Steven Schumacher makes loan players admission amid Stoke City farewells

Luke Cundle has found good form as he has come to the end of his time on loan at Stoke City from Wolves.
Luke Cundle has found good form as he has come to the end of his time on loan at Stoke City from Wolves. -Credit:Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

It was three wins out of three for Stoke City to end the season. Here are the talking points from a 4-0 thrashing of Bristol City at the bet365 Stadium.

Stoke sign off in style

This hasn’t been a season for the ages but it has ended with a positivity about the future, encapsulated by Stoke recording their highest home crowd of the season.

Steven Schumacher had wanted to show a blueprint for what his team will look like going forwards and leave supporters looking forward to coming back next term. It felt like two boxes ticked.

He said: “I hope so yeah. That was good to watch, I think everyone would agree with that. We could have been better and I'm always picking. I think we were a bit sloppy in the first half, kicking the ball out of play when there's no one near us. We can get better and that gives you optimism I suppose. We need to play like that all the time. It's easier when there's pressure on and the last two games there has been pressure and the players have shown they can handle it.

“The most important thing in the last three games has been how intense we've been when we haven't had the ball, how hard we've worked for each other. We've looked like a team and if you look like a team you'll get results.”

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How many of this starting XI will be back for next season?

The same starting XI for three games in a row to pick up nine points, secure safety and produce probably the best three performances of at least this season.

But four - Daniel Iversen, Ki-Jana Hoever, Luke McNally and Luke Cundle - were only on loan as well as the three players who were out of contract; Enda Stevens, Tyrese Campbell and Jordan Thompson, who has a 12-month option.

Schumacher said: “The loan players have done brilliantly. They've been excellent and I'll thank them for their efforts and if I ever have the chance to work with them again I would because they're all good lads, all honest, all try their best and have been brilliant since I've been here.

“Ki-Jana in the last two months has shown the quality he's got. Daniel made a brilliant save today at 1-0 and the game could have been different. Luke Cundle has shown in the last month or two how good of a player he is when he has got people who will pass the ball to him Luke McNally all season I think has been really consistent. I'm really pleased for all four of them and I'd love to work with them again.”

Squad gathers to see the king crowned

It was a nice touch for Stoke’s match day squad to line up and applaud Bae Junho as he collected his award as fans’ player of the year.

There were two stand-out candidates for this but Junho’s form and increasing ability to affect matches during the crucial run-in proved decisive. He’s very popular with fans and teammates, and he has been full of confidence as his marathon personal season has gradually come to its conclusion. He linked beautifully with Enda Stevens, Luke Cundle and Million Manhoef, and might have had one or two goals himself, including a smashed effort against the underside of the bar.

Saying farewell

It’s the last time that Stoke will shoot towards opposition supporters behind the south end goal. The away end is being relocated to the south east corner and work is starting on that pretty much straight away, with licensed standing being introduced along the upper sections around that corner and the south stand up to the tunnel. A new fan zone is being set up for next season behind the Boothen End.

Who knows what will happen with the loanees or with contracts, although that will become clear soon enough.

As for farewells to the 2023/24 season, Schumacher - on the back of the form since March - was asked if he would like it to carry on.

“No,” he said emphatically. “I'm delighted that it's ending because we need a break. All of us probably need a break. The last few performances have been good. It was important that we got the wins against Argyle and Southampton and then today to continue that momentum.

“The team has almost picked itself because of how good performances have been. The three lads on the left side in Junho, Luke Cundle and Enda Stevens have been outstanding. Everybody else has played their part too. Ben Wilmot today was brilliant. He saved us two goals. So it was a whole team effort and a good way to end the season.”

Saying hello?

Stoke’s recruitment will obviously be vital to what happens next season. The squad will have a stronger starting point than 12 months ago but there are a lot of holes in the starting XI.

It remains to be seen how much Schumacher, as head coach rather than manager, will lead the transfer dealing but he is making clear what he wants.

“We have to trust the recruitment team,” he said. “We have to see what the budget is. I don't know how hard it is going to be. Hopefully it's dead easy, hopefully we get all the targets that we want but it doesn't tend to work like that. What's important and the messages that I've got across to the recruitment team and to Jon (Walters), if I get them messages across and we can manage to get the players I feel will are going to improve us and the characters and personalities, more importantly, then I think we'll be all right.”

What's your verdict on the final day? Have your say in the comments section