This was a long list. So many underwhelming signings came through the door at Clayton Wood as Stoke looked to establish themselves in the Premier League, that it was a challenge for your humble writer to narrow this list down to 20. I based this list on four factors – price tag, failure to meet expectations, attitude and general negative contribution to Stoke. Will you agree? Probably not. Will I care? Maybe.
20. Wilfried Bony (Loan + £2m)
Not since Shola Ameobi have Stoke paid so much for a loan deal with such little reward. Bony’s track record of scoring goals before his career stagnated at Man City had us purring, but alas the player we ended up getting was not the one advertised. Offering little to no movement, Bony only got to display his fabled finishing prowess in one game against former club Swansea. After going off to the African Cup of Nations, Bony never broke back into the squad.
19. Jakob Haugaard (£540k)
According to his Wikipedia page, Jakob Haugaard is 6″6. Yet in only a handful of displays for Stoke, he managed to look 3″3. Still at the club, maybe there could be redemption for Haugaard – but at 26 his spell as a first team goalkeeper seems over before it really begun.
18. Shay Given (Free)
Similarly to Haugaard, Given was unable to adequately fill in for an injured Jack Butland and his advancing years helped contribute to more than a few Stoke drubbings as the wheels started to come off for Hughes’ side. His desperate attempts to reach a succession of Luton penalties at Kenilworth Road indicated his time was up.
17. Steve Sidwell (Free)
My main memory of Steve Sidwell in a Stoke shirt will be his idiotic foul to concede a free-kick in the final minute at Loftus Road, which they dispatched. Never forgive, never forget.
16. Michael Owen (Free)
Ah, Michael. I remember the excitement when he signed. THE Michael Owen, playing for Stoke. Surely Crouchy knocking it down to one of England’s greatest ever finishers would provide a glorious end to a great career? Alas no. Pulis was reluctant to start Owen, whose legs had clearly gone. One goal in a 3-1 defeat to Swansea was as much as we saw of his class in front of goal. Clearly, both he and the club regretted the move – but it helped his transition into retirement, so that was nice for him.
15. Maurice Edu (£1.5m)
Over a million quid, and played ten minutes.
14. Amdy Faye (Undisclosed)
There’s plenty of squad filler from our first season up who could have made this list, but Amdy Faye’s near-murder of Fabio Rochemback means he beats the likes of Soares, Tonge and Olofinjana. He’ll forever be remembered as the guy who forced our lord Abdoulaye to have “A.D. Faye” on his shirt. Pretty sure he was only signed due to an admin error when we wanted the good Faye.
13. Andrew Davies (£1.3m)
Another one from the first season up, Andrew Davies was touted as a bright young prospect when (remember this) there were doubts over whether Ryan Shawcross would transition into the top flight. Two sub appearances in the Prem, and his only start being a 2-0 defeat to Hartlepool in the FA Cup. After several loan spells, we eventually sold him to Bradford in 2012, a whole four years after we realised he wasn’t good enough.
12. Michael Kightly (Undisclosed)
There were high hopes for Kightly, especially after his opening day goal at Reading – but soon we discovered that he had all the wing-play of a dead duck. While he did join the small group of Stoke players to have scored at Old Trafford (an admittedly excellent goal), watching Michael Kightly play on the left wing where before had been Matty Etherington was like drinking orange juice right after brushing your teeth.
11. Ibrahima Sonko (£2m)
Agent Sonko. A man we deliberately sent to Hull on loan to ensure they got relegated. It wasn’t so much that Sonko was bad, it was that he was shit. This was the era where Coates and co indulged Pulis’ fetish for Senegalese lads, when in fact only one of them was any good. His contribution to our 3-0 defeat at Blackburn pretty much sealed his fate. Said Pulis of that game: “In the first 20 minutes they came into our box three times and scored three goals.” Yep, sounds about right.
10. Brek Shea (£2.5m)
‘MURICA! Fuck yeah! Brek Shea, the stereotypical high school jock, or douchebag, who you see in all the sitcoms and just hate immediately. For all the shit Pogba gets now about caring more about image than his play, this guy takes the biscuit – or cookie as he’d probably (wrongly) call it. The blonde non-bombshell didn’t seize his opportunity in the EPL and he now works in a studio designing god awful tat, when he’s not working voluntarily with the minutemen.
9. Eidur Gudjohnsen (Free)
Similar to Owen, except he was fatter and gave less of a shit.
8. Wilson Palacios (£6m)
Now, of all the excuses you’ve heard managers make in post-match interviews, Pulis’ admission that one particular game was ‘too windy’ for our Wilson was something else. Wilson did occassionally have the odd game where he played well, and threatened to have a second life under Mark Hughes – starring alongside the Zonz in our 4-1 rout at Villa Park – but alas it wasn’t to be. He features so highly because the player Spurs signed would have been the answer to all our prayers.
