May 21, 2024

Flat and fearful Stoke City leave John Coates with big decision to make

Stoke City is back in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, with four consecutive defeats, each marred by late goals conceded, sparking anger and dissent towards manager Alex Neil. The aftermath of these disappointing outcomes unfolded at the wet and weary bet365 Stadium. The match against Sheffield Wednesday was particularly dire, earning the label of the worst encounter of the season, even according to the opposing team’s perspective. Stoke desperately needed urgency, aggression, and a display of quality, especially against the Championship’s bottom club, but instead, their performance was flat and fearful, eliciting frustration from the stands.

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Adding insult to injury, the game was ultimately defined by yet another late goal that a defense at this level should not concede. Stoke could point to fine margins and the missed penalty by Ryan Mmaee, but the general sentiment was that there was little inclination for excuses. The home supporters, initially anxious and increasingly irritated, expressed their disappointment, and by full-time, the atmosphere had turned angry.

The bulk of disappointment, frustration, and fury was directed at Alex Neil, who struggled to differentiate between last season’s home form and the current one, despite significant changes in the squad over the summer. Neil, however, remains confident in his ability to lead the club successfully and is eager for the chance to do so, pending approval from John Coates.

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Despite the investment Stoke and Coates have made in the Neil project, the tense atmosphere during home matches makes the decision-making process a significant challenge.

Looking ahead, Stoke cannot underestimate the importance of the upcoming Tuesday match against Swansea, a team that has pulled three points clear of them at the bottom. Neil acknowledges the need to uplift players who were disheartened at full-time, emphasizing the importance of a quick recovery before the next game.

Reflecting on the unexpected turn of events, England youth goalkeeper Tommy Simkin, who made his Stoke debut, was called up from loan unexpectedly due to the unavailability of other goalkeepers. Simkin, just 19, showed promise and confidence despite not having any saves to make. Neil explained the circumstances that led to Simkin’s inclusion, mentioning Jack Bonham’s illness and the need to assess him over the next few days.

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