Stoke City were favourites to go down in their first season in the Premier League, but they’ve since proved everybody wrong.
Can Mark Hughes improve on his team’s ninth place finish from the 2014-15 season?
History in Premier League
Stoke City were in the third tier of the Football League during the Premier League’s first season (1992-93).
Stoke were promoted to the Premier League on the final day of the 2007–08 season, having secured a 2nd place finish in the Championship under Tony Pulis.
After a 3-1 loss to Bolton on the opening day of their first season in the top flight, Stoke became clear favourites for the drop among both pundits and bookmakers alike.
However, the Potters’ fortunes turned around quickly, and the Britannia Stadium became known as a ‘fortress’, where visiting teams struggled to pick up points.
In their first game at home, Stoke beat Aston Villa 3–2, while Pulis also led his side to wins over Spurs, Arsenal, Sunderland and West Brom. Finally, a 2-1 away win at Hull ensured Stoke’s survival in the top flight.
During the 2010–11 season, a 3-0 win over West Brom was the first time since 1983-84 that the Potters had won three consecutive matches in the top flight. Their biggest Premier League win to date came in May 2015, when they beat Liverpool 6-1.
After what many fans saw as an unfair sacking by Manchester City in 2009 and an unsuccessful spell at QPR, Hughes is making real waves at the Britannia Stadium.
While his predecessor, Pulis, built solid foundations at Stoke, Hughes has brought a new brand of entertaining football to the club. He was able to lead his side to its highest ever points tally of 54 in the 2014-15 season.
This remarkable transformation led us to suggest back in August 2015 that Mark Hughes could lay claim to being the best manager in the country.
28-year-old Stoke captain, Ryan Shawcross is undoubtedly Stoke’s main man. Although he has been absent from the side as a result of a recent injury, his fitness upon his imminent return will play a key part in Stoke’s chances of achieving a top 10 finish.
When he’s fully fit and match-sharp, Shawcross can mean the difference between a good and bad result. This evident in the large number of clean sheets the team kept under his supervision, despite the fact that he hasn’t figured in many games.
In terms of whether Stoke will finish the season in the top or bottom half of the league, we reckon it could go either way for Hughes’ men.
If Shawcross can get fit and stay that way, we think they’ll definitely finish in the top 10, although we doubt their chances of ending their campaign in the top six.