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Mark Hughes begins the rebranding of Stoke – releases 7 players and 4 coaches

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Upon being hired to manage Stoke City, Mark Hughes promised to impose measures to oust the primitive, route-one style of football instilled by predecessor Tony Pulis.

On Wednesday, the man they call ‘Sparky’ made good on that promise by releasing seven players – winger Jermaine Pennant, midfielder Dean Whitehead, striker Mamady Sidibe, defender Matthew Upson, midfielder Rory Delap, goalkeeper Carlo Nash and midfielder Matthew Lund.

The biggest of those cuts were Pennant, Whitehead, Delap and Upson.

Cutting Pennant was a no-brainer. The 30 year old, well-known for having bags of talent and truck loads of problems, never panned out at The Britannia and spent the last three months of the season on loan with Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was the seventh loan spell of his career.

Releasing Whitehead is a good example of Hughes’ intent to rid the club of its reputation as a bruiser. The 31 year old did, however, make 30 appearances this season under Pulis although only 12 of those were league starts.

If Whitehead is a good example of Hughes’ intent to polish the Potters’ brand, Delap is the crown jewell. Without going so far as to say he had no foot skills whatsoever, Delap was best known for shimmying the ball in his shirt before unleashing monstrous throw-ins that gave opposing defenses nightmares.

Let’s be clear here – it was effective, but very much defined the old English style of football that has been discarded by nearly every top flight team.

Upson’s release is of little surprise as the aging center-back could still do the job for a number of English clubs, just not one in the top flight. The 34 year old spent the past season on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion where he made 20 appearances and scored 1 goal.

For Stoke fans looking for a change, the moves by Hughes have to be a welcomed sight. And to make sure he left no route-one stone unturned, he also cleaned out Pulis’ coaching team, which included Dave Kemp, Mark O’Connor, Adrian Pennock and Gerry Francis.

Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give Hughes credit for coming in and shaking things up at The Britannia. It certainly won’t be an easy task to change Stoke’s culture and style of play while keeping the club in the Premier League but given how close the Potters came to relegation this past spring – is there any other option?

 

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.