Premier League Preview - Stoke City
MANAGER: Tony Pulis
STADIUM: Britannia Stadium (27740)
LAST SEASON: 14TH
A side that were formerly seen as punching above their weight, the Potters are now firmly established in their right class with a brand of football that would make the purist shirk, but the results that accompany will leave only said purist longing for more. Pulis has brought European football to the Britannia, something previously unthinkable in recent memory.
Stoke started last season in somewhat of a lull but picked up positive results at good times to see them surge to a respectable 14th in the table - certainly not something to snub given the steady growth of the club in recent years.
IN: Michael Kightly (Wolves, £2m), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo, undisclosed), Jamie Ness (Rangers, free), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan)
OUT: Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough, free), Andrew Davies (Bradford, free), Salif Diao (released), Ricardo Fuller (released), Louis Moult (released), Tom Soares (released)
Peter Crouch is the figurehead for a Potters side that will undoubtedly look to improve once more this season, moving from mere consistency to growth and development, in a bid to get into the top half. Michael Kightly is an inclusion that will send tongues a flutter given his injury record at Wolverhampton Wanderers, nevertheless his potential is not in question.
A European adventure has been something of a rarity for Stoke City, and it may have somewhat hindered their Premier League progress. Now that they can concentrate on their league form, it could prove effective as they look for a more positive beginning this time out.
KEY PLAYER: Peter Crouch
The large centre forward proved his worth at City in his first season scoring ten goals as Stoke could only muster a 14th placed finish. However Crouch's influence in the forward line was useful outlet for their well-documented brand of play. He is a key outlet for Stoke and with a little more luck as far as he's concerned he can better his tally of ten last term.
I expect Stoke to take a step forward this year in the Premier League given their focus is solely on domestic action. Their previous sluggish start should now be addressed and they will I`m sure be positive in their approach coming into the new campaign.