Are Stoke City really defying the odds by just avoiding relegation season after season?
By Matt Scrafton.
We're often told Tony Pulis is doing a wonderful job at Stoke City and the fact he's managed to keep them in the Premier League for so many years should be admired.
Such lectures can usually be found at Match of the Day HQ - you know, the usual suspects. But just how true is this overused, tired cliché?
Well, you might be surprised to hear this, but since 2003, the Potters have the third biggest net spend of all current Premier League clubs, with only the oil-rich Manchester City and Chelsea above them.
Stoke have spent a whopping £83.825m in the past nine years, with just £8.65m going out the other way. What does all this mean? Well, the Britannia Stadium outfit spend on average £15.035m-a-season. And what do they have to show for it?
Not once have they finished above 11th place - and most recently they ended up in 14th. Sure, they reached the Europa League in 2011 courtesy of a 1-0 FA Cup final defeat to Champions League bound Man City (a competition they subsequently failed to take seriously, I may add). But why should we shower them with praise, when all they've managed to deliver is four seasons of mid-table mediocrity for a loss of £75.175m?
All this while playing the most archaic and ugly brand of football ever witnessed in the top flight. Okay that might be a bit over-the-top, but you're all more than familiar with their cynical, dirty style of anti-football.
Such physical, direct 'playing-the-percentages' football offers no real promise or potential for the club - they've reached their glass ceiling. No longer can sides play this traditional British approach and genuinely succeed at the top level. Attributes such as grit, effort and determination are all well and good, but they'll only get you so far in this highly competitive league.
Below is a general outline of what the club have spent and sold since their arrival in the Premier League as well as their finishing positions:
League position: 12th
League position: 11th
League position: 13th
League position: 14th
There's been some high profile signings within that time frame too. Peter Crouch came in for £10m; £8m was spent on Wilson Palacios, £5.5m on Dave Kitson, £5m-a-piece for Tuncay and Robert Hurth and so on...
So why should the Potters be afforded so much praise for achieving the bare minimum: Premier League survival? Given the heaps of cash that has been spent and afforded to Pulis by owner Peter Coates, you'd expect a lot more from the Staffordshire side.
And when compared to Newcastle, who have a net spend of -£36.3m since 2003, or Everton with -£15.315m, -£1.8m at Swansea, just £2.62m at Fulham etc., then it really begins to hit home just how average Stoke have performed.
Sources: BBC Sport, transferleaguetable.co.uk, wikipedia.org