Few neutrals will be upset if Stoke’s poor form continues and they find themselves back in the Championship after five years of Premier League football. 

The robust play and direct football will not be missed but the atmosphere the fans at the Britannia generate will be. It will be a shame for those fans if their Premiership journey was to end but at least they know who is to blame.

Tony Pulis has achieved much in his second spell at Stoke. He not only won them promotion, but also led the Potters to the 2011 FA Cup final, and through the group stage of the following season’s Europa League. 

However, simply targeting 40 points and survival has caught up with the Welshman. While aiming high and coming up short is disappointing it does at least allow some comfort room should the season not go to plan.

Targets have been set so low that all it took was an extended bad run, for teams to figure out a plan to stop Stoke’s threats, and become accustomed to the Britannia’s intense and intimidating atmosphere. 

After five seasons it appears the Premier League has become used to Stoke’s tricks of the trade, and Pulis has been unable or unwilling to adapt.

"The character now is very important," said Pulis to reporters after the defeat to Aston Villa, which stretched Stoke’s run to one win in 13.

"It is important we stay in the Premier League. We have six games to go and we need a point a game. It is important the lads stay confident."

He added: "We have Manchester United, Tottenham, Norwich at home and then tough games away from home too.

"We have played well away so it is a good test for everyone at the football club now."

More troubling for Stoke fans are the words of Chief Scout Lindsay Parsons: "We have loads of disagreements because I don't like the way they play and I will never change on that." 

While it is one thing to have differing opinions, for the chief scout to clash so vehemently with the manger’s style of play is counter-productive to Stoke’s progress. 

The scout will recommend players he thinks are good, rather than ones who fit in with how Pulis wants to play. It is no surprise, therefore, that Stoke have been so woeful in the transfer market, splashing money on the likes of Wilson Palacios, Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly, Peter Crouch, and Michael Owen, all who started on the bench on Saturday. 

Naturally, there have been some successes, like Asmir Begovic and Robert Huth, but since Stoke stepped up to the Premier League they have failed to follow a proper transfer plan. They pay big money for established players on big wages who the manager does not rate much better than what he already has.

Unlike their weekend conquerors Aston Villa, there are no exciting young players coming through at Stoke, no buy low-sell high philosophy, and it is therefore no surprise that the team is starting to really struggle. 

The squad needs freshening up, the team needs to show ambition, however, Pulis is content just to get by. No doubt a 17th place finish will be claimed as a success by the manager, despite the amount of money spent on going backwards.

Peter Coates faces a hard choice whatever the outcome of Stoke’s season. He has supported Pulis in the past and it is hard to see that stance changing. However, something at the club needs to change, whether it is the team’s playing style, the manager’s ambition, or the manager himself. Otherwise Stoke will succumb to the inevitable one day, and they may struggle to make a quick return to the Premier League.

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