Reading boss and ex-Stoke City coach Mark Bowen says he is surprised at his former club’s woeful season as the two sides prepare to meet at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
Bowen, who was assistant coach at the Potters under friend and former fellow Welsh international Mark Hughes, took over at the Madejski in October after replacing Jose Gomes.
He has won four of his nine games in charge with the Royals currently 18th in the table – five points above 22nd placed Stoke who occupy the last remaining relegation place.
The Potters have endured a miserable season so far with Nathan Jones sacked just 10 months into the job.
He was replaced by Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill and although he has won half of his games in charge he has struggled to get consistent results to claw them out of trouble.
After spending over four years in the Potteries, Bowen admitted he was surprised at Stoke’s capitulation this season and called them a “wounded animal”.
However, he was also wary of the threat they still pose given the players O’Neill has at his disposal.
He told Stoke-on-Trent Live: “Stoke played on Tuesday – they will have had an extra day of recovery compared to us (who drew at Barnsley on Wednesday) and an extra day to work on things.
“It is a strange situation that Stoke are in, with where they are in the table – they’re like a wounded animal.
“You only need to look at the squad and the list of names they have got to choose from, and it’s certainly a strong squad. I’m sure everybody in the country is surprised where they have been so far this season, but if they start getting on a roll, they can be dangerous.
“They got a result on Tuesday and they’ll have their backs up. It’ll be a really tough encounter for us. I know from my four years there that it is a difficult place for any team to go there and get a result.
”Confidence grows quickly, and it can dissipate quickly as well. At the moment we’ve been a little bit fragile in our confidence, and that happens. We have to play through it – and while you’re in periods like that of 15 or 20 minutes in a game, you try to make sure you don’t concede. If it goes on for the whole game, try to get something out of the game.
“We all have to be patient with each other, and I’m sure the fans feel that they have had to be patient for far too long! But we’re in the situation as it is and we want to grow and build together and put points on the board together.”