STOKE (A); THE PREVIEW

21/04/19

The Canaries head north to face pre-season promotion favourites Stoke City. They're not favourites now though and somebody else is... Andrew Lawn spoke to Anthony Bunn from DUCK Magazine for the lowdown on what appears to have been a real low point in Stoke's history

It appears to have been a frustrating season in the Potteries and we presume it's not gone quite to plan, what's gone on?

Over two years of quite dreadful football, poor recruitment, shocking management - that about covers it.

Two years ago, every Stoke fan saw relegation coming. We'd had three 9th placed finishes under Mark Hughes, but the 2016/17 season was a really poor one and we were lucky to finish 13th, and Hughes absolutely wet the bed around the time we were cruelly knocked out the League Cup semi's by Liverpool.
In Bojan, Marko (Arnautovic), and Xherdan (Shaqirir) we had the BMX triumvirate - a veritable attacking feast and we were playing some of the best football of my 45 years watching The Potters. We battered Man City and Man United and put 4 past Everton at Goodison - then Hughes totally threw the script away from February 2017 onwards.

Our relegation last season was inevitable but so avoidable. That we employed Paul Lambert from the January window onwards signaled our relegation fate - lovely bloke, poor manager.

But it went way beyond Lambert - our dressing room had more whoppers than a Burger King convention in it and we employed any number of overpaid mercenaries who literally took the mick out of our support with their antics.

Nathan Jones had huge success at Luton, but life has started slowly further north. From the outside he looks a great, progressive appointment, but is he the man to turn around the tanker?

We are looking at you Canary folk for inspiration. Your manager started poorly but you stuck with him. Many Stokies will do the same, but it's hard to describe just how dreadful that last two years have been.

Jones talks a great game, but we've seen little to back this up,. But he deserves the next two transfer windows and pre-season to get his ideas and players in, and to get rid of some of the dross we still employ.

It's a massive job, but in the drive-thru, want-it-now mentality of modern football I don't know if some fans will give him the patience and time he needs.

How important, financially at least, is promotion next season? You seemed to spend big last summer to try and guarantee an immediate return.

Massively.

Luckily, we have the Coates family behind the club (bet365), and as long as that remains we are okay. But like all clubs we are the mercy of the business we do and have done.

We won't get promoted next season unless a minor miracle happens. We've not even knocked on the door of the top half this season.

Who should we fear in the Stoke side?

No-one really, although Etebo is capable of playing at a much higher standard.

Apart from that, we have a young lad called Thibauld Verlinden who is an old fashioned winger but he gets very little game time, much to the frustration of many. You'll see on Monday - we are the slowest team in all four leagues. It's like watching football played under water.

Where might we find lots of joy?

Anywhere on our pitch, I reckon.

We played four centre halves as our back 4 last week, and if it wasn't for Jack Butland, Rotherham could have had 5 or 6.

If you have pace in your side, you're laughing.

Finally a specific prediction. Mine is that we will be a little nervy, and it will be 0-0 going into the last 5, but that's when we come alive, so back a returning Emi Buendia to spank one in from 25 yards to win us the game (and promotion with it...)

I'd normally say that you could not wish to have a better away fixture to settle your promotion nerves, but we do tend to turn up against the top teams.

You score early, you'll win easily - but this is Stoke. We don't do easy or obvious, and I can see our players actually turning up on Monday and winning.

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