We hosted a live webchat to help Stoke City fans get the club’s woes off their chest. The Potters are still looking for their first win of the 2019/20 season after seven league games and now face a difficult trip to Brentford on Saturday. With manager Nathan Jones fighting to save his job, Stoke writer MARTIN SPINKS has been answering your questions…
Chris (Leeds): Nathan Jones needs a full season to sort out this club. It is rotten to the core.
Martin Spinks: That may be true, Chris, but how many supporters would swallow relegation if that ended up being the price to pay?
Jonathan (North Yorks): I am desperately clinging to the hope that NJ will come good and succeed, results will change and my defending him will not be in vain.
Knowing how vulnerable we are defensively at the back post, his “we’ve been working on that for two weeks” comment leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.
Martin Spinks: There’s no doubt that Bristol saw the Birmingham equaliser and spotted a weakness, if they hadn’t seen it already. Tom Edwards was certainly tested a few times there in the first half on Saturday – and we all know what happened in the second.
Andy (Milton): Do you think the biggest mistake was sacking Paul Lambert? Look at Ipswich Town now – second in League One with the best defence, only four goals conceded and possibly swapping places with us next season.
Martin Spinks: I wasn’t a great fan of Lambert’s sacking at the time, but not sure how many others thought the same. But Stoke’s subsequent decline has made his short time at Stoke look better, just as it has Gary Rowett’s a little further down the line.
John (Melton Mowbray): NJ has brought in a lot of players since his arrival and has also shed a few. Going forward will we not fall foul of the Financial Fair Play rules?
Martin Spinks: I shouldn’t think so John because consideration of FFP was a major factor in this summer’s transfer policy – lots of free transfers.
Kerry: You talk about the input of the owners, but let’s look at the time of 2008/09 when we sent Leicester down. Look at how they rebuilt and how we have stagnated and failed to kick on.
Martin Spinks: Leicester has been a truly remarkable story, a one off, but you are right about the fact they have sustained the club at a very high level and are now talking about the top four after that miraculous title win in 2016. Not sure you can use Leicester to beat Stoke over the head with, though, because their story is truly remarkable, not exactly the norm.
Darren (Newcastle): When NJ is sacked, does anyone have faith in the board to get a good manager next? The last three have been dreadful. An experienced manager is needed. Do you think they are talking to possible replacements Martin?
Martin Spinks: Don’t know if they are talking to anyone, but you can bet that the agents of any interested parties have been in touch to throw their hats into the ring.
Adam (Talke Pitts): I still think we should go Hogan and Gregory up top. The amount of times Gregory has won a lost cause but had no one around him is frustrating. Hogan was looking the part until he was been dropped after Preston.
Martin Spinks: Yes, it’s looked like the best partnership over a sustained period, Adam, and Hogan against his old club is another factor in his favour at Brentford this weekend.
Mick Brennan (Carterton): When is Ryan Shawcross likely to be fit?
Martin Spinks: The New Year was the last we heard, but he might be back playing on crutches at this rate.
Lee (Sneyd Green): Would you go 4-3-3 against Brentford with Badou, Etebo and Clucas in the middle and Bruno at left-back? Who would be our better centre-half pairing? Should Tyrese start alongside Ince and Gregory?
Martin Spinks: I’d start by ensuring there’s some physical presence at the back, and Etebo for Allen looks a given. You worry about Gregory’s lack of goals, but there is no faulting the guy’s effort. He was immense on Saturday, but perhaps he needs a goalscorer alongside him. Whether that is Campbell, Hogan or Vokes is one for the manager.
Peter (Hanley): I’d love the board to let the fans know what every member does in terms of who makes decisions. Transparency would be great. Part of the problem is we don’t know who is responsible for this decline over many years now?
Martin Spinks: They would probably say there has to be a collective responsibility and it’s surely true to say that no one individual is entirely responsible.
Jeff (Stoke): Will we go down?
Martin Spinks: No. A nervous No.
What’s happening at Stoke City?
Arthur (Audley): After three years of being the lowest spenders in the Premier League, Stoke got what we deserved, relegation. They will never do any good with the Coates family at the helm.
Martin Spinks: Not entirely convinced Stoke City Football Club could attract any better owners right now, Arthur. And without wishing to live in the past, you can’t just forget that they came back in 2006 – when few in their position would have done – to finance promotion to the Premier League and a 10-year stay thereafter.
Stuart (Draycott): The board have backed the manager in the summer and Scholes has supported NJ through transfers. They are a good board who back their manager. They are too loyal though, aren’t they Martin? The issue is the manager and his coaching. He is not getting the best out of this team. Get him out!
Martin Spinks: History will judge them and their loyalty, Stuart, but as said previously, you can understand (if not necessarily agree with) the loyalty they are showing. The outside world will applaud them, but then again the outside world doesn’t have to live with the potential consequences.
