Q&A with Stoke City’s CEO Tony Scholes

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Stoke City’s CEO Tony Scholes has been at the club since 2004 and has overseen their rise from a second-tier team to a top 10 side in the Premier League and challenging for Europe.

[ MORE: Latest Stoke City news ]

ProSoccerTalk sat down with Scholes pitch-side at the Britannia Stadium on Monday ahead of Stoke City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Scholes revealed plenty about Stoke’s recent rise, their future and expanding their fan base in the United States.

Here’s the Q&A with Scholes.


This season, how pleased have you been with the on-field product? The team seems to be making strides in style of play, lots of plaudits

If I go back over the last 10 years every year we start the season with one objective: to improve. To improve on the previous year. In terms of the first team is it terms of the position in the league, the points total etc. We did a great job in the first few years staying in the league but to improve on that you have to start looking at the top 10. Arguably you have to play in a different way to play in the top 10. What Mark has done since he came in is change the style, change the belief, change the attitude.

As a result of that it has changed the way we are seen by the media, supporters and also importantly players through Europe. The likes of Bojan coming. Go back five years Bojan wouldn’t have come to Stoke City, given the way we played. He just wouldn’t have come. But he met with Mark, liked the way he talked. Bojan has a line saying ‘I knew Stoke wouldn’t be playing long ball, otherwise why would Mark be talking to me?’ By bringing in the likes of him it makes it easier for the likes of Shaqiri, Arnautovic to understand where they would fit in. Once you have one or two of these players are recognizable then it makes it easier even more of them.

What is the long-term vision of the club? Top six every season? Champions League?

We have got to finish this season strongly and hopefully we get another top 10 place. Hopefully we get beyond that and improve on what we’ve got the last two years. But then we start again. Prior to next season we will look at the squad and that is a 12 month affair anyway. We are always looking at opportunities that need to be made and improving the whole squad and the strongest first XI. You look to improve on what we’ve done this year and only if you only improve a little bit every year, you are going to get to where you want to get to.

Are you looking to bring more players from the U.S. and Major League Soccer like you have in the past?

We are in a global league. The majority of ownership groups who are in the Premier League are global and so are the managers and players and supporters. Where we are also global is our recruitment network and where we are trying to attract players from. As a club over the last four years, we have Geoff Cameron who will be playing for us tonight and Geoff has been fantastic for us. An absolute superb player for us and for the U.S. national team. We have had Maurice Edu and Brek Shea. We’ve had a few U.S. internationals here and it is a territory we will continue look in.

Have you seen a big growth in the number of fans in the USA?

Absolutely. As a club and as a team, when we beat Chelsea 1-0 here last November there were over a one million people watching in the States. You guys tell me… I suspect that wouldn’t have happened three or four years ago. There has been growth for us but for the whole of the Premier League. We have done a lot of work over the the last few years, we’ve toured in the U.S. a couple of times and we will look to go in the future as well. Within the next year or so we will certainly be going back. Possibly sooner rather than later.

Orlando City SC is a club you’re close to, correct?

We have a great relationship and I’ve been out to Austin and Orlando and we share best practice. Phil Rawlins is someone who we know well and Adrian Heath is someone we know well too. We have a great relationship with Orlando.

In your dealings with transfers, has it become more difficult for young American players to get work permits?

It has become tougher, not just for Americans, it is actually quite difficult to come and play in England. The visa requirements are tough and the rules have changed with the entry requirements and it is tougher than it used to be. Now the U.S. is one of the higher-ranked nations by FIFA so the percentage of games a player has to have played is smaller. Nevertheless unless they are a U.S. international, it is almost impossible. Unless they have a European passport.

We tried to get Juan Agudelo, a couple of times. Juan didn’t qualify automatically and we went to twice to a work permit appeal hearing at the home office and unfortunately failed both times. He has never been able to come and play in the Premier League. But hopefully he will establish himself as a U.S. international and get a chance to come over in the future and experience the Premier League.

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

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WATCH: Lionel Messi spins gorgeous free kick goal past Nice’s Schmeichel

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Lionel Messi got the better of Kasper Schmeichel with an outstanding free kick as Paris Saint-Germain outlasted Nice 2-1 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

The world’s greatest scorer was fouled to set up a free kick just inside the arc. Nice, of course, got into a wall and former Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel arranged it to his liking.

As he does so many times, however, Messi spun a free kick just over the wall. The ball, which came so close to taking a slight turn off a leaping wall member (actually, did it?), tumbled down and right into the side netting to give PSG a 1-0 lead before the match was a half-hour old.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi scores relentless Groningen goal ]

Gaetan Laborde tied the match before halftime, and Nice’s revamped roster looked set to hold tight for a point (The club’s signed familiar Premier League names Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey, and Mario Lemina).

Even that wouldn’t be enough, though, as Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to replace young Hugo Ekitike to finish a Nordi Mukiele assist for a 2-1 win.

PSG has eight wins and a draw this season, good for a two-point lead on second-place Marseille. Messi has five goals and a joint-league-best seven assists, tied with Neymar. Mbappe and Neymar are tied for the league goals lead with eight.

Lionel Messi free kick goal video

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi defies xG with relentless goal (video)

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USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi’s goal while trying to will Groningen back into an eventual 4-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar on Saturday will not be one of the expected variety.

The 19-year-old striker, on loan from Augsburg, ran onto an audacious long pass from 20-year-old defender Neraysho Kasanwirjo but had plenty of work to do with AZ leading 2-0.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez scores audacious overhead goal ]

Pepi sees one defender fall in a race to the ball, then bodies up AZ’s Sam Beukema a little outside the six-yard box.

Hand-to-hand combat sees both players hit the turf, and Pepi probably could won a penalty.

But the World Cup hopeful spins while on the pitch and snaps a shot past charging AZ goalkeeper Hobie Verhulst to make it 2-1.

Video after the jump.

Ricardo Pepi
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Ricardo Pepi goal video: Fantastic start to Groningen loan

Pepi now has a goal or an assist in his first three Eredivisie outings, not unlike his fantastic start to life in a USMNT shirt.

His goal contributions have taken a dive since his first two USMNT matches — World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Jamaica — and he only has one assist from the following 10 outings in a U.S. shirt.

Still, Pepi is clearly one of Gregg Berhalter’s favorite options for the upcoming World Cup, and his performances will be measured against Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok, FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, and others.

In a tournament where every moment matters, his work for this scrappy finish will be well-noted by the USMNT staff.

Josef Martinez scores vicious overhead kick in Atlanta United loss (video)

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If this is the last goal of Josef Martinez’s (likely) final season with Atlanta United, it will be very appropriate.

So for Martinez, even in a losing effort, to go airborne for an overhead kick that is a simply sensational feat of athleticism and power, well, it just feels right.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan forward joined the Five Stripes in 2017 in what seemed a massive capture for the club at the time and now seems downright gargantuan, but he’s fallen out with current manager Gonzalo Pineda and was even suspended for a match last month.

[ MORE: West Ham beats Wolves | Klopp reacts to latest setback ]

Martinez has nine goals and four assists in an injury-abbreviated 25-game season, giving him 111 goals in 156 appearances for ATL UTD. The former Torino and Young Boys striker is still being capped for Venezuela and would leave with an MLS Cup, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and Campeones Cup as well as a boatload of individual honors.

Atlanta lost 2-1 to New England on Saturday and returns home for their season finale next weekend versus New York City FC. The Five Stripes won’t make the playoffs unless at least two teams decide not to field teams, so if the NYCFC game doesn’t go well, let’s pretend this one was his final appearance for the club.