Relegated Stoke City paid the ultimate price for a poor summer of recruitment, says Matthew Etherington.
The Potters’ 10-year spell in the Premier League was brought to end by Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at the bet365 Stadium.
Xherdan Shaqiri put the Potters ahead with a brilliant free-kick in the 43rd minute but James McArthur levelled for Palace after half-time and Patrick van Aanholt then struck the fatal blow four minutes from time.
Speaking after the game to Sky Sports, former Stoke midfielder Etherington attributed the club’s demise to their failure to replace characters in the dressing room.
“I looked at the recruitment in the summer and I thought the club was in trouble, purely because the recruitment was wrong,” he said.
“If you look at some of the signings, [Kevin] Wimmer hasn’t worked out, [Maxim] Choupo-Moting has been OK, Jese [Rodriguez] hasn’t worked out and the same goes for the signings before that.
“The players that left – like Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan – may not have started every week but they were big characters.
“One by one, season by season, the club was starting to get rid of these characters. You need a good dressing room and from what I’ve been hearing the dressing room has not been the happiest of places over the course of the season.
“At this level for the sort of club Stoke are, you need good characters in the changing, something they haven’t got.”
Paul Lambert replaced Mark Hughes as Stoke manager in January with the sole intention of securing their Premier League status.
With his future is now up for debate following relegation, Etherington believes Stoke’s hopes of returning to the top flight rest in the hands of another manager.
“Once things have calmed down a little bit, I’m sure everyone will have a bit of reflection,” he added.
“I’m not sure Lambert is the man. I love the way he speaks, he’s very honest, but maybe the club should strip everything back, and that includes the management.
“They have not got it right for a good couple of years and ultimately that has resulted in relegation.”