Opposing View: Stoke City
What were your hopes, fears & expectations for the season?
With only a couple weeks left of pre-season I was seriously worried for our safety in the division, especially after seeing our difficult start to the season, but by the time the transfer window closed shut I was a very optimistic man. The additions to the squad of Adam, Kightly, Cameron, Owen & N'Zonzi has left a fresh breeze running through the Britannia Stadium, and I expect us to finish in the top half for the first time and have a decent F.A. Cup run.
How do Stoke City keep improving year-on-year?
We keep improving each year by nicking your players haha. Well that how we started off anyways but we have now moved on to pastures new and seemed to have upgraded (no offence) to purchasing players who have lost their way from the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool ala Charlie Adam. These are players who still have something to prove at this level therefore we see the best out of them. Our tendency to also purchase players from the relegated sides has helped us to develop a stable Premier League side.
Will not being in Europe help the side's Premier League performance this term?
I think it will help a little but last year we tended to play fringe players in Europe so we couldn't really have many complaints, but it did stretch the squad a little towards the end of the season when injuries started to kick in. It also didn't help that we played away after every European away fixture. Your team was one of the main beneficiaries of that sequence last season.
Am I alone in thinking that Stoke's style of play has developed significantly since they first arrived in the top flight?
Our system has significantly changed this season after a major overhaul of our midfield. We now have players that are calm on the ball and can pick out a pass, together with attacking full backs and a new formation we are starting to look a very good footballing side without losing our grit and determination. This was all evident in the first half of our fixture at the weekend at Old Trafford, where we dominated and ran Man Utd ragged.
Who will be the key man on Saturday?
I can never see past Peter Crouch when this question is posed to me. He does so much running along with holding the ball up and also being creative. He also scores a fair few goals and you will have to keep him quiet at the weekend if you want to take anything away from the Brit.
One player you'd drive to his next club & why?
Ryan Shotton. I just don't like the lad. He is not good enough for this level and is also bit of a johnny big time off the pitch. His attitude stinks and I think the club as a whole would be better off without him.
One Sunderland player you'd poach & why?
This is a tough one. There are a few players I would love to add to the Stoke squad, but if I had to choose I think it would be Fletcher, just pipping Johnson. Fletcher's work rate and eye for goal would be perfect at Stoke, and his tendency to bag with his head would be well supplied at the Britannia Stadium.
Our play has really been good this season and we have been unlucky not to pick up more than one win and I just have the feeling that someone could get a good hammering off us and it may be you at the weekend. I'm going go with a 3-0 Stoke victory.