My big plea to Stoke City on loan signings this summer

Ki-Jana Hoever celebrates the first goal in Stoke's 3-0 win over Plymouth.
Ki-Jana Hoever has spent a season and a half on loan at Stoke City from Wolves. -Credit:Getty Images

We can break the season down into little sections as we review the year that was at Stoke City.

Steven Schumacher oversaw a good end to December but we had a poor January and a very poor February which left us wondering what was going to happen next. To be brutally honest, but without saying anything that we don’t all already know, that run of six defeats in seven games was relegation fare and it was no surprise when we dropped into the bottom three.

It is no mean feat to recover from that. It is admirable to keep or find your head under extreme pressure and turn results around. March turned into a good month with three important wins and despite a nervous start to April – three draws and a defeat left us all nervous again – we ended with two excellent wins and two excellent performances.

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It was a crucial run-in and we have lost one in six. Well done for producing what we needed in those circumstances.

I would say that the last month has rubber stamped to Schumacher the players who he can trust in the roles he has given them. It will have turned some of the loans into buys so that they become his own players. Next season we need fewer loans and more of our own players if we are going to be serious about building the club again.

The head coach and the people around him will know who has performed during these ups and downs, who he can rely on, who he needs to sell or release and the holes he will need to fill with clever recruitment. We have to look at performance levels and players in their right positions who can hit 6, 7 or 8 out of 10 consistently.

But please fill those holes with permanent signings rather than this stop-start business of the loan market. The manager has to be able to trust the players, the players have to be able to trust the manager and everyone in the stands has to trust everyone down and around the pitch. It is so much harder to do if half the team comes and goes every few months.

Stoke have been at their best in wins over Plymouth and Southampton, who have played in a similar style and tried desperately to pass it out from the back. Then they thrashed Bristol City on the final day. The key for Stoke – and the question that hangs over this season – is why they haven’t been able to hit those high notes more regularly.

Even if an opponent misses out the back line the press is still crucial, you just have to adapt and go from deeper. There are times in a match when they will still keep the ball in their defence or you can withdraw as a formation. It’s decision making about when and where. Do you press wide or central? It’s about support, cover and balance.

We have to improve our understanding on that side of the game in all scenarios if we want to find the kind of level we’ve shown in the last fortnight. It takes a lot of work on the training ground in both the defending and aspects. If you win the ball back in the attacking third or defensive third, what do you do next? When do you commit to a counter-attack? In possession, do you try to play out from the back too depending on what the opposition are doing?

One of the things that has amused or infuriated me throughout this season has been to see how many sides in the Championship have struggled with that decision making. So often we have seen a goalkeeper pass a goal-kick to a centre-back and then get it back two yards from his own goalline in a panic. Two passes to advance nowhere. Coaches from 150 years of football history wouldn’t believe what they were seeing.

I’m sure that Schumacher is looking forward to a summer transfer window to tweak the squad and a pre-season to lay down his mark tactically and put in place what he will demand physically.

It was nice to sign off at home by giving supporters a win. It was also nice for the players to show what they can really do, and show those who are waiting in the wings for a chance to impress just what kind of levels they must hit if they want to play. There can be no freebies.

We have lost nine home matches this season and double figures would have been a horrible landmark. You should only be losing three or four at home all year - and four is too many. Ideally you want to get through without being beaten on your own turf, in front of your own supporters. It’s where you have to produce and the platform for everything about the club.

So finishing with a bang was crucial. It sets the benchmark for next season and makes clear what will be expected of all Stoke City players going forward. Nothing else is exceptable.

Do you agree with Pej? Have your say in the comments section