Sean (Longton): What does Paul Hart do exactly? He is a man with a lot of experience yet I cannot see his influence on the team. He should be telling Jones that this isn’t working, shouldn’t he?
Martin Spinks: The role of a number two is always impossible to define. Only the manager knows their true worth and the fact Nathan Jones hired Paul Hart at the first available opportunity suggests he rates him highly. Perhaps he is telling Jones what you say, we just don’t know.
Matt (Leeds): There is still a lack of continuity regarding the starting XI. NJ needs to pick a settled side, so players know their roles and responsibilities. He goes on about working on defensive shape in training, yet every ball into our box causes us a problem. How do you solve the defensive issues?
Martin Spinks: I was surprised Batth didn’t play to add some physical presence against Diedhiou on Saturday and, without wishing to drum up a convenient excuse, the loss of Shawcross is surely proving even greater than even his biggest fans could have imagined.
Stephen (Newcastle): Does the fact that Phil Chapple, (taking over from Mark Cartwright and close to Jones,) has yet to be officially announced mean anything?
Martin Spinks: Not that I’m aware, Stephen.
Tom (Longton): Please can you justify the “5” that was given to Joe Allen in the player ratings after the game on Saturday?
Martin Spinks: No, you’re right, Tom. On reflection it should have been a 6.
Becky: Jones still has my full support! He’s being blamed for individual errors and things that have been completely out of our control. The guy looked a wreck after the Birmingham game and must think someone’s got a voodoo doll of him. I’ve seen enough to know that when this team clicks and our horrific luck turns we are going to be a quality side.
Martin Spinks: That’s the spirit, Becky.
Alan (May Bank): If we get relegated, do the fans say enough is enough? And does bet365 continue to stay with us?
Martin Spinks: Many fans will drift away, and it might be a very long time before many of them return, Alan. As for the owners, there is no reason to suppose they will seek to sell should the worst happen.
Ann Burgess (Lincoln): Performances have been much better. The players showed good attitude on Saturday when our backs were to the wall. Shows what they can do.
Martin Spinks: Blimey, a positive post/question. Thanks Ann.
Brian (Lower Tean): Could you try to explain the inexplicable lack of form from our ex-England goalkeeper?
Martin Spinks: The only thing you can be sure of is that it wasn’t a lack of professionalism or dedication to Stoke City. But a subconscious lack of focus leading to lack of concentration, because of all the question marks over his future? Possible, but ultimately impossible to prove unless Jack himself has a definitive theory.
Craig (Nottingham): What is the lowest points total a team has recorded in the Championship?
Martin Spinks: Behave!!
Joe Edwards (Newcastle): The club has been ruined by awful transfers. Unlike most clubs, our problem is not money but signing players on long-term contracts who are simply not up to it. The manager is too inexperienced to deal with this and I’m afraid both Scholes and Coates are responsible. The key issue is the board room and until that is sorted we will continue our decline.
Martin Spinks: Any analysis of Stoke’s decline over the past three years or so has to begin with signings. The problem is knowing exactly whose fingerprints are on the good, the bad and the ugly.
Tom (Hartshill): How much scrutiny is Tony Scholes is coming under for overseeing three or four seasons of decline? Surely in any other industry if a chief exec oversaw the loss of an annual contract worth over £100m they would be expected to resign?
Martin Spinks: He might argue that relegation cannot be plonked at his door alone, and he has held his hands up previously to a collective responsibility for what has happened. Whether or not lessons have been learned will be seen by some as another matter, however, as they watch the club’s on-going decline with increasing horror.
Steve (Kidsgrove): Do we have too many freeloaders at Stoke, picking up their large pay packets and showing very little effort or skill to merit such pay, in particular Ince who manages to disappear for 75 minutes. You agree?
Martin Spinks: It’s a fair question to ask in the circumstances, Steve, re the whole squad. As for Ince, he strikes me as what you might call a “good team” player, one who needs good, confident players around him to show his best, but one who’s perhaps less likely to impact a poor side. And at the moment, Stoke are a poor side.
Dave (Talke): Seven league games this season and 17 goals against. Forget about how well we may have played in some of those matches – forget about promotion or even play offs – what do we need to stay up? Stop goals going in.
Martin Spinks: Yes, Dave, and to think it wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t even thinking about goals against, it was all about more creativity and more goals. Remember the six successive clean sheets in March and April? But then they did concede 10 in the last six, so perhaps there was a warning there.
Derek (Fenton): Jones is like a rabbit in the headlights in his post-match interviews. He is lost for words and his constant changes to the starting 11 show that he has run out of ideas.
