The only regret I have with Stoke is not winning the 2011 Cup Final. It would’ve been awesome for the people and we got so close. But we did well getting to that final, and we had a run in the Europa League, through qualifying to the quarter-finals, for us that was amazing.
You see Burnley struggling with that this season. We didn’t. We played twelve more games that season than other teams.
But it got to the point where Stoke needed a change. Tony had been there for eight years, and everyone was ready to move on, Mark Hughes came in and tried to change things quickly. I don’t think he liked anything at Stoke that Pulis had done. He got his own players in and a lot of the old school Stoke players left.
I couldn’t have predicted that they’d go down, but we set very high standards under Tony Pulis, of playing, training, even timekeeping and rules. When the new regime came in, everything started to get a bit more relaxed. The work-rate probably wasn’t as great as it could’ve been.
We went from very disciplined to letting small things slip.
When you’re a footballer, you’re not starting work at five in the morning, so it’s not that hard to be there on time and do things right. It obviously got worse from there after I left, but that’s the be and end all – respect the team, respect your manager.
When I’m in a team I like to see everyone doing the right thing. When it changed, you could get away with things a bit more. Two or three years of that sort of stuff adds up.
Stoke criticism off target
There have always been a few people who were really critical of the way we played but generally people that knew about the game, they would’ve known we were playing good football. Yes, we were physical and strong, but we were a good footballing team at the time too.
People often just have an opinion without watching the games. Sometimes I think that was the case with us, but still to this day I get good feedback about my time at Stoke.
If you talked to Arsene Wenger at the time he would’ve probably thought that Stoke was the exact opposite football to what he’d play. He’d have hated the way we played, hated the long throw-ins, the direct play, but we just fed off that.
Most times Arsenal came to the Britannia we tended to beat them. We only lost once in six years at home in my time against Arsenal. That’s a pretty good record.
Relegated teams are big Championship scalp
When a team get relegated there’s an expectation that they’ll come straight back up, but I played for underdog teams, and when you’ve got the big team coming to your ground, you play 5% better.
When you’re relegated, you’re the big scalp of the league, home or away every team is going to try a bit harder against you. You can fail to adapt to the intensity of the league when that happens. It’s not always that the best team wins. Sometimes it’s the team that can fight a bit better.
That’s been the case this season quite a bit. Clearly, Stoke have the better players, but the others play a bit more aggressive and just get over the line.