After missing out on its three top targets, Stoke finally landed a new coach to try to keep the team in the English Premier League by hiring Paul Lambert on Monday.
In the nine days since firing Mark Hughes, Stoke had seen Derby manager Gary Rowett, Ireland coach Martin O’Neill and Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores reject the chance to take charge of a side that recently slipped into the relegation zone.
Lambert was available - he has been out of work since leaving second-tier club Wolverhampton Wanderers in May - and has the Premier League experience that Stoke’s hierarchy desired, having previously managed at Norwich and Aston Villa.
“Paul has been successful in management at clubs with a strong and stable background and with local ownership - the kind of foundation we are able to give to our managers,” Stoke vice-chairman John Coates said.
A Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund as a player, Lambert won back-to-back promotions with Norwich to get the team into the Premier League and keep it there. He joined Villa and kept the club up for two seasons before being fired midway through his third season.
Lambert has since worked at Blackburn and Wolves in the second tier, lasting less than a season at both.
He is tasked with reviving a Stoke side whose decade-long status in the Premier League is in jeopardy after years of mid-table finishes. It has been undermined by defensive problems - the team has conceded 47 goals in 22 games in the league, more than any other team - and has lost eight of its last 11 games.
Stoke headed to Manchester United for a Premier League game on Monday in third-to-last place, and was embarrassingly eliminated from the FA Cup by fourth-tier Coventry in its last match. Lambert will not be in charge of Stoke at Old Trafford.
“Paul greatly impressed us with his knowledge of our squad and had a clear plan of how he would improve our results,” Stoke owner Peter Coates said.
“He’s a man who backed himself as a player, none more so than when he turned down contract offers in Scotland to go on trial in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, and it’s obvious he adopts the same approach as a manager.”
After taking over from the pragmatic Tony Pulis in 2013, Hughes tried to make Stoke more expansive and bought a number of talented players from across Europe who had lost their way after bright starts to their careers. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Ibrahim Afellay impressed in spells but were not consistent.
Stoke gradually lost its identity as a hard-to-beat team, something Lambert will need to recover if it is to survive.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
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