This weekend we play Stoke City, a team currently tenth in the league., which is, sadly, a height we can only dream of.
This year, the Potters have received a good deal of praise for their silky performances and European flair. Players like Bojan and Shakiri have really injected some class into their team. They have come on a great deal since the days of long balls and solid defences.
Their progress has happened over many years. The Potters have been in the Premier League since 2008 and they have rarely looked like leaving it. They came up, consolidated and now have a team that could be pushing for Europe, if not this season then next.
Is there a lesson for Villa in the Potters’ progress?
After coming up they then hunkered down and made sure of survival. They made incremental improvements and eventually the point was reached where Pulis had done his job andit was time for someone else to take over.
He had made them an immovable object; someone then had to make the next step up.
Hughes seems to be doing that.
At some point in the last five or six years both Stoke’s current manager and its last one were heavily linked with Aston Villa. It goes to show the depths to which we have plunged.
There was a chance to get Hughes in while he was at Fulham. In fact, the rumours were that he resigned from his job to make himself available for Aston Villa. It was decided that that was not the kind of man we wanted in charge and we looked elsewhere. Perhaps he was. The great job he is doing at Stoke City seems to reinforce that.
The truth is that Hughes is a manager of a team that is not in trouble. He makes teams play well but perhaps he is not suited to a relegation scrap.
Pulis, on the other hand, is more than able to cope with that kind of job. He is brilliant at making teams hard to beat, grinding out results and staying up.
There was a chance in more recent years when we could have gone for him. Speaking to some West Bromwich Albion fans I know, they are fed up with the kind of football being played, even if they are comparatively safe – although not totally by any means.
Of course, we got neither of them and now we are in a position where we will soon be relegated. How different it could have been!
All that is left for us to do now is learn from Stoke City and follow their process: get promoted, stay up and push on. If we can do it a bit quicker than they did that would be good but at the moment we can’t afford to be too demanding