Throughout Stoke City’s seamless qualification for the group stages of the Europa League and three-game unbeaten start to the Premier League season, Tony Pulis remained determined in his efforts to strengthen the Potters squad in order to promote a prolonged run of their impressive form.
For the most part Pulis was left frustrated in these efforts, until transfer deadline day, when with the loyal support of his Chairman, Peter Coates, the Stoke manager was able to add to the already strong sense of optimism at the Britannia Stadium by bolstering his midfield and attacking options through a trio of intriguing signings.
In a flurry of activity in the hours leading up to the close of the transfer window, Coates authorised deals for Cameron Jerome, Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios, each of whom are capable of sharpening the competitive edge to Stoke’s squad, just as fellow summer recruits, Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson, have done in their short time at the club.
Signed from Spurs for £6m, Palacios will bring enterprise to the Stoke midfield through a combination of his ability to enforce and play box-to-box throughout a game, which he showcased to initially establish himself as an effective performer at Premier League level during the 2008-09 season with Wigan Athletic. By playing with the dominating presence and energy he has done not just at Premier League but also Champions League and international level, Palacios can undoubtedly endear himself to the Stoke faithful, which his new manager would appear to have also done with his other two new additions.
Pulis has long since recognised the need to broaden his squad’s striking department, since for the past 12 months it has essentially consisted of only Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters, with a dangerously strong reliance being placed on their partnership to provide goals for the team. Without wishing to belittle the two goal scoring substitute appearances Ryan Shotton has made this term as a make-shift striker, acquiring personnel to help ease the burden on Jones and Walters and deliver goals was imperative for improving the Potters’ prospects, which Pulis will feel he has done successfully through the signings of Crouch and Jerome.
Indeed Pulis is justified in doing so due to the potential compatibility of the pair as a strike partnership, with Jerome’s pace and tendency to play on the shoulder of defenders complementing the aerial presence and strong link-up play of Crouch. Ultimately this bodes well for Stoke’s chances of possessing a potent goal threat throughout the entire season.
However of Stoke’s new signings it is undoubtedly how big-money signing Crouch will adapt to life at the Britannia which caught the imagination of onlookers. Succeeding Jones as Stoke’s record signing at £10m, which could rise to £12m dependent upon fulfilment of various contract clauses, Crouch becomes a Potters player with a strong pedigree of scoring goals at the highest level but also with a point to prove following a rather indifferent spell at Spurs. That is, although he scored seven goals in 10 Champions League appearances for Spurs last season and maintained a strike rate of better than a goal every other game for England during his two years at the north London club, in this same time 72 Premier League appearances yielded just 12 goals.
Nevertheless, buoyed by the lengths to which Pulis went to sign him and the feel-good factor reverberating around the Britannia, Crouch will be keen to repay the faith his new employers have shown in him with goals.
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