This weekend, Tony Pulis returns to the Britannia Stadium for the first time since leaving Stoke City over two years ago. Having already got the better of his old side at the Hawthorns last season, and as manager of Crystal Palace the season before, he is looking for a hat-trick of wins against his old side. While Albion fans will continue to dread a game against the Potters given our recent record against them, the Baggies have won both games against the Welshman’s old sides since he has been in charge having also won at Selhurst Park in April, so perhaps there should be some room for optimism?
Moreover, Stoke are also without a win this season having lost their only home game of the season against Liverpool and drawn at both Tottenham and Norwich. Like Albion, they also needed penalties to get past lower league opposition in the Capital One Cup defeating Luton Town 8-7 after a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road.
Pulis is sure to get an emotional reception on Saturday having been in charge of Stoke City for more than 450 matches over two spells, but he and his team will be fully focussed on the match come kick off.
My preview to the home game in March details the history of the fixture so this time I will be looking at a few of the players that have played for both clubs.
The freshest in the mind of both sets of fans will, of course, be Peter Odemwingie (pictured). Having been rescued from a set of racist fans at Lokomotiv Moscow in August 2010, the Nigerian played 90 times for the Baggies scoring 31 goals, 15 of them in that first impressive Premier League season. After a falling out with the club, Odemwingie moved to Cardiff in 2013 before joining Stoke City within six months. He made just one Premier League start for the Potters last year and hasn’t scored since May 2014.
Belgian full-back Carl Hoefkens joined the Potters from Germinal Beerschot in July 2005. He won City’s Player of the Season in his first season and, having been a near ever-present in the City line-up for two seasons, the second of which was under current Baggies boss Tony Pulis, he moved to the Hawthorns and played in all but one of Albion’s league games as they won the Championship title in 2008. He only made a handful of Premier League appearances for Albion before moving back to Belgium in August 2009.
Another import whose only English clubs were Albion and Stoke was Icelandic centre back Lárus Sigurðsson. Siggy spent five years at Stoke making more than 200 appearances before Brian Little signed him for Albion in September 1999. Little was gone six months later but Megson took a liking to him and made him an integral member of the central defensive trio that was so successful in the promotion season of 2001/02. He played in the majorty of Albion’s Premier League games the following season but moved back to Iceland in 2004.
In the summer of 2003 as Albion recovered after relegation from the Premier League, manager Gary Megson took a shine to fellow redhead, James O’Connor (pictured), then a mainstay of the Potters’ midfield. O’Connor had made more than 200 appearances for City in the previous five seasons and, after helping Albion back to the Premier League, he moved to Burnley, initially on loan, after making just 38 appearances for the Baggies.
Another tenacious midfielder in a similar mould to O’Connor was Sean Flynn. Flynn, known for dropping down to do press-ups after shooting over the bar, played five times for Stoke on loan from Derby County before joining the Baggies in August 1997. He made over 100 appearances for Albion and managed to get the ball under the bar on nine occasions!
A teammate of Flynn for a short time was Canadian striker Paul Peschisolido. Husband of Karren Brady and a player that all fans hated to see on the opposition, Pesch had spent two seasons with Stoke between spells at Birmingham City before joining Albion in July 1996. With a decent record of 21 goals in 51 games for the Baggies, Albion fans were largely sorry to see the diminutive striker leave when Al-Fayed splashed the cash to lure him to Craven Cottage in October 1997.
Tony Ford is in an exclusive group of players that have made more than 1,000 appearances in English professional football, more than a quarter of which were with Albion and Stoke. Ford made 135 appearances for Stoke over three seasons from 1986 before joining the Baggies in March 1989. He scored 15 goals for Albion in 128 games, the most memorable of which was the only goal he scored for the Baggies in the FA Cup. In January 1990, First Division Charlton Athletic were the visitors to a rain-sodden Hawthorns in the fourth round. Having already knocked Wimbledon out in the third round, Albion saw off the Latics thanks to Ford’s shot which hit a puddle a yard from the goalline and changed direction, thereby foxing Mike Salmon in the Charlton goal.
Albion’s player-manager in that game, Brian Talbot, had joined the Baggies as a player two years earlier from Stoke City, having spent two years at the Victoria Ground making 64 appearances. He hung up his boots at the end of the 1989/90 season and was sacked as manager the following January after Albion crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of non-league Woking.
I mentioned last week that Geoff Hurst had played for the Baggies at the end of his career, but Stoke City was his club from 1972 to 1975 after he joined them from West Ham. Hurst scored 39 goals for the Potters in 130 appearances before joining Albion in August 1975.
Legendary Albion left back, Derek Statham (pictured), played more than 300 times for the Baggies and spent two seasons with Stoke City between 1989 and 1991 making 49 appearances.
Garth Crooks, now known for his interminably long interview questions as a BBC reporter, started his career at the Victoria Ground in the mid-seventies before making his name as a two-times FA Cup winner with Spurs in the early eighties. He spent two seasons with Albion, the first of which was that awful relegation season of 1985/86.
A few other names who have played for both clubs are strikers Mickey Thomas, Graham Fenton, Steve Parkin and Gary Bannister, goalkeepers Russell Hoult, Paul Barron and Martin Fulop, midfielders Gary Hackett, Tony Kelly and Keith Andrews and defenders Graham Harbey, Paul Dyson and Graham Potter.
Interestingly, both of Albion’s senior ‘keepers were at Stoke in the past. Ben Foster started his career at the Britannia in 2001 while Boaz Myhill spent time on loan there from Villa in 2002 – neither, however, made a first team appearance for the Potters.
After Jeremy Peace’s statement on Thursday evening, Pulis will need to decide if Saido Berahino is in the right frame of mind to feature this weekend. The sooner he accepts that he is going nowhere for the time being, the better for the Baggies as he remains the star player of the squad. While the performance against Chelsea suggested that Albion can function without him, I’m sure we would’ve been more likely to get that equaliser had Berahino been on the field and the fact that we failed to score against Port Vale on Tuesday is another indicator that his presence is crucial.
My gut feel is that Saido will be on the bench at the Britannia and I would like to see the same starting line-up from the Chelsea match. Two things may prevent that – firstly, Chris Brunt tweaked a hamstring on Tuesday and may not be fit and, secondly, Pulis has yet to start with a positive line-up away from home.
For the hosts, former Baggie Peter Odemwingie has a hamstring injury and is unlikely to feature and Ryan Shawcross may need surgery to correct a back problem. Bojan, however, is fit again having played 85 minutes against Luton on Tuesday, his first football since injuring his cruciate ligament in January.
Jon Walters started the first two games of the season, but was left out last weekend and now seems to be in dispute with the club about the terms of a new contract offer – I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves before the transfer window closes on Tuesday and, although Norwich are the only club to have tabled an offer to date, Pulis is known to be an admirer.
Pulis’s track record away from home suggests Albion will look to keep it tight and hit Stoke on the break. Bojan should make Stoke a more potent outfit than they have been in the Premier League this season, but given that they couldn’t beat Luton on Tuesday evening, he may need a few more games to get back to his best. Both sides will be anxious to record their first win ahead of the international break, but I see this one finishing all square.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
14 Mar 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Ideye)
Stoke City 0
Last meeting at Stoke City
28 Dec 2014 – Premier League
Stoke City 2 (Diouf (2))
West Brom 0
Last win at Stoke City
21 Jan 2012 – Premier League
Stoke City 1 (Jerome)
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Dorrans)
Albion’s Record against Stoke City
|Premier League Record|