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A new sense of positivity and optimism at Stoke City – but why?

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Stoke City

A new sense of positivity and optimism at Stoke City – but why?

After a football club suffers relegation there normally follows a period of frustration, dejection and gloom for the supporters as they begin to acclimatise to the idea of watching their team compete in a lower tier.

That sense of gloom is normally enhanced for teams that drop out of the Premier League. The Championship has little of the glitz, glamour or prestige of the top flight of English football and it is a notoriously difficult league to escape from.

However, the current atmosphere among Stoke City supporters is cautiously optimistic and there is a new air of positivity around the Bet365 Stadium.

A decade-long stay in the Premier League came to an unceremonious end in May after The Potters trudged through a tumultuous campaign in which they never truly looked like escaping the drop.

In truth, the club had begun to stagnate amid an air of complacency as the hierarchy, management, players and supporters grew used to the glamour of the top flight. However, as Stoke ultimately found, if you begin to settle and tread water in the Premier League then you will quickly find yourself sinking.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

New found optimism

The Stoke City hierarchy have moved quickly since the end of the campaign to instigate the reconstruction of the club.

The arrival of Gary Rowett was a shrewd piece of business and the former Burton Albion, Birmingham City and Derby County manager has brought fresh energy, enthusiasm and optimism to the Bet365 Stadium.

The 44-year-old is widely regarded as being one of the most promising young coaches in Britain and he is a figure that the club’s supporters have been able to quickly unite behind

Rowett came across as calm, focused and driven in his inaugural press conference and his early activity at Stoke has helped to generate a positive atmosphere and build some momentum even at this early stage of the summer.

The Potters have already begun to flex their financial muscle by signing two new players and the suggestion appears to be that these will be the first of many.

Nigerian international Oghenekaro Etebo was the first to arrive after a £6.35 million deal with Feirense was agreed in early June. The 22-year-old is a box-to-box central midfielder who is physically powerful, tenacious and will bring plenty of energy to a side that was criticised for lacking pace and dynamism last season.

 

Etebo is likely to form an intimidating partnership with Joe Allen who, despite initial suggestions that he would depart The Potters following relegation, has signed a new contract.

It is undoubtedly a significant coup for Rowett that he has been able to convince the Welshman to remain at the Bet365 Stadium to lead a promotion challenge and it further signifies that the club have little intention of being excluded from the top-flight for more than a season.

Benik Afobe became Stoke’s second summer signing last week after joining from Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The 25-year-old had joined Wolves in January and scored six goals as the club won The Championship title and secured promotion to the Premier League. However, just 11 days after moving to Molineux on a permanent deal the striker the signed for The Potters.

The logistics of the deal may have been somewhat unorthodox, but the transfer signifies that Stoke are determined to mount of promotion challenge this campaign. The club scored only 35 league goals last year and the arrival of Afobe, a proven goal scorer, is a significant coup.

However, it appears that Stoke are only just beginning to get started.

The club have been heavily linked with moves for Watford striker Andre Gray and Newcastle United forward Dwight Gayle as Rowett looks to build an intimidating frontline. It is not beyond reason that Stoke could start the season with a better strike force in The Championship than they possessed when relegation from the Premier League was confirmed in May.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

A clear intention

It is clear that Stoke City will be a force to be reckoned with in the Sky Bet Championship and that the club are determined to return to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

The appointment of Gary Rowett has set the tone and the fact that the club were willing to prize away the manager of a direct rival signifies their intent. He is a figure that the supporters can united behind and his experience of operating in The Championship will be key if The Potters are to build a promotion challenge.

Furthermore, the arrivals of Oghenekaro Etebo and Benik Afobe coupled with the news that Joe Allen in set to remain at the club has generated fresh energy, enthusiasm and optimism around the Bet365 Stadium.

In short, there is a new-found sense of urgency and direction throughout the club. Relegation has been swiftly forgotten and Stoke supporters are now looking forward to a campaign in which their team will be expected to be among those challenging for the title.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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