Mr P Coates
Stanley Matthews Way
Stoke – on – Trent
Dear Mr Peter Coates
Following my recent viewing of Stoke City’s opening fixtures of the Skybet Championship 2018/19 Season, I write with my findings of our short inspection of the club.
The Club requires improvement.
Finance: Requires Improvement
Inspectors found that whilst the club was in a healthy position financially, there is some concern over whether money spent has been used to a satisfactory end. Inspectors noted the frustration found in January of 2017/18, when finances were quoted as a major factor in the club’s lack of appointment of Espanyol Manager Quique Sanchez Flores. Whilst it is noted that the club has spent money on recruitment, it is notable that comparatively, the club has lacked behind clubs of a similar standing in the quality of signing. This area is mainly discussed in our assessment of the recruitment department, however concerned must be raised over the clubs “bargain hunting” tactics when replacing key player Marko Arnautovic.
The inspection finds that recruitment for the club has failed to improve the club significantly, and is, arguably, responsible for the clubs relegation and current form. The transition of players from Tony Pulis to Mark Hughes was notable for its change in playing style and initial success, but the failure to recruit successfully in suitable replacements for older team members, the bringing in of inadequate personalities, and the ongoing saga to replace maestro Steven N’Zonzi have continually hurt the club. It is now obvious to the inspection team that the recruitment team is not fit for purpose, and needs a thorough rethink if it is to receive a good rating.
The inspection finds that results at the club are in dire need of improvement, with a rapid stagnation of the clubs form being recognised by the fan base for 2 years, without the required action from leadership. The decision to remain with Mark Hughes for the start of the 2017/18 season, and the decision to hire Paul Lambert as his replacement contributed heavily to the clubs bad form, and its inability to turn around the form of a playing staff. The lack of team victories in the 2018 calendar year are proof of not only a lack of tactical awareness, but a lack of motivation on the pitch. It is fundamental that all mitigating factors now influencing the poor form on the field must be removed before the club can progress forward.
Leadership: Requires Improvement
The inspection finds that leadership at the club has lacked the ability to change the clubs fortunes, and have shown disregard, arrogance, and even complacency with their “Ambition” videos, “What’s all the fuss about” comments, and their promise of a club overhaul, followed by nothing of the sort. As mentioned above, the leadership teams willingness to cling on to Mark Hughes for so long, and their appointment of Paul Lambert should be condemned, and whilst the initial appointment of Gary Rowett gives the leadership team some credit, it’s inability to provide the drastic turn over needed for the club to succeed does mean that the blame for the clubs current predicament can be laid firmly at the door of the clubs leading figures.
Playing Staff: Inadequate
It is alarming to the inspection team that the playing staff at the club remain so inept at their jobs on the pitch. There is major concern that morale in the staff is at an all-time low, and that players are actively disengaged with the club. The inspection team questions whether it was the correct decision to sign key players like Joe Allen and Mortiz Bauer to new deals, and ponder whether a wholesale change is necessary before the team can change its form. It is our belief that the playing staff are one small step away from disrepair, and that without serious, drastic acknowledgement of the issues and remedies put in place, the club will soon suffer damage with effects lasting for years.
What does the club need to do to improve further?
- Improve urgently the effectiveness of the leadership, including addressing hugely the Head of Recruitment role.
- Address issues within the playing staff, including, but not exclusively, removing players who offer no positive role at the club.
- Recognise the changing nature of the football market, and not be left behind on a competitive level with clubs of an equal standing. Invest wisely in the club’s infrastructure, along with smart scouting of playing staff
- Improve communications with the fan base, and not resort to snide remarks about ambition and fuss.
- Leave Charlie Adam on an island
- Don’t make quips about pizza
It is the inspectors belief that if these areas are not improved as soon as possible, then the club will be moved from Requires Improvement to adequate.