Back in 2008, Stoke City began their first ever season of Premier League football.
It didn’t start well, with a 3-1 defeat away from home against Bolton Wanderers.
This was enough for Paddy Power – otherwise known as the world’s worst tipster in their own words – to pay out early on Stoke being relegated; the first time the bookie had ever done such a thing.
That’s just a single game into the season, and while it only cost Paddy Power around £30,000, it was an embarrassing slight on the Stoke players and their manager, Tony Pulis, which added insult to injury after a less than ideal start.
In a 2003 interview though, Pulis said that it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to them:
“What I did was that I went on the radio, went on the TV in Stoke and was saying, ‘It’s us against everyone else, not just the team, it’s us – they’re disrespecting us. That’s your team, this is your team, these are your players.’
“I really do think that was the spur that got everyone in Stoke-on-Trent thinking, ‘Let’s get down there and win, lose or draw, let’s get behind the lads.’”
The Stoke fans rallied around their team and became known as the loudest in the Premier League for the next few seasons, and it clearly had an impact on the team’s performance too.
There was even a chant that became quite famous; whenever Stoke scored fans could be heard singing
How the Season Panned Out
To be fair to Paddy Power, although Stoke won their next game against Aston Villa 3-2, they could only manage a single point from their next 5 games, before getting their confidence back for a 2-1 win at home against Tottenham.
The famous Irish bookie must have been feeling pretty pleased with themselves at this point, but Stoke went on to lose just 2 of their next 10 games, moving them into 13th place and well clear of the relegation zone.
A dodgy run around Christmas and New Year set them back in a major way though, leaving them second from bottom, but a string of 6 wins and 1 draw in 11 games at the end of the season was enough to not only save the Potters, but leave them almost at the mid-table position.
The teams that did end up going down to the Championship were Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and West Brom, with Stoke finishing in 12th place and 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Before the season was over though, Paddy Power had another surprise in store for Stoke.
They bought a full page advertisement in the local paper, the Stoke Sentinel, and apologised:
‘On 16th August 2008. Paddy Power (also known as the world’s worst tipster) paid out on all bets on Stoke City to be relegated this season.
‘Are you watching Paddy Power? Well, yes we were. We were watching closely. And by the time the plucky Potters despatched Arsenal in November we were already hitting the panic button.
‘Yes, we’re not too proud to say you all proved us completely and spectacularly wrong. We are not only eating our words but also a great big slice of humble pie.
‘We’ve got egg on our face and been caught with our pants down. We cocked up. We hold our hands up and say congratulations to Stoke City for your magnificent season.’
Not only that, but when it was confirmed that Stoke were safe, Paddy Power bought ice creams for all the fans at their next game.
Was it enough for Stoke to forgive them? Who knows, but Stoke spent the next 10 years in the top flight, with Tony Pulis leading them up until 2013.