It has been a disappointing start to the campaign for Stoke City following their relegation from the Premier League that ended a 10-year stay in the top flight.
The Potters kept most of their squad together in the off-season, with Xherdan Shaqiri sold to Liverpool the only major departure. They even added some players with Championship and Premier League pedigree, with the likes of Benik Afobe, James McClean, Sam Clucas, Ryan Woods, Tom Ince and Ashley Williams arriving.
Those signings coupled with the arrival of Gary Rowett from Derby County, a manager with a proven track record in the Championship, meant Stoke were heavily tipped for promotion at the start of the campaign. However, seven games into the season and Rowett’s side have won only one match and lost three leaving them in 20th place in the table.
However, it was probably always going to be difficult for Stoke to adapt to life in the Championship, after a decade in the Premier League which included regular top 10 finishes, and barely ever found them flirting with relegation until last season.
A 3-1 defeat at Leeds on the opening day was followed by two consecutive draws, at home to Brentford and away at Preston. Then came the low point of the season so far, a 3-0 defeat at home to newly promoted Wigan, which for the first time prompted discontent from the home crowd. It was a desperately poor performance that saw Stoke fail to register a shot on target, leaving Rowett with plenty to work on to turn things around.
The last three league games, though, appear to show signs that Stoke have turned a corner and can now push up the league table. The Potter’s first win of the campaign, a 2-0 win at home to Hull, was followed by a narrow defeat at West Brom, but with a much-improved performance, before Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
Rowett’s side did surrender a two-goal lead at Hillsborough, but for the first time this season looked to have found the right balance in their side, with Ryan Woods instrumental in midfield and Afobe hitting form up front. Stoke had more than enough chances to win the match and will now be looking for a similar performance at home to Swansea tonight.