Following Stoke City’s 3-0 defeat at home to Wigan last Wednesday night, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that concern was quickly growing amongst supporters so early into the season.
But as we all know a week is a long time in football, and with improved performances against both Hull and Huddersfield, things may already be starting to look up for the Potters going forward.
Manager Gary Rowett returned to The bet365 Stadium on Thursday afternoon on the back of two straight victories, ready to discuss everything from the past week. Here’s everything you need to know.
THE WAIT IS OVER
Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup fixture against Huddersfield will be fondly remembered for one thing: Saido Berahino finally scoring a goal for Stoke City.
That’s right, after 34 appearances and over two and half years, Berahino’s looping header found the net in the 2-0 win, helping send the Potters into the third round. Rowett expressed his delight at the goal, as well as giving some insight into how he’s been getting on since.
“We’ve not trained much after the game, but I think the celebration afterward when he didn’t do a lot was because he was a little bit startled. But I think virtually everybody ran over to him to celebrate which I think shows he’s earned the trust back.
“His goal was deserved on the back of some good performances where he hasn’t had too many chances, but he’s looked bright and sharp.
“I thought the crowd showed his support for him as well because the place erupted and got right behind him.
“I’d be a brave man to leave Saido out after scoring for the first time after two and half years. But ultimately, it’s one goal and we’ll have to make good decisions for this weekend’s game.”
This weekend’s game comes against Berahino’s former side West Bromwich Albion. Rowett explained how this won’t be a factor when picking his XI for the game.
“For me, it doesn’t come into it, I won’t pick the team based on an emotional attachment to clubs they’ve been at.
“We’ll have a different tactical challenge against West Brom, they play a five-at-the-back and one just off a front two, so it gives us something different to think about.
“It might be we choose not to go with a second striker or a ten and if that’s the case then he might have to wait.”
HAS THE CORNER BEEN TURNED?
With two much-improved performances over the past week, including two clean sheets, Rowett was then asked if he felt his side were starting to turn a corner in their campaign.
“I think only the future will dictate whether that is the right statement to make, but what I would say is that we’ve seen some good signs.
“It’s the first time in about a year that the club has won two games on the spin, so it’s a good start and it’s a good habit to get into.
“What we want to do now is to build on what looks like a team with a little bit more synergy, understanding, and a bit more confidence.”
Having not featured for Rowett at all since the start of the new campaign, the club announced that midfielder and club record signing Giannelli Imbula was to leave on loan to Rayo Vallecano. Rowett was on hand to explain the decision.
“We know that he’s a good player, but sometimes the cultural fit isn’t that easy and that’s been difficult for him to adapt to.
“He’s worked hard in training and conducted himself well – and this is a good opportunity to get his career going.”
The club also announced that U23 star Julien Ngoy would be sent on loan to Grasshoppers Zurich, following his loan move to Walsall last season. Speaking to footballfootball.football, Rowett gave some insight into how the move came about.
“Zurich came in for him and it was deemed a good opportunity for him, it was one that he wanted to pursue as well.
“I think when you get to that point of players who don’t look as close to the first team as you’d maybe like, then you’ve got to go and get the best level of football for him.
“Some loans are development loans, some are there to increase value and give an opportunity to play at a higher level, and we’ll view them all in different ways.”
Following the announcement of his squad for the UEFA Nations League fixtures in September, Gareth Southgate once again named Jack Butland as one of his three goalkeeping options. However, despite naming him in the squad, the England boss did not shy away from saying that Butland may struggle to retain his place due to not playing in the Premier League.
Rowett gave his thoughts on Southgate’s comments and said the squad should be based on performance, rather than the league you’re in.
“I hugely respect Gareth and it’s his job to pick what he thinks is the best squad for him. The only thing I would say is that playing in the Premier League only gives you more exposure, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not playing well.
“All I would hope is that he’s judged on his performances rather than which division he’s playing in.”
ON WEST BROM
Rowett and his side will travel to the Hawthorns looking to carry on their run of two straight victories, as they face another relegated side for the first time this season. Here’s what he has to say when asked about facing the Baggies on Saturday:
“Their squad has got a lot of players who have played at the top end of the Championship and a lot of players physically who have performed at this level before.
“It’s a different challenge, but ultimately they’re a team like us. They’ve come down and wanted to start well, we’ve probably started the poorer of the three relegated teams and we want to try to atone to that.”
The international break returns after Saturday’s game, with the dreaded two week period often the killer of any momentum made by sides before it. Speaking to footballfootball.football, Rowett explained that it won’t have as much of an impact as some may think:
“It is what it is, you know it comes before the start of the season. When you’ve won games you get a chance for a breather, a chance to reflect, and when you’ve lost games you can look at it a different way.
“I think we’re going to use this break to get some work into the players that are here, so we’ll still train and I think really it’s a good chance to reflect on the opening period of the season and how we can improve.”
The Potters will now travel to The Hawthorns to face a difficult test against a West Brom side who have started adequately under Darren Moore, with seven points from their first five games.
A win for Gary Rowett’s side could see them rise as high as 8th, where they would leapfrog their hosts, who they have not beaten at The Hawthorns since 2014.