Stoke City: 14th - P10 W3 D3 L4
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Stoke manager is someone we don’t particularly like anymore, but we hold no ill will towards The Potters - it’s not their fault I guess. They’re sat three points and nine places below Sunderland in the table, so to find out more about how their season is going we had a chat with Andy Blinston from Every Step Along The Way Podcast...
What’s gone well for you so far this season?
I would say getting rid of Michael O’Neill.
His tactics were not working, and a feeling of negativity has been removed from the club.
Adding to that the selling of players such as Etebo, and Afobe have also added to this factor. In a playing sense, we have found a back four works better than a back five for the time being, but when Harry Souttar is back, the defence will flourish then.
And what’s not gone so well?
Injuries seem to be a common factor for our seasons, and again it has happened so early on this time. Josh Tymon being out for a month or so affected our playing style a lot, then new signing Josh Laurent being out for a similar time made our midfield less physical.
Who’s been your standout player so far?
There can only be one man in my books, and that is Lewis Baker. Ben Wilmot is a close second, but something about Lewis makes Stoke what it is at the moment. Adding to that being joint fourth with four goals this season - all coming from outside the area - is crazy for a midfielder. Our Captain really does know how to put on a show.
Who’s not quite been at the races?
Sam Clucas - that’s all I really need to say. He isn’t the player he was when he came here. Very slow in his playstyle, and just acts like he is here for a paycheck. I hope his form can be re-found, but for now, he is the worst player at the club.
How’s the general feeling regarding your manager?
Having Alex Neil come in was a shock, and I feel like the consensus of him coming in is a positive one. He has injected a positive play style into the team, and I can’t wait to see what he can achieve with a fully fit and firing team.
Where did you think you’d finish before the season started, and has that changed?
I initially had us up in 6th, but I feel like I was a little too optimistic. I can still see us scraping it, but this season, I have no clue where anyone is going to finish, it’s that crazy. I will take us being top ten, but we also have to consider that this is Alex Neil’s first season.
And finally, what’s your impression of Sunderland been so far?
Sunderland have exceeded my expectations in seriousness. I had you finishing around 17th, but with the playing style you guys have had, I can see that reaching top half, if not further. But best of luck for the rest of the season.