Stoke City’s vice chairman John Coates is taking centre stage for the first time tonight.
He has joined chief executive Tony Scholes on stage in a special Q & A here at the bet365 Stadium this evening.
They are meeting fans face-to-face to tackle all kinds of Stoke City topics in what could be a lively Delilah’s Bar.
John, son of chairman Peter and a lifelong fan, has long been a key player behind the scenes, but this is the first time he has stepped into the limelight.
We are bringing you all the key points from what should be an interesting Stoke City Q & A chaired by matchday host Steve Buxton – and you can see all the latest updates and responses on the feed below.
Questions from fans so far have included ones about relegation, the pre-season tour and the 2008 season.
What’s happening at Stoke City?
And that’s all folks after nearly 90 minutes
One more question: Are Imbula, Ndiaye etc being monitored?
JC: Yes, we have a game-by-game report on them. I personally get a report on all the loan players.
The good ones as well!
Winding up remarks
JC: We’ve had a bad two years on the football field and I am deeply sorry about that and we will do everything to put that right.
That doesn’t mean everything we have done is bad.
Some of the stuff we do in the community is excellent and is acknowledged throughout football.
There’s a lot of good, diligent people here doing everything in their power to make us successful again.
But I fully understand that as a football club we have to get the first team right.
Still on signings…
JC: Bournemouth is a club that’s done well, but if I go down some of their bigger transfers I can make an assessment of a certain percentage not being successful, which might be higher than you expect, but that doesn’t mean Bournemouth aren’t doing well because they are doing well.
Is the much vaunted (recruitment) process flawed and if so who’s to blame? You could have googled Jese
JC: If you look at any football club, and I’m not saying we’ve got everything right, if I go through Bournemouth, Brighton, I can go through some of their bigger signings and say I’m not sure about that.
You take someone like Jese who’s got undoubted ability, then you’re listening to your manager there.
They will have an assessment as to whether they think they can deal with a player or not and they don’t always get that right.
Will there be an end-of-season do?
TS: We decided to change the format. It doesn’t mean we are not going to have a dinner of sorts and will announce it some time soon as to exactly what that is, but it won’t be an end-of-season awards dinner.
Kevin Wimmer recently said `I’m not worth £10m’
TS: i said we would watch a player 25 times, typically, and we did that with Wimmer.
As for his comments, he’s out on loan and we don’t know if they want him, but they won’t want to pay more than they have to.
If he says he’s only worth a couple of bags of chips it will depress the value!
Audience: Wimmer would have eaten those two bags.
Was Mark Cartwright’s friendship with Nathan Jones instrumental in him coming?
Where do we stand on Saido Berahino and his pretty appalling antics?
TS: Obviously, there’s legal procedures and we have a disciplinary procedure in place that applies to every player, including Saido.
The way in which he behaved, we would all say was unacceptable and showed us in a poor light because of his association with us.
Are there procedures in place to prevent the lax discipline we saw under Mark Hughes?
Big applause for that question.
TS: I think you’re being a bit unfair.
The assumption is it was a holiday camp, but it wasn’t.
Was there a reduction in hunger? Perhaps. But it wasn’t a holiday camp.
Let’s pick on the area of discipline.
Different managers have different approaches and we are very manager focused.
Mark had a particular approach to discipline and it served him and us for a long time, but then it went wrong, but yes we have a procedure now on discipline.
Where do you stand on Safe Standing?
TS: We have been non commital and it’s not something we have talked about for several months.
For me, you have to pick your battles and focus your workload and frankly it’s not a big priority for us at the moment.
How can you get fans’ bums back on seats next season?
TS: The best is to play entertaining and winning football, but all we can guarantee is that the commitment and investment is there.
John has talked about our faith in Nathan and our recruitment will be key.
We’ve had a couple of bad years, but if we carry on working hard it will come right sooner if we all stick together.
Academy players… why so many from Man City?
JC: We will take good players from anywhere.
We have invested a lot in the Academy and it feels better now one or two are coming through and the performance of age groups against the likes of Man City is getting better and better.
We are starting to see a few coming through which is fantastic.
There’s a certain brilliance in players who’ve been through our system then graduate into the first team because of what it does for others in the Academy and that will only improve us.
What do you think about the Glen Johnson interview (criticising Mark Hughes and lack of discipline)?
TS: You’ll get an honest answer.
He’s going to give one impression which might be to paint himself and other players into a good light.
