But a decade in the Premier League did give the Potters some cash to play with which most people growing up before the turn of the century could not have imagined.
This was a club that didn’t spend more than £1m on a player until 2008 – when they did it twice in a week as a statement of intent on the road to winning promotion.
Big money has still sometimes looked a bargain in hindsight – but when it goes wrong, it hits hard.
There are a lot of teams who have tipped their toes into the top flight who have spent a whole lot more, but here is Stoke’s most expensive XI – or the most expensive XI that would fit into a traditional 4-4-2.
BETWEEN THE STICKS
Jack Butland – £3.5m
A super little bit of business in Tony Pulis’s last and Mark Cartwright’s first transfer window in early 2013. Butland stayed on loan at Birmingham for the rest of the season and ultimately broke into the first team in 2015 following the exits of Asmir Begovic and Tommy Sorensen.
AT THE BACK
Moritz Bauer – £6m
Erik Pieters – £3m
Kevin Wimmer – £15m
Kurt Zouma £7m loan fee/Bruno Martins Indi £7m
Erik Pieters proved a snip as he tied down that left-back slot for six years until his strange departure. Moritz Bauer was an initially popular arrival between managers but hasn’t had a run at right-back under a series of managers.
Kevin Wimmer has cost more than a £1m per league start, spent last season on loan at Hannover and this term with Royal Mouscron.
Mark Hughes had to fight to the front of a queue of suitors to get Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea – and pretty much the same time he was bringing in Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi, from Porto.
IN THE MIDDLE
Tom Ince – £10m
Badou Ndiaye – £14m
Giannelli Imbula – £18.3m
Xherdan Shaqiri – £12m
Xherdan Shaqiri delivered moments of magic and hopefully the best is yet to come from Tom Ince.
Badou Ndiaye is still chasing a third title winner’s medal in a row in Turkey while Giannelli Imbula has wound up in Sochi, Russia, after three loan moves around Europe and being released by mutual consent.
Saido Berahino – £12m
Benik Afobe – £12m
Benik Afobe sat down with Saido Berahino in the summer of 2018 and was convinced that between them they would score 40 goals that season.
But it didn’t work out. Berahino’s renaissance petered out before he was found guilty of drink driving and released to continue his career in Belgium. Afobe joined Bristol City on loan last summer.