Martin Spinks: He does speak with a nervous energy, but who wouldn’t after seeing what he has in recent times? As for running out of ideas, part of the problem is possibly the opposite, the fact there is scope for so many ideas because of the number of experienced pros at his disposal.
Tom (Potteries): Name another manager who is still in his job with Nathan Jones’ win ratio? There is no ruthlessness in the boardroom. This is relegation form. The fact that Scholes is still in his CEO role is laughable.
Martin Spinks: You’re right, there isn’t. But there’s a good reason for that and it’s the fact we’ve already seen three managers in less than two years and the fact they have backed Nathan Jones so wholeheartedly. So we shouldn’t be surprised by their loyalty, even after six defeats in seven, but it can only last so long, of course.
John (Telford): Allen’s challenge on Saturday is reckless at best (and no, I didn’t think it was malicious). This is an experienced international and a man who had been made captain. How can Nathan Jones defend him?
Martin Spinks: Because, as manager, he has to, surely? But I take your point, and knowing Joe Allen he will have been beating himself up over the weekend, and probably for the next three games while suspended.
Si (Cheddleton): There are so many mistakes at the moment due to a lack of confidence. How can Nathan stop this, or does it need a new manager with a different philosophy?
Martin Spinks: Confidence is clearly huge, not least after conceding, and that was the tragedy on Saturday. It was only 12 minutes, but they were surely the best 12 minutes all told of the season so far. There was a chance there to truly take a game by the scruff of the neck and not only win, but win impressively enough to have conceivably kickstarted the entire season.
James (Trentham): 1. He made too many signings in the summer instead of recruiting four or five quality players. 2. The squad is bloated and this is the reason he is making so many changes week after week. 3. He is all talk. The board have backed him but clearly they’ve backed the wrong one. Experienced coach needed.
Martin Spinks: There’s no doubt that these are the kind of accusations being hurled in the manager’s/club’s direction by many out there now James. Trying to keep that squad happy is a nightmare and just about impossible until you get on some kind of winning streak.
Sean D (Bournemouth): Has Saturday’s defeat materially altered Jones’ position?
Martin Spinks: Bournemouth? You’d better not be Pulis in disguise, Sean! You’re probably right, given the circumstances on Saturday it probably hasn’t changed his position either way in the eyes of those who matter.
Sam (Derbyshire): How long has he got? Another loss this week and surely he has to go?
Martin Spinks: Without wishing to tempt fate, I think it would take something nasty at Brentford for a big decision to be made Sam. I keep looking at the Huddersfield fixture (October 1) and can’t help wondering how pivotal that one might prove.
Mark (Werrington): What is our best formation? What is our best back four or back five and centre-mid partnership? Could the fact Jones doesn’t know, after being at the club for 10 months, be the reason we are where we are, and not bad luck?
Martin Spinks: He doesn’t know his best team Mark, but then who does after watching them this season? Some will blame the manager’s system, some the players, and some both. But you’re right, as much as Stoke haven’t exactly been lucky this season, you can’t possibly say that it’s bad luck that’s swung it and left them bottom of the table with one point.
Jack (Bucknall): Surely if we lose the next three league games (maximum) that will be it. I’ve heard so many people say they wouldn’t go to a game again if we got TP back, but surely he would be by far the best option in an attempt to avoid relegation?
Martin Spinks: He’s a firefighter, that’s for sure Jack.
Mike (Stoke): What does the fact that only three of his signings started on Saturday say about the 12-strong Jones group of recruits?
Martin Spinks: Hadn’t noticed that stat, Mike. It doesn’t say much for how quickly any of them have settled, that’s for sure, while Nick Powell remains the mystery he always was.
Tom (Hartshill): Do you actually think there would be any appetite to bring back Tony Pulis?
Martin Spinks: If you’re talking about supporters, then yes, unquestionably, but the strength of that appetite will depend on just how perilous Stoke’s position is.
Phil (Halmerend): Can NJ continue to play McClean at left-back?
Martin Spinks: He has played him left midfield, but yes, it does seem as though there is a place in the team come what may. And in fairness to McClean, the one thing you cannot level at him his lack of effort, but many will retort that effort alone is not enough.
Pottedrengen (Aarhus): Why don’t the press question Jones on his chopping and changing the squad? Surely he must see that he doesn’t do anyone any favours?
Martin Spinks: He was asked that on Friday, but denied he had been making too many changes for too long. In fairness, few of the players being left out have a leg to stand on, but obviously there is an issue about just how many changes you make for fear of destabilising the team and putting too many noses out of joint.
Josh (Adderley Green): The club can’t have ignored the lower attendance on Saturday due to the performances? How long does Jones get now? It might have been a good showing vs Bristol City but it’s yet another loss.