He wasn’t in the team towards the end of Mark’s period, but that said he made some substantive comments about the balance (of the squad), but he exaggerated them.
How quickly did you decide over Xmas period to get rid of Rowett and appoint Jones?
JC: Nathan had been on my radar for a couple of years.
Bizarrely, a friend of mine met him in a pub when he was about a year into managing Luton.
My friend watches about three-games-a-week all over the country and he came into the office one day after watching Luton play and had seen Nathan after the game.
He said `you’d love him. He’s just immersed in football.’
So he was on our radar and I relayed this conversation to Dad, to Tony.
So we were watching his career and seeing the Luton side he’d produced, doing well and playing an interesting brand of football with a diamond and sometimes switching it a bit.
They were scoring goals, but also had defensive qualities after bringing in players like Sonny Bradley and bringing them on.
So when we came to make the change, I remember the conversation.
We were stood having a chat – me, Dad, Tony and Richard Smith.
We said a few names and I said `what about Nathan Jones.’
We agreed to see him, we saw him and you sometimes just feel this is right.
He had great passion for the game, but also a very, very clear mind about what he wanted and how he wanted to play and how to improve us.
He’d done a colossal amount of homework in a short period of time on our club.
You feel this is a bright, young manager to take us forward.
He’s a young manager and we have got to give them the support and the time because he will encounter difficulties, but we absolutely believe he was the right choice and still absolutely believe he’s the right choice.
How will Brexit affect buying and selling in Europe?
JC: It depends on the legal situation going forward.
If Brexit in a No Deal scenario you’d fall back on the international rules for non EU players.
TS: Players from around the world coming into the UK have to abide with Home Office rules in conjunction with FA and leagues.
EU players have been an exception to that, but that exception will go and they will have to follow the same rules as worldwide (non EU) players.
The net effect, if we go to the default, there will be a significant reduction in the number of EU players.
What about fracturing relationship in the dressing room when trying to move players on?
JC: That’s a quality any manager has to have… those players not in the side are often unhappy and the manager has to be able to manage that situation and keep as many of that squad engaged so they feel part of the squad and team so when called upon they feel ready to play their part and don’t negatively detract from the group that is played.
What is the process in moving players on?
TS: It’s the hardest part of the job, moving players on when they are surplus.
You can’t force anybody to take one of your players and it becomes bluff and counter bluff because you don’t want teams to know you’re keen on selling a player because it depresses the market significantly.
You get people to do that job for you, let other clubs know Player X might be available, so when a club comes on to you you’ve got more of a fighting negotiating position than if you’d rung them in the first place.
The market knows we are keen to move players on and that depresses the market value, we know that.
Have you looked at how we sign players, assessing character, and changed anything?
JC: You’ve got to believe me when I say you think of little else but how can we get better?
How scouting system works, how they assess, what the manager wants.
Nathan will have a very clear idea for example on what he wants from a right back.
One of those qualities will be his character and that will only help us get better at it.
The more detail he can go into the better for our scouting in looking for the right player.
It’s more exciting now (in the Championship)?
JC: I don’t quite agree.
In the Premier League it was unbelievable those first few years.
Because of the structure of the PL and it’s so dominated by six clubs, you do start the season thinking let’s try and finish 10th and that doesn’t sound the most exciting thing.
You therefore try for good cup runs too because we all want that sense of going for glory and a massive achievement.
Some of my friends did say we’ve gone down, but at least we’ll win some games, but unfortunately this season hasn’t quite panned out that way!
But if, next season, we can gave a really good go at getting promoted, it brings a different form of excitement.
Football League question… Have Stoke pressed for significant changes and what are they?
TS: Yes, it’s true.
We were surprised when we came into the division at the level of disquiet from a number of clubs about how the FL board was handling their affairs.
That escalated when the League board signed the new broadcasting deal with SKY against the will and express request of the vast majority of clubs in this division.
We looked at the judgements behind the decisions made and we weren’t happy with how events had come to pass, so we’ve been as vocal as we believe we should be in expressing our opinions and views.
We are not a club that goes running to the media or puts leaks out there, as a number of others do, but we do play our part and we do argue for what we think is right for football, the league and most particularly for this football club.
Should we work with sports psychologists?
TS: We employ one, but we allow the manager how much he and his team tap into that and also tap into external resources.
I probably get a letter a week from people offering their services as sports psychologists.
Is the club hampered by mental obstacles – high expectations, fear of failure – and what can the club do about that?
