Aston Villa

£3m Signing = Nail In Coffin

Ever since Stoke got promoted, they have been accused of being, boring, physical, route one and the big one, ‘all they have is the Rory Delap long-throw’.

What they have always had is a striker who not only fits into the ‘Stoke system’ but is able to beat a man with skill, pace, strength and ability and create a goal out of nothing and that man was Ricardo Fuller.

Yes, Stoke’s evolution as a top-flight side has seen Kenwyne Jones and now John Carew replace Mamady Sidibe as the big, header winning player alongside him, but that doesn’t detract from the importance Fuller has in stretching defences behind him.

There is no replacement for that and to see him leave for just £3m, despite being 31, is probably the biggest mistake Tony Pulis has made in this spell as Stoke manager. Despite Bent’s impressive goal-getting, a £15m profit between the two is a great deal for Sunderland.

I could understand the move if Demba Ba was now at the Brit rather than having failed his medical but there is no one in the current squad capable of filling Fuller’s boots and £3m is not going to get someone anywhere near capable of doing the job.

Stoke may be in 8th, but they are only 8 points above the drop zone. The two Merseyside clubs, the three Second City clubs (including West Brom), the three other W clubs (West Ham, Wolves and Wigan) and Fulham are all fully in the relegation battle. Without Fuller, they may just be fighting over two spots.

The Stoke story may be over.

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