Stoke: Coates takes it one step at a time
Stoke City chairman, Peter Coates has endeared himself to supporters since regaining control of the club three years ago but is certainly not ready to aim too high.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Peter Coates relinquished control of the club back in 1997 when he sold out to the Icelandic consortium amid unpleasant scenes both on and off the pitch. In the intervening nine years he remained as a director but was able to spend time building up the internet gambling site, Bet365.
It's now a multi-million business and earned the life-long Stoke fan one more chance of seeing his club finally getting back into the top flight of English football. When he decided to buy back the club in 2006, he only just saved it from possible financial catastrophe and instantly injected several million pounds just to pay off the club's mounting debts.
You certainly cannot accuse Peter Coates of 'doing a Mike Ashley' and pandering to the noiser sections of Stoke fans when his first decision as chairman was to bring back Tony Pulis as manager to less than rapturous applause. But that decision was a master stroke, even if it took us fans a season or two longer to realise it.
We're now into our fourth summer of the Coates and Pulis regime and each season he's given the manager the freedom to do what he thought necessary and supplied the funds to enable him to do his job. Back in 2006, there was talk of achieving promotion 'in three years', yet we managed that in just two. Last season it was all about survival. Fans may have been divided about the style, but we know only one thing really mattered - just staying in the Premier League and we managed that with room to spare.
So what for 2009/10 season? Those so-called pundits will certainly try and do us down again with talk of 'second season syndrome', but the target has to be the same as last - just avoid the drop. Coates has already made it clear that he will back the manager and that cash is available as and when Pulis wants to spend. Will all know that many of last season's targets didn't fancy a relegation scrap and opted for 'better' chances at clubs like West Brom and Middlesbrough. This time around, it will still be tough to get the right players in as the manager raises the bar even higher in an attempt to help the club push onwards and upwards.
In the meantime, Peter is doing what most club chairmen should be doing, keeping in the background and letting those who he pays to do the job, do the job. He's certainly not one to heap too much pressure on the manager and told the media this week that 'if we finished a couple of places lower, we wouldn't be too disappointed. It's a tough division and we need to stay up because we need to build.'
That's one lesson that Mike Ashley, up on Tyneside, has had to learn the hard and very expensive way.