Stoke City were tipped for an immediate return to the Premier League by many before the start of the season.
The Potters enjoyed a successful summer transfer window, at least on the face of it, managing to retain the services of most of their key players, with Xherdan Shaqiri’s transfer to Liverpool the only major departure.
Also, Stoke managed to convince Gary Rowett, a manager with a proven track record in the Championship, to leave his role at Derby County, after guiding The Rams to the play-offs last season, and replace the departing Paul Lambert.
Rowett was backed in the transfer window, with a plethora of players with proven Championship quality arriving, including Tom Ince, Benik Afobe, James McClean, Sam Clucas, Ryan Woods and Ashley Williams. However, despite these additions Stoke are yet to find any sort of momentum so far this season, having won just two of their opening nine games and taking just nine points leaving them in a lowly 18th place.
Wednesday night’s 3-2 defeat at fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, followed last weekend’s defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers by the same score line, and was indicative of Stoke’s season so far. In both games Stoke fell 3-0 behind before rallying to pull two goals back, as once again Rowett’s side were disorganised in defence, with experienced defenders making far too many individual mistakes, and leaving The Potter’s with too much to do to find a way back into the game.
Stoke were relegated from the Premier League last season, largely, down to some horrendous defending that saw them concede 68 goals in their 38 matches last campaign. Rowett was brought in to find a solution to Stoke’s poor defending, with a reputation of creating a solid defence for his sides to build on at both Birmingham City and Derby. However, he has so far been unable to solve The Potters’ defensive frailties, and his side have the joint second worst defensive record in the Championship, having conceded 16 goals, heading into Saturday’s trip to Rotherham.
Stoke’s owners have a history of backing their managers and giving them an opportunity to turn things around, rather than dismissing their manager at the first sign of trouble. This arguably cost them last season, with Mark Hughes given more time than most clubs would have afforded him, before eventually replacing him with Lambert too late on in the season. Despite this Rowett will be under ever increasing pressure the longer his sides poor form continues, a victory at Rotherham, which will be far easy given The Millers impressive home record, will be vital to ease the pressure and lift the mood around the club.