Exciting times ahead for Potters

Tuesday 23rd July 2013 18:08

Mark Hughes (l): Has taken over from Tony Pulis (r)

Mark Hughes (l): Has taken over from Tony Pulis (r)

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FanZoner Tim Ward knows that Tony Pulis is a hard act to follow at Stoke but has been impressed by the start Mark Hughes has made at the Brit.

Back in March I wrote about how I thought that come the end of the season I wouldn't be surprised if Tony Pulis parted ways with Stoke City. Turns out that I was absolutely spot-on, with the Welshman leaving the Britannia Stadium after seven very successful years "by mutual consent".

Pulis' job at the Potters in his second spell shouldn't be understated. He took the club from the basement of the Championship to an FA Cup final and European football and made them an established Premier League Team. All that was unthinkable seven years ago, with the club looking at possible relegation to League One.

But last season there was a feeling that things were set to change. The club had a fantastic first half of the season, sitting in eighth with one of the best defences in Europe. But after Christmas it all went horribly wrong with the club dropping down the table. Quiet rumblings of discontent from the fans grew louder.

It seems that at the end of the season, Pulis, chairman Peter Coates and the board sat down and it was decided that it was better for everyone if they went their separate ways. Pulis will go down as one of, if not the best Stoke manager of all time, and for that he will always be thanked in the Potteries.

In March I also said that the job would be a good prospect for any manager. The candidate list featured some high and some less-so-high profile names and although I personally didn't have Mark Hughes as my first choice, his appointment looks a potentially shrewd piece of business by Peter Coates. Hughes' style isn't very different from Pulis' but enough of a change for it to be noticed and Hughes must also be keen to restore his reputation following his departure from QPR.

Although still early days, the signs have been encouraging so far. Jermaine Pennant might not be a leading winger in the Premier League, but his re-signing a contract after being released by Pulis does see us have at least one recognised right-winger on the books.

Two other signings, both from Europe, have also excited the fans. Dutch international full-back Erik Pieters arrived from PSV Eindhoven followed shortly afterwards by 21-year-old Marc Muniesa from Barcelona - a defender who was a member of the Spain Under-21 squad which won this summer's European Championship.

The 2013-2014 season is getting ever closer with several clubs entering new eras like Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea, and Stoke City are no different - it will certainly be interesting.

By Tim Ward, FanZone's Stoke blogger. Follow him on Twitter here and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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