DF Previews…

This time it’s my turn. I take a look at MY teams upcoming season.

Stoke City

Manager: Nathan Jones

Last season: 16th   

key player 

Peter Etebo – It is paramount that we manage to keep hold of the Nigerian midfielder for the upcoming season. He showed glimpses last season of the class midfielder that he is and in my opinion the best since Steven N’Zonzi left for Sevilla in 2015. If he can perform more consistently he can be a real force from the central midfield and probably chip in with a few important goals.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

We have made 7 signings so far and all very shrewd. Liam Lindsay cost the club £2million and following him were Lee Gregory, Jordan Cousins, Adam Davies, Nick Powell and Stephen Ward all on free’s from there respective clubs.

At the time of writing our most recent signing is former Huddersfield Town captain Tommy Smith. With a much smaller financial outlay on players this season we look more clued up about what to expect this season.My favourite signing so far has to be Nick Powell, a real talent when he is on his A game. If we can keep him injury free he could be a key cog in Nathan Jones’ preferred diamond formation providing and scoring goals.

Who TO SIGN

Has to be Dwight Gayle. Showed his true form for West Brom last season and what a real asset he can be in the Championship. Perhaps £20million is a fee to be scoffed at but if he brings 20+ goals he will be worth every penny in our promotion bid season.

EXPECTED FINISH

Top six is a minimum this season. Last season was disastrous and I definitely expect us to be at least challenging for promotion if not the league title. On paper we easily have the best squad in the league.

EXCITING GAME

The visit of Luton to the bet365. Luton fans have a real hatred for Nathan Jones since he left the League One champions back in January for the job with us. Much like Rowett and Derby last season I expect the atmosphere will be electric.

TROPHY?

I never expect Stoke to win a trophy, it’s just not how I’ve been bought up, but, I’d love us to win the league. I’ll settle for the play-off final though!

@JDawsonFootball on Twitter.

Jones X Stoke

Jones x Stoke. Game. Set. Match.

The Championship can, at times, be a cruel mistress. Stoke City are one of many teams that have found it hard to adjust to life in the second tier, despite pre-season expectations of total dominance.

In fact, the Potters placed a meagre 16th,in their first season out of the Premier League in 10 years, in the Championship season just passed.

Once viewed as Premier League stalwarts, City, found themselves embroiled in controversy and a relegation battle come January 2018, where they changed manager for only the second time in their ten year Prem stint. When Paul Lambert replaced the outgoing Mark Hughes, Stoke were flirting with relegation, but just two wins in 2018 saw them finish the season 18thand condemned them to at least one season in the Football League’s second tier.

The end of the 16/17 season bought a host of changes. Gary Rowett replaced Scotsman Lambert and employed an almost completely fresh backroom staff in an attempt to fire Stoke straight back to the big time. Big signings like Benik Afobe, Tom Ince and James McClean were completed giving the squad a fresh look from the woes of the season before.

But, in Rowett’s first competitive game in charge, Stoke fell to an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Leeds on Elland Road turf. A stark contrast to what was expected and hoped for by Stoke fans.

Rowett showed some promise when his Stoke side reached the dizzy heights of the top ten in his first few months in charge, but a baron spell over Christmas saw Stoke decline to the bottom half of the table. With hopes of promotion now fading away, the Stoke board made a quick decision in relieving former Derby man Rowett of his duties, almost a year to the day that Mark Hughes suffered the same fate.

In came Nathan jones. An almost unknown entity in football, Jones had taken London club Luton Town to the dizzy heights of the pinnacle of the League One table following a successful 2017/18 campaign that saw the Hatters promoted from League Two to the third division.

The Welshman entered the bet365 Stadium, with a fresh boost of enthusiasm and passion that Potters fans had craved for so long. Not only that but a reputation that is ever-growing in the English game. Luton fans praised his attacking intent alongside a defensive solidarity and a real hunger in every game. Something that Stoke had lacked for so long

However, Jones seemingly inherited a squad with no motivation, no togetherness and no confidence. The new man had a lot of work to do. His first half season with the Potters ended with a 2-2 draw to newly promoted Sheffield United on home turf. Perhaps a sign of things to come with results before that beginning to look promising.

It is, without a doubt, one of the toughest jobs in football at the moment (trying to turn the fortunes of a team bereft of confidence), but Jones clearly feels he and his team have the ability to do so.

With an apparent squad overhaul on the horizon, Potters fans will hope that this season will show stark contrast to the disappointing fate that came with last. At least a top six finish is a realistic expectation for the team from Stoke-on-Trent and will certainly be the ambition that they will show.