Mark Hughes is setting up the Potters to be the underdog darlings of the Premier League next season.
With Southampton losing its coach and — likely — star players, which non-giant club could become the story of 2014/15? Certainly Crystal Palace would like to think it can do the trick, and Harry Redknapp probably thinks he’s going to Champions League, but take a peek at what Hughes is doing at Stoke City.
Stoke has smartly picked up Steve Sidwell, 31, who was Fulham’s top scorer last season in its relegation campaign. Add him to ex-Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley, and Hughes has a quietly-strong start to the transfer season (especially given the club’s size).
It’s a two-year deal for Sidwell, who was a target for Alan Pardew at Newcastle United among a number of suitors once he secured his release from Fulham.
“Steve was much in demand and we are delighted to have won the race to secure his signature,” said Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes.
The Potters jumped into ninth place in the Premier League on the final day of last season, but that was 19 points back of the last European qualifier (not counting Hull City, which made it on FA Cup finalist’s form).
And with a steady lineup of Asmir Begovic in net and a good back line of Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and others, Stoke is one to watch moving forward if they can add more attacking flair like Sidwell, and 2014 Stoke young player of the year Marko Arnautovic.