Next Stoke City Manager: Three candidates plus Alex Neil in the running to replace Nathan Jones

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 02 November 2019, 11:15

Stoke City dismissed Nathan Jones as manager on Friday.

The fiery Welshman got some competitive performances from his team, who were the more prominent side in most of their games but, aside from the back-to-back wins over Swansea and Fulham, they never quite translated into results.

In some ways, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what Stoke need from their new manager.

Compared with the off-field failings of Chief Executive Tony Scholes, an imbalanced squad short of natural width, Jack Butland’s errors and strikers unable to finish chances, the manager was arguably least at fault for results.

We look at four contenders in the next Stoke City manager market – but the manager, of course, can only change so much.

Alex Neil

Why he should get the job

He has won promotion from this level before with Norwich City, in the second half of the 2014-15 campaign.

Alex Neil has also done a fabulous job at Preston North End, a team with a bottom-eight budget, who he has inspired them to Play-Off contention each season – they are currently second.

Neil would prioritize collective pressing and transitional attacks, which we have seen his team execute very well over the previous two seasons.

Stoke arguably do not possess the calibre and style of full-backs required to execute possession football effectively; the lack of width in this squad is a huge part of why results have gone awry.

Central attacks are only possible when the team turns the ball over quickly in the opposing half, which is exactly what Neil’s North End side has specialised in over the previous two seasons.

While the Potters are losing games, they must stand up to an enigmatic player like Tom Ince, who produces flashes of quality but is inconsistent and does not always pull his weight.

Neil’s approach would be to correct the fundamental structural issues – get the team pressing at a high-intensity, ensure most passes are played forward and encourage brave runs off the ball - then look to gradually add quality from there.

Why he might not

Firstly, Neil signed a three-year contract at Preston in April, so he will require compensation, which is not the case for other candidates.

Stoke have already paid compensation for Gary Rowett and Jones, they have a huge wage bill and have spent approximately £45 million since relegation from the Premier League in 2018.

If the appointment of Neil goes badly and, worst case scenario, the club is relegated to League One, they could start to incur some serious financial difficulty.

Verdict

If the finances make sense, Neil could be a great appointment.

Michael O’Neill

Why he should get the job

Michael O’Neill is most respected for his work with Northern Ireland, whom he led to Euro 2016 Qualification.

The Portadown-born boss gets teams organized and would look to cut out Stoke’s individual errors, which have seen them ship 25 goals this season.

O’Neill has also won successive League of Ireland Premier Division titles with Shamrock Rovers, in 2010 and 2011.

Because the 50-year-old has not been working in a high-profile job, his work seems to fly under the radar and thus he is rarely mentioned when bigger opportunities come up; Stoke could take advantage of that.

Why he might not

O’Neill may have limited knowledge of the EFL due to not working in England at any stage of his coaching or managerial career.

Verdict

A decent option if talks with Alex Neil break down.

Tony Pulis

Why he should get the job

He thrives in dogfights.

Tony Pulis has never been relegated as a manager, despite always managing relatively low-budgeted outfits.

The Wily Welshman would give the players instructions that are easy to understand and process, whilst getting the best out of combative ball-winner Badou Ndiaye and energetic presser Oghenekaro Etebo.

Why he might not

Despite the poor results, Stoke have played some good football at times; Sam Clucas is a flexible operator, Joe Allen has pedigree while Ryan Woods can dictate.

Up top, the only target man is Sam Vokes; the most suited to Pulis’ long ball approach but also the weakest of the four available front-men.

If Stoke were to go long from deep too often, they would be in danger of misusing the positive aspects of their squad.

Verdict

Not the right fit.

Jose Gomes

Why he should get the job

An audacious tactician with innovative ideas, who also showed the pragmatism required to keep Reading up in the Championship last season.

Jose Gomes connected with fans in his time in Berkshire and, based on chance creation as well as performances, he was arguably unlucky to lose his job this term.

Why he might not

Gomes’ 24%-win ratio with the Royals might put off a lot of Stoke fans.

The 49-year-old’s 3-1-4-2 strategy, which we have seen in action this season, generally requires wing-backs to get very high up the pitch.

He might be able to get the best out of left-sider James McClean, who is too attack-minded to operate as part of a back-four, but most full-backs in the squad – Stephen Ward, Tommy Smith and to an extent Tom Edwards – lack the pace to operate as an attacking wing-back.

Verdict

Gomes may have to drop down to League One to get another job in England.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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