JC: You make a fair point, that weight of expectation is difficult for players to deal with.
When bringing players into the club we have to bring players in who can handle and embrace that expectation.
That’s the only way you can be successful.
But you’re right, there’s a pressure of expectation, but we all try and help with that in encouraging the team to do well and hopefully we can get over that.
TS: At the start of the season we were seen as one of the biggest clubs, one of the favourites for promotion, and a budget to go with that.
That puts expectation and pressure on everybody.
You have to create an environment where that pressure isn’t undue.
Some players can play at big clubs, some can’t.
And the teams we were going to at the start of the season were raising their game.
I got fed up with clubs telling us after games it was the best they’d played for three years!
Jack Butland… if you sell him, don’t let him go for peanuts
TS: Over the last several years we have never sold our better players with free will.
We have been selling against our will because of contract situation and that has an effect on valuation.
JC: There’s one point I would make. Because of the fortunate financial position we’ve found ourselves as a family and our absolute desire to be successful, we have turned down offers for players that business wise you’d have taken.
We’ve done that because we want the club to be successful, but by doing that it sometimes seems you’re not doing good business.
The fault of being a fan AND an owner, you don’t want your best players to go.
TS: We’ve had a bid in for a player, when I then have to go to the owners, and almost before I’ve said how much, John has said “We are not selling him.”
JC: There’s times when we should have sold and I have been responsible for that, but it’s been done with the best of intentions.
We have to make sure we run the club as fans in a very fortunate position, but also do what’s best for the club.
What did you learn from relegation specifically?
TS: It’s a difficult question to answer publicly, but I’ll talk as much as I can.
If we look at what went wrong, if we go back to the summer before the (relegation) season, we’d had a difficult nine results at the end of the previous season, but we had finished 13th.
We went into that summer two points off eighth place and we asked how do we improve?
We tried to have an ambitious and measured approach to strengthening.
The players we recruited that summer were not collectively able to deal with the demands of a relegation fight and didn’t have the characters to cope.
What we don’t know is had we had a different start and been in the top-10 , how would have those characters have performed.
We allowed the balance of the squad to move too far in one direction.
They had the ability, but not the character as it turned out to perform in a different kind of contest.
So we learned that balance is so important in the squad.
Where is pre-season tour?
We want to let everybody know as soon as we possibly can.Don’t take this as definite, but we will take a week in Europe as a training camp and the rest of the time here.”
Who was responsible for relegation?
It’s easy to want to blame one person or one thing and hindsight is a wonderful vantage point.
I’m sure there’s things Tony wishes he’d done differently and things I wish I’d have done differently.
Most of the people making the decisions, to be fair to them, had been there during the 10 previous successful years.
We asked what have we learnt and what can we do to make us successful again? That’s what I’m focussed on.
We’ve had 10 very successful years followed by two, frankly, poor years and we have to arrest that decline to make us successful again.
We have got what we believe is a very good young manager in Nathan Jones.
He’s passionate, articulate, he’s a great prospect. We think if we can give him the right support he will be successful.
TS: The only thing I would add about who was responsible, we all agreed that whilst Mark (Hughes) and his team had gone and taken a lot of blame publicly, we and the players left agreed we are all to blame to a greater or lesser degree.
First question from the floor: What came of the review into what went wrong?
We looked at everything.
Some things were circumstantial, some on decisions, some made by me.
We were criticised quite extensively for the appointment of Paul Lambert last January and the time it took.
At the time I thought the criticism was unfair because we were working 24-hours-a-day on it.
We looked at that and next time round we asked what could we do better and quicker?
And the next time quicker than any of us would have chosen with the timing of Gary (Rowett) going and Nathan (Jones) coming in.
If you compared to the previous year you’ll see a lot of differences.”
How different was last summer?
TS: In many senses we did the same thing because every summer you look to improve.
But the changes were more substantial than in previous years eg changing the manager.
There’s a lot of work in doing that and then an incredible amount of work because a new manager has his own plans.
What have the last 18 months been like for you Tony?
Let’s be honest, the word I’d use when we win is relief.
And of course when you get beat you feel hideous.
We’ve lost quite a lot over the last 18 months and it becomes cumulative.
It’s my hardest time in my career and it affects everything.
But you get relegated and you try to make an honest assessment of where you went wrong and the mistakes made.
You dust yourself down pretty quickly and you have to get ready to go again over the summer.
You look around you and see good people and think we are a great club going through a difficult period and believe you’ll come through it.
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