On Tuesday evening Stoke City announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as their new manager.
The 44-year-old replaces Paul Lambert, who departed the club following relegation from the Premier League, and now faces the task of building a team capable of making an immediate return to the top-flight.
Rowett led Derby County to the Championship play-offs this season, ultimately losing out to Fulham, and is regarded as one of the brightest, young British managers in the country. Stoke were previously linked with the former Burton Albion and Birmingham City manager in January and have reportedly paid around £2 million in compensation to secure his services.
However, whilst the Potters may possess a superior budget to many of their counterparts in the Championship an immediate return to the Premier League is certainly not guaranteed. The playing squad requires a dramatic overhaul during the summer and the second tier of English football is notoriously unpredictable and competitive.
Here, The Boot Room highlights three key areas that Rowett must address in order to revive Stoke’s fortunes.
Convince big-name players to stay
When a club is relegated from the Premier League they normally undergo a rapid fire sale of their best players in order to reduce the wage bill and balance the books.
However, that is not necessarily the case with Stoke. The Potters are in a solid financial position and are funded by Peter Coates, owner of online betting company Bet365, who is a local entrepreneur and has the club’s best intentions at heart.
The first task for Rowett will be to try and convince some of Stoke’s star assets to remain at the Bet365 Stadium and lead a promotion challenge.
Whilst figures such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Jack Butland are almost certainly likely to depart the club during the summer, there are others that might be tempted to stay put.
Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer have already tentatively suggested that they might be willing to remain whilst Rowett should also focus on keeping hold of other key figures such as Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Badou Ndiaye.
Stoke will be more capable of building a squad capable of challenging for promotion if Rowett can convince some of the key figures in the squad to stay.
Get things right in the transfer market
One key factor in Stoke’s downfall over the previous two years has been the club’s horrendous transfer policy.
It is amazing to think that the Potters have spent £12 million on Saido Berahino, who has yet to score a goal for the club, £18 million on Kevin Wimmer, who was demoted to the under-23 squad for much of the season, and a further £18.3 million on Giannelli Imbula, who spent the year on loan in France.
Quite simply, Rowett cannot afford to make similar, costly mistakes as he overhauls the team during the summer.
The club need to move away from so-called ‘big name’ players who have little affection for the club, such as Jese Rodriguez, and ageing stalwarts that are entering the twilight of their careers, such as Darren Fletcher. Stoke need to build a young, hungry and dynamic team that are motivated, driven and still have everything to prove.
However, that is certainly easier said than done.
Rowett will be handed a significant transfer budget, which will be further increased by players sales, to build a team capable of securing promotion and he needs to ensure that the money is spent much more wisely than it has been in the recent past.
Re-discover Stoke’s identity
Over the previous two years Stoke have gradually lost their idiosyncratic identity – much to the detriment of the club. The Potters have always been at their best when they have a clear identity, philosophy and direction.
Under Tony Pulis, Stoke were characterised as a hard working, well organised team that employed a direct style of football that relied on transferring the ball into the opponents eighteen yard box as often as possible. It was not to everyone’s taste, but it was effective and supporters knew exactly what they were going to get.
Mark Hughes altered that identity and built a team that was characterised by foreign flair, technical brilliance and a possession-based style of play. Three consecutive top half finishes followed and the media referred to the club as ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to the team’s new style of play.
It was when Hughes began to move away from that definitive identity that the Potters lost all sense of direction.
It is vital that Rowett implements his own footballing philosophy and creates a clear, definitive identity that the Stoke supporters can unite behind. The philosophies of Pulis and Hughes probably sit at extreme, contrasting ends of the spectrum and the 44-year-old may be aiming to find the middle ground that balances hard work, discipline and creativity.