Manager Nathan Jones says “a culture of blaming and not really caring” at Stoke City is now “starting to turn” – just four days after he appeared to suggest he was about to be sacked.
The Potters produced one of the shock results of the Championship season so far in coming from behind to beat leaders Swansea City on Saturday.
Jones described himself as “so proud” of his “magnificent” side after Scott Hogan’s 90th-minute winner, though few would have predicted the 46-year-old would even still be in charge on Tuesday.
After a 1-0 home defeat by Huddersfield Town left them winless and bottom of the table, Jones said he had already been given “enough time” to arrest the “downward spiral”, publicly apologising to both the club’s owners and supporters.
With no announcement forthcoming and amid reports he was about to be dismissed, Jones then appeared at his usual – albeit unexpected – pre-match media conference to announce that the board were still “fully behind” him.
And, like Jones, Stoke’s players seemed reinvigorated as they battled to a brilliant victory at the Liberty Stadium.
“I love this club, I love being here and I love the work I do,” Jones told BBC Radio Stoke after the game.
“It’s tough at times because we keep getting hurt, but hopefully this can lift a cloud and we can start reaching for the next rung of the ladder. Not the stars, yet, just the next rung of the ladder.”
‘I’m from a mining village in Wales’
Just as he did earlier in the week, former Luton Town boss Jones gave a series of emotional and passionate interviews in the aftermath of his side’s first win since 6 April. Here are the best bits:
“There’s a wonderful group of players there but they’ve been knocked, there’s been a culture of blaming and not really caring.
“They’re very well paid and they’ve got long contracts so it has to come from within. Desire and motivation has to come from within, and I have to try to get that out. We saw today that it’s starting to turn.
“To be honest with you, I don’t do a lot of soul searching with myself. I’m a passionate guy and that’s just got me the career it has, because I’ve had 30 years in the game.
“I’ve come from a very little mining village in the heart of Wales and I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am.
“I’ve never been blessed with ability, I’ve never had four-year contracts on ridiculous money where I could just chill, relax and get the cigar out. I’ve had to fight for every part of my career. As a manager and a coach I’ve had to do exactly the same.
“On Tuesday night it was despondent because of what happened and I couldn’t fathom what’s been going on here. It was a low point – but that’s when true people show their character. That’s when you’ve got to come back. I never wanted to shirk that.
“We need a catalyst to speed things up a bit, we need chemistry, in a scientific way. But, look, it’s the first step of the ladder, we need to improve. We can’t get carried away and suddenly think it’s like snakes and ladders. It’s just one step.
“The club’s united now, the staff’s united, they see something. It’s a happy place. Everyone has values, self worth. Cleaners, everyone, they all want this team to do well.”