After such a memorable start to the celebration of Stoke’s 150-year anniversary as Steven Nzonzi nodded the Potters in front, the joy eventually fizzled out into one of mundane disappointment.
Charlie Adam’s sending off either side of two concessions gave Tottenham a deserved 2-1 victory to close out another Premier League season at the Britannia.
The good news is that tally of seven points from their previous three matches had already ensured that the Potters have another campaign in the top flight to look forward to, though boss Tony Pulis will undoubtedly still be disappointed at the defeat having taken an early lead.
The red card received by the frankly brainless Adam for two cheap challenges on Jan Vertonghen will also stick in the throat, with Stoke having looked capable of scoring again before the Scotland international’s departure.
However, amidst all the drama, the uncharacteristically poor performance shown by Asmir Begovic between the sticks for the Potters rather slipped under the radar. The Bosnian did make some sharp stops from Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson but looked rather shaky all afternoon, looking uncomfortable from crosses and in his kicking and, most importantly, made the poor decision to rush out of his goal and gift the equaliser to Clint Dempsey at a time when Stoke looked in command.
No one would dare criticise the goalkeeper for one poor display, particularly after a season in which he has so often been Stoke’s best player on the park. However, with young England international Jack Butland waiting in the wings, speculation continues to arise that the summer transfer window will see Begovic move on to pastures new.
The immediate question is: where would he go? Manchester United have long been mooted as admirers yet they currently have, according to the PFA Awards, the best goalkeeper in the division in David De Gea. Manchester City have Joe Hart. Chelsea have both Petr Cech and the extremely highly-rated Thibault Courtois in reserve.
Arsenal would therefore appear the most appropriate club, with doubts over the capabilities of Polish pair Wojciech Szcz?sny and Lukasz Fabianski but there are doubts whether the Gunners would be prepared to pay the fee of close to £15 million that has been quoted as Begovic’s value.
The 25-year-old could of course force the hand of the Stoke hierarchy and push for the move himself and indeed it does seem remarkable that Butland, having turned down Chelsea in January in his pursuit of first-team football, would agree to move to the Britannia only to sit on the bench in the Potteries.
Pulis has spoken in recent days of his belief that Begovic will remain at the club next season but, with doubts over the manager’s future at this moment in time, it would perhaps be wise not to take the Welshman’s words as absolute.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG