Stoke City hope and believe they are now in a new era of stability as the board puts its faith in Michael O’Neill.
O’Neill arrived at Stoke 12 months ago at a time when the club had as many managers in under two years (five), in slipping down from the Premier League to the foot of the Championship, as they had in the previous two decades.
But he kept the club up as his first task and they now sit one point outside the play-offs as he takes on the next: getting them back into the top flight.
Chief executive Tony Scholes said: “As I sit here and we reflect on the 12 months since Michael came in, our belief is that we’ve found the right man.
“We’ve enjoyed a good 12 months and that isn’t just the start of this season but the job Michael did from the day he walked in and the recovery from a pretty poor, a very poor position. Let’s remember we were bottom of the table and finished relatively strongly.
“We’ve taken that form into this season. The league table looks good at the moment, we’re in the right half of the table and our hope is that’s where we stay.
“Our absolute hope and expectation is that we’re going back to our norm: that we have managerial stability at the club. Mark Hughes was here for a number of years and before him, Tony Pulis was here for a number of years.
“Let’s hope that the last couple of years have been the aberration for us while we’ve been trying to find the right person.”
O’Neill has had to work under the constraints of Financial Fair Play but has been able to bring in eight new signings – as well as transform the back room team.
Alex Aldridge has joined as head of recruitment, Billy McKinlay is new assistant manager, David Rouse as keeper coach, Andy Cousins as lead analyst and Paul Walsh as head of sports science.
Scholes said: “What he’s brought to the club is organisation both on the pitch – he clearly understands the game and is able to communicate that understanding to the players – but also off the pitch in the way that the working week is managed.
“I think his recruitment of players has been very good but also of his own staff. He’s a good judge of character and he’s brought real quality staff into his team as well.
“He gives that staff the freedom to express themselves and do their work as well rather than dictating how things are done. He’s a good manager of people as well as of the first team.
“He’s calm under pressure and takes time to arrive at decisions. It’s been very impressive.”
O’Neill had looked past the team’s position when the vacancy arose to see a platform for a successful club in the long-term, with top class facilities and billionaire owners who, financial rules withstanding, are keen to invest managers with time.
Scholes said: “We are a Premier League club in the way we are set up – but one that is playing in the Championship and, up until Michael came in, that was playing pretty poorly in the Championship.
“That obviously dominates all of the questions, rightly so, and all the supporters’ thoughts and our thoughts as well.
“Behind that there’s a lot in place at the club which has been built up over a number of years and very strong foundations there.
“I’m also delighted to see that some of those foundations are coming through as Michael is prepared to give young players a chance in the team.
“We’re starting to see a number of players who have been developed in the Academy coming into the team; Tyrese (Campbell), Harry (Souttar), Nathan (Collins). Thibaud (Verlinden) is coming back from injury.
“We’ve got Lasse (Sorensen), Tom (Edwards) and Joe (Bursik) out on loan too and that’s supplemented by the players recruited, young players, Tashan (Oakley-Boothe), Jordan (Thompson) and Jacob (Brown) add to that young group.
“The great thing is that Michael is giving all those players a chance and they’re adding energy to the team.”