Reports in Stoke this evening suggest that the Potters have approached North End about talking to our gaffer, Alex Neil, over the vacancy they currently have. Stoke City earlier today parted ways with former Luton Town boss, Nathan Jones.
Early odds from the bookies in some places had Neil as short as 1/2 but other places had him as long as 8/1. It seemed like no one really knew their arse from their elbow but throughout the day, the speculation has persisted and it’s now being reported in the Stoke Sentinel (equivalent to the LEP), that Stoke have made contact with North End.
To North End fans and presumably other fans of clubs in the Championship, this just seems like a no brainer of a decision. In fact, the folk over at the Wizards of Drivel podcast, I thought, eloquently summed it up earlier today in a single tweet.
Going from second in the table to our dumpster fire? Me neither
— Wizards of Drivel Podcast (@wizardsofdrivel) November 1, 2019
However, if the reports in the media are to be believed then you would imagine that there is something to it. First of all, Stoke would have to pay up. It seems as though there is a release fee, or similar, in his contract which could take things out of North End’s hands.
Secondly, as was widely reported when West Brom were sniffing around, Alex Neil’s family are supposedly very settled in the area and apparently one of the reasons the West Brom move never happened was because he didn’t want to uproot his family. Whether or not that is, in fact, true, only Alex himself will know.
From my point of view as to how things stand, there’s nothing appealing about the Stoke job as of right now. They’re performing above their station from a stats point of view but as I said to Oli the other day and as has seemingly transpired in Jones’ sacking, that doesn’t mean jack to club owners. It’s picking up points and performing in the league that they care about and I have no doubt if Alex Neil were to go there, he would keep them up. I just don’t see why he would want to go there.
Since their relegation from the Premier League, Stoke have had now Millwall boss Gary Rowett at the helm and then replaced him with the now unemployed Nathan Jones. They have still got a fair few players on their books from the Premier League days and 2 managers have gone in and struggled to get a tune from them. This tells me, and I admit, it’s a very top-level way of looking at things, but there’s something inherently wrong at the club.
Alex Neil, on the other hand, has done remarkably well here at North End in his 2 and a bit seasons in charge, despite a few problems last season. The issues he encountered last season were mainly injuries, a rather unheard of amount of injuries to be honest, but we still managed to come back as the season progressed and despite being in the relegation zone early on in the season, were level on points with Aston Villa who occupied 6th place after beating Birmingham 1-0 in March.
Alex has built himself a good reputation of working well on a bit of a shoestring budget but also getting some quality time with players on the training pitch and improving them individually and as a team.
He came in after Simon Grayson’s exit and completely changed our style around. We went from looking to come away from a game with at least a draw and setting out from the start to hold on to at least that one point to getting right in the faces of teams and taking the game to them. Attacking from the get-go and Neil’s substitutions have, for the most part, always been attacking. He’s been quoted in the press as saying he will look to try and impact a game positively rather than try to hold on to something, or words to that effect.
Ultimately though, I just don’t see how he could come to the conclusion that moving to Stoke, especially at this moment in time, would be in any way beneficial for him other than financially.
However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the piece, if Stoke pay up then it’s over to Alex.