Premier League: Crystal Palace and Stoke - how one stayed up and one went down
Stoke City will drop into the Championship after a 2-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace that was a painful illustration of why both teams are now heading in opposite directions.
This game was effectively the tale of two clubs in microcosm.
Palace were measured, composed and progressive under the mature guidance of manager Roy Hodgson, while Stoke City were chaotic, disorganised and a mess once James McArthur drew Palace level.
It was easy to see why Palace and Hodgson can look forward to a Premier League campaign next season with cautious optimism and why Stoke now face a full-scale rebuilding job in the dog-eat-dog surroundings of the Championship.
Did Stoke pay price for acting too late?
|Stoke manager's records this season|
Crystal Palace were subjected to widespread criticism for the decision to sack Frank de Boer after four Premier League losses without a goal - but chairman Steve Parish has been vindicated by their rejuvenation and survival under Roy Hodgson.
It was, of course, the product of poor decision-making to have to dismiss De Boer so soon after the confidence and optimism of his appointment but Parish's counter-argument will be Palace realised they had made a mistake and acted in time to save themselves.
Stoke, in contrast, kept faith with manager Mark Hughes until the FA Cup third round defeat at League Two Coventry City - and now find their fortunes completely at odds to those of Palace.
The Coates family, who have overseen Stoke's return and consolidation in the Premier League, are known for their patience and support for managers and it is an easy criticism to make now in hindsight, as their fate was sealed surrounded by empty seats and tearful players and supporters at the bet365 Stadium.
The rot, however, had set in since the turn of last year as Stoke won only six of their last 19 league games to finish 13th, their worst position under Hughes.
Stoke's traditional strengths of stout defence and a formidable environment at home became their weaknesses. In 19 home games in the Premier League this season, they won five and lost nine.
And the appointment of Paul Lambert, after the likes of Derby County's Gary Rowett and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill distanced themselves from the job, smacked of last resort.
The Scot, who has had a nomadic managerial career at Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and now Stoke City since being sacked by Aston Villa, threw himself into the job with enthusiasm - indeed his body language was so frantic here it hardly sent a message of calm and composure to his players.
Indeed it almost served to increase the sense of anxiety felt around the entire stadium.
Lambert has simply not been able to make a difference to a team that was on a terminal slide into the Championship when he arrived.
The statistics tell a grim tale. Lambert has been in charge for 14 league games, winning only one, drawing seven and losing six. Stoke have the worst defensive record in the Premier League having conceded 67 goals and the worst goal difference of -34.
In his programme notes he wrote: "We lack for nothing in terms of heart, spirit and togetherness."
All very well - but what Stoke City do lack is quality, composure and on the evidence of how they collapsed once James McArthur equalised, any shred of organisation and confidence.
The combination is the formula for relegation. And that is what it brought as Stoke's 10-year stay in the Premier League came to an end.
Failed signings and aging players
Lambert has paid the price on the ticket for relegation but this journey out of the Premier League was well under way before he succeeded Hughes.
The mediocre end to last season carried on into this campaign, not helped by a poor transfer strategy that was unable to provide the improvement clearly needed after that indifferent 2016-17 season.
Xherdan Shaqiri provided stardust after his £12m arrival from Inter Milan in August 2015 and he remained pretty much their last hope until relegation, his superb free-kick offering hope of survival until it was ruthlessly snuffed out by Palace after the break.
Former Real Madrid forward Jese arrived on loan from Paris St-Germain in August but his star has fallen since he started with the winner on his debut against Arsenal, while defender Kevin Wimmer has been a failure and has dropped off the radar since his £18m switch from Tottenham.
And, of course, one of the biggest blunders has proved to be the signing of Saido Berahino, brought in from West Brom for £12m in January 2017. The career of a player once regarded as one of England's brightest young talents has flatlined.
Berahino has played 28 games, started 11 and has not scored a goal in 1,206 minutes of league football at Stoke City.
One look at this Stoke side also underscored what has become a desperate campaign.
Peter Crouch, for all his admirable qualities, is still relied upon for goals at 37 while 33-year-old Glen Johnson was given a torrid afternoon before his substitution.
Stoke's bench also contained Stephen Ireland at 31, 32-year-old Charlie Adam and Darren Fletcher - the latter is 34 and this was an ominous sign of an imbalanced squad populated with players who have had their best days in the Premier League.
The Potters also suffered the loss of the talismanic Marko Arnautovic to West Ham United in a £24m deal, depriving Stoke of his match-winning maverick qualities and an added X Factor.
Slowly but surely, Stoke City's squad has been allowed to fall into disrepair and it must now be rebuilt in the unforgiving environment of the Championship.
And it is only likely to get more difficult, with England goalkeeper Jack Butland and the skilful Shaqiri unlikely to be pursuing their career in that division.
The devastated Lambert said after relegation was confirmed: "It has got to be rebuilt and it will come back strong because of the support it has got behind it.
"The football club should mirror the supporters because it has got incredible support."
Hodgson enjoys Palace redemption and 'waving the baton'
Hodgson is able to celebrate a successful and glorious Indian Summer to his managerial career after completing a remarkable rejuvenation at Crystal Palace.
Hodgson, an elder statesman at 70, looked a broken man when he resigned as England manager moments after their humiliating Euro 2016 exit to Iceland in the last 16.
And yet, at the club he supported as a boy, Hodgson has overseen a superb recovery as Palace became the first team to stay up after losing their first seven league games since Liverpool in the 1899-1900 season.
Hodgson was as statesmanlike as ever in victory here, weighing up his words carefully amid the rawness of relegation still hanging over the bet365 Stadium.
He has been back where he enjoys it most, in the day-to-day work on Palace's training ground and the fruits of his labours - and those of his trusted backroom team led by long-time assistant Ray Lewington - were on show for all to see at Stoke.
Palace's safety was effectively assured before this game but they showed more composure and class at all the key moments and utilised the pace of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend as well as the class of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield.
Hodgson is already casting an eye towards next season and the hard work of replacing the likes of Loftus-Cheek when he returns to Chelsea, but a reputation so damaged by the latter days of his time with England has been greatly restored this season.
He paid tribute to his players, backroom team and sports scientists who have helped Palace overcome serious injury problems - and was then happy to take credit himself when offered.
"Every orchestra needs a band leader and I have been quite happy to wave the baton," said Hodgson.
"I will get a lot of credit and I won't be hypocritical and say I won't enjoy the pats on the back but I am hopefully wise enough to know this is not a one-man job.
"If you are going to do well at Premier League level you need an awful lot of help from an awful lot of people and I have had that."