TH: How do you rate Stokes’s start to the season so far?
EP: Solid if unremarkable, we need to be beating the teams around us more. There have been calls to move to a 4-4-2 formation but I can’t see Pulis changing.
TH: You made some big transfers in the summer. How have they settled in?
EP: Maurice Edu has looked ok when used. I hope Charlie Adam finds his mojo soon as we all know we can perform better than we’ve seen. I think there is more to come from Steven Nzonzi as well. As for Michael Owen, I wasn’t keen on the signing at the time and although Owen and Crouch were a good striking partnership for England in 2004 it’s not the same now! We might as well get Heskey and complete the set!
TH: Marc Wilson recently suffered a serious injury and looks to be out for three months. Have you got the depth of squad to cover this injury?
EP: The squad is one of the best we’ve had and we’ve got with a lot of depth not just in defence but throughout the squad. Over the last couple of seasons the transfers have been well made and squad has vastly improved – our bench always has quality. Look at who we’ve got out on loan – Jermaine Pennant, Michael Tonge, Danny Higginbotham.
TH: Tony Pulis has recently been named your best ever manager? Do you agree with this?
EP: I agree with this wholeheartedly, he’s a great manager and a great man. People can write off Stoke but thanks to good backing from our chairman Peter Coates and good transfer policies we’ve become a Premiership team. Not only this but we’ve reached a FA Cup final and competed in Europe which seemed a long way away six years ago.
TH: Some critics have labelled you a long ball team. How do you feel about this criticism?
EP: We’ve had that tag since we were promoted and to be honest we deal with it in the same way that West Ham do, by reminding people that we play good football as well – with great wingers. I suppose Rory Delap’s long throw ins didn’t help matters but they were effective and so is the team and people will criticise you somehow if you are successful.
TH: Ryan Shawcross has been included in the last two England squads this season. Do you think this is deserved?
EP: He’s a great defender and I think the call ups have been long overdue. I think Pulis and the club are worrying that a Champions League club will come calling in the near future so they’re trying to get him on a contract as he’s only got 18 months left. I hope rumours of a buy back option from Man United are wide of the mark!
TH: Tony Pulis has stated in the media that Stoke have to be better in the final third? Do you agree with Pulis on this?
EP: Yes, I think we need to be more ruthless when attacking and take the chances up front. If anything we’ve got too many forwards but not enough goals. Crouch needs to get the service from the wide men but we do look to lack goals at times.
TH: Who should West Ham fans be wary of in the Stoke first XI?
EP: Peter Crouch can always be dangerous in the box and for me should be a regular in the England squad but only if he gets the service he requires. Jon Walters always surprises teams even though he has been popping up with goals for the last couple of seasons. Obviously Matty Etherington as well but you all know about him!
TH: What’s your opinion of West Ham this season?
EP: You’ve been exactly what I thought a Sam Allardyce team would be like – resilient and hard to break down. I thought in some respects you’ve surpassed expectations especially compared to the other promoted clubs, especially your performances against Arsenal and Man City.
TH: Which West Ham players would you have in your squad?
EP: Diame looks a handful when I’ve seen him this season and his goal against Arsenal was impressive. Andy Carroll would fit the mould of our team and Winston Reid looks a better player than when you were last in the Premiership.
Q. What’s your prediction for both clubs this season? Stoke 12th, West Ham 13th