7. Badou Ndiaye (£14m)
Like Palacios, I don’t think Badou is a bad footballer. However his signing summed up our desperate ‘pissing in the wind’ approach to fighting relegation. A whopping £14m for Badou, who took too long to find his feet when we didn’t really have time to waste, makes him one of our worst Premier League additions. Clearly, the thought of a season in the Championship was too much for Ndiaye, and he’s returned to Galatasary with his tail between his legs. Oh no. Stop. Come back….
6. Saido Berahino (£12m)
I know, right? He’s still our player so this is maybe a little harsh? But if we’d have done this list before his recent revival you’d be slaughtering me for not putting him higher. The fact that there may be light at the end of the tunnel for Saido prevents him from entering the top 5, but if we’re looking at the Premier League years – £12m, no goals, a missed penalty, various tabloid stories, turning up late for training. He was another symbol of our decline and fall. This season is huge for his career, but he isn’t out of the woods yet.
5. Danny Collins (£2.75m)
There’s something quite quaint about Danny Collins, looking back. Like he was just ‘some bloke’ who happened to be in our football team. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and everything, but genuinely one of the most hopeless defenders I’ve ever seen. For Brazil he should play, Danny Collins…
4. Dave Kitson (£5m)
Dave Kitson is the secret footballer, which tells you that he’s as shit at writing as he is at football. The strawberry-blonde (sorry for being racist there, Dave) forward was our major transfer after promotion, a real statement of intent. Yet Dave went through the 08/09 season without a goal, and despite grabbing a handful the following season, he was never anyone’s favourite – particularly Pulis’. Shouting “oh, fuck off” when he was subbed during our mauling at Stamford Bridge was pretty much the end. A useless gossip-pedalling menace.
3. Giannelli Imbula (£18.3m)
*Deep sigh*. Giannelli Imbula will always have his admirers, because despite the overwhelming view of him as a hopeless waster, there is a player there – and there were times he showed it. His debut, Boro away, Bournemouth away, Chelsea away – all good displays that showed Imbula could and should have made much more of an impact at Stoke.
Yet for a host of reasons – poor attitude, failure to integrate with the team, the manager’s tactics – Gi goes down as one of our most expensive mistakes. Love him or hate him, his transfer coincided with the beginning of Hughes steering the SS Stoke into the iceberg. He could have been a contender, he could have been somebody…
2. Jese (Loan)
Bat-twat. I don’t think even the man at number one on this list stirs up the hatred this man does. Our ill-advised ‘Ambition’ video was always going to come back and bite us, as Jese went from promising loan acquisition to look-at-me shirking dickhead. Yes, he was only a loan, and yes he did score the winner against Arsenal, but his disappearing act represented everything wrong with the cabal of dickheads Hughes assembled in his final season. The prick seemed intent on living the footballer’s life without doing any actual football, and he capped off his Stoke ‘career’ with his pathetic hystrionics before Charlie Adam’s crucial penalty miss against Brighton. I fucking hate Jese. I hate his stupid face. I hate his stupid hat and I hate his god-awful Raggaeton bollocks. I hope he steps on a plug.
1. Kevin Wimmer (£18m)
My personal hatred for Jese nearly won him number one, but the maths behind this choice works out.
Ludicrous transfer fee + turning circle of the Great Wall of China + clear lack of shits given as forward after forward took him to the cleaners + his cowardly display at Tottenham where he was just happy to meet his old mates again + we didn’t even need a player in his position when we signed him + having to be put on a ‘Special Fitness Regime’ as a PROFESSIONAL FUCKING FOOTBALLER HALFWAY THROUGH A PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON + bellend = our worst Premier League transfer. The second biggest transfer in our history, and god he was fucking shit.
Manager Mark Hughes said that “Bringing Kevin here is a real coup in my view, because he is a hugely talented young player who will undoubtedly add further quality to the group…There is a lot of money being spent this summer, so for us to get a player of Kevin’s calibre through the door for the price we have paid, in my opinion, is something we will really appreciate for years to come”. Let that sink in.
Dishonourable mentions: There were many. Juan Agudelo nearly went in at number one for never actually playing for us, but that felt harsh so I left him off the list on a technicality. Diego Arismendi was left off the list because I loved his valiant display at the Mestalla. Woodgate was the worst right back I’ve ever seen at Stoke but he’s forgiven on account of not being a right back, and being like 1000 years old. Other shouts were Choupo, Fletcher, Guidetti, Ness, Wollscheid, Soares, Tonge, Upson and Ramadan.