Martin Spinks: Attendances will become an increasing cause for concern, Josh. And the even bigger concern is the number of fans walking away now who won’t return until the team looks like being a genuine Premier League contender again. And we all know that could be a very long time.
Kerry (Stoke): Realistically, how much time can we give to this manager? He’s clearly out of his depth with his roulette team selections? Are the club looking to bring in a more experienced manager?
Martin Spinks: Experience would surely be key if there was a change, Kerry, given the position Stoke are now in. As for how long Nathan Jones has, as previously said, the owners want to get to the next international break before making a decision either way, but results in the meantime will determine whether they have that luxury.
John (Hanford): 27 games , 3 wins – How on earth can anybody defend that record? No excuses or bad luck can justify it. WAKE UP Mr Coates.
Martin Spinks: We hear your pain, John.
John (Congleton): Two more soft goals conceded from crosses against Bristol City. How do we shore up this porous defence?
Martin Spinks: Danny Batth’s physical presence was missed on Saturday when there was every chance of Diedhiou returning for Bristol in place of the ineligible Afobe.
The very latest on Stoke City
This is your round up of all things Stoke City; the one-stop shop that will keep you updated on the latest goings on at the bet365 Stadium and beyond.
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Make sure you keep yourself updated with our handy daily catch up…
Mark (Newcastle): There’s been a lot of talk about Pulis recently. Do we actually know how the Coates-Pulis relationship is? Are they still close – and would it actually be a possibility? If not Pulis, do you think it would be a solid, British manager in the mould of Hughton, Allardyce, Moyes, Neil?
Martin Spinks: Out of respect to Nathan Jones, I’m not going to start discussing possible successors, but obviously the name of Tony Pulis is going to be doing the rounds. Yes, he and Peter Coates do have a very good relationship still.
Steve (Stoke): Do you think the club will give NJ until the next international break, come what may? Or is it now more or less game-to-game?
Martin Spinks: That’s what they would prefer to do, but the team cannot keep losing, and certainly can’t afford any really hefty beatings. At the moment, you have to say the players are playing for Nathan Jones. But if there was to be any evidence to the contrary, then you can see a decision being made sooner rather than later.
Manny (Sydney): I think even with 10 men we should beat Bristol City with the players we have – if the manager knows what he’s doing.
Martin Spinks: That’s a bit unfair, Manny. Ten men with 80 to go, against an in-form team, was a huge ask. Of course, you can always say the manager should have subbed this or that player sooner, but once again it’s defending in front of goal which has ultimately cost Stoke. Basic errors which perhaps had more to do with personnel/selection than system/tactics.
Bob Egerton (Congleton): Why on God’s earth does NJ keep using McClean? He cannot defend, he is not aware of what’s going on around him, drifts into the middle leaving lots of space, then gets beaten too easy, not stopping crosses coming in and doesn’t produce much at the other end?
Martin Spinks: Not a fan then, Bob? You do fear that the role of McClean is one which will get thrown with increasing anger at the manager for as long as results go against. McClean is never going to be the most popular player to ever pull on a Stoke shirt and his role this season has given many further ammunition to aim his way. There is a logic to what the manager is doing with him, but you fear it only works in a team on top, not one in Stoke’s current predicament.
Brian (Lower Tean): Hi Martin – I want to mention the attendance on Saturday, or should I say the lack of it. Fans are leaving in droves. Are we in terminal decline? I want to believe we will turn it around, but it’s looking very unlikely. So sad.
Martin Spinks: Terminal decline? That’s a very sad prognosis Brian, but there will be plenty sharing such fears. It has been pretty much downhill for the past what, three years? The atmosphere at the bet365 is a concern because any recovery surely has to start with a run of home wins and the players are in such a place now that they surely need a half-decent atmosphere to accomplish that. You dread to think how things could spiral even further out of control if supporters turn on their own players during games, but hopefully it never comes to that.
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Robert Turner (Biddulph): This manager is out of his depth. Would you like to bring back Tony Pulis to get some pride back to Stoke City?
Martin Spinks: I haven’t given up on this manager, Robert. But I take your point and, were there to be a vacancy, there would be a strong case for what you are suggesting.
John (Fenton): Do you really speak to the Stoke manager?
Martin Spinks: Er, yes.
Tim (Nottingham): An old boss of mine once said “if you can’t be good, be lucky”. Are there shades of Paul Lambert’s “reign” after Saturday’s game?
Martin Spinks: It’s tempting to think that, Tim. For all the faults of this team, and there’s been plenty, you do wonder what act of God/self-inflicted wound can happen next after deflected winners, open goal misses, the Shawcross injury etc – and now a 12th-minute red card. Not saying Nathan Jones hasn’t made errors, as he himself would readily admit, but he must wonder what will happen next after seeing one of his most experienced players get himself sent off just outside the opposition area.
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