock Lesnar
Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal, Chelsea target Raheem Sterling, Manchester United want Benzema
Royal Rumble 2015: Watch The Rock return to the WWE to rescue Roman Reigns
Transfer talk: Chelsea plan shock move for Raheem Sterling; Real Madrid open to selling Karim Benzema; Spurs target £5m Danny Ings
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now