Stoke City: Have they Stopped Progressing under Mark Hughes?

Stoke City: Have they Stopped Progressing under Mark Hughes?

During the 2007/08 Championship season, Tony Pulis won promotion with Stoke City to the Premier League, finishing runners-up to West Bromwich Albion. Many would have been unable to predict what would follow for the Potters, with the club still holding their place in the top flight to this day.

The following season, Pulis guided Stoke to a 12th-placed finish, whilst West Brom finished bottom of the Premier League table. The other promoted side, Hull City, meanwhile, avoided relegation by the finest of margins – although they have since yo-yoed between the Premier League and Championship.

Pulis did a wonderful job of establishing Stoke in the top flight, managing the Potters until 2013, when the club’s current manager, Mark Hughes, replaced him. The Welshman has taken Stoke to the next level, bringing in new faces and fresh ideas, along with delivering the club’s highest Premier League finish.

For the past three seasons, under Hughes’ leadership, Stoke have finished ninth in the Premier League table, breaking the 50-point barrier in every season. However, during the 2016/17 campaign, the Potters have not reached the same heights, currently sitting 13th on 41 points, with just two fixtures of the season remaining.

Hughes’ side are an outside 11/1 to finish inside the top-ten for a fourth successive season but with these offers on Footy Accumulators punters can take the edge off such an unlikely wager with a range of free bets and early cash-out options. With difficult fixtures against Arsenal and Southampton remaining though, it is extremely unlikely that Stoke will achieve the same feat as they have done in the previous three years.

This season is undoubtedly the most disappointing under Hughes’ guide, but despite an apparent step backwards, things need to be put into perspective at Stoke. The money involved in the top-flight means it is a necessity that the Potters remain in the Premier League, and with relegation never a serious worry for the club this season, Hughes should be given credit.

Everybody associated with Stoke will want the club to move to the next stage, and it is important that they maintain a level of ambition. However, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Premier League’s elite will be broken anytime soon, with Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United dominating the top of the division.

For a club to repeat Leicester City’s Premier League victory again we could be waiting ten years, maybe even longer, as the club’s who are currently occupying the top six have the money to remain there for the foreseeable future, making Stoke’s chances of progressing from mid-table to challenge for Europe, unlikely.

Hughes has brought a fresh approach to Stoke, with players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan featuring during Hughes’ time with the club, a stark contrast to the players who featured under Pulis, during the club’s early days in the Premier League.

It is again looking like Hughes will rebuild, and his main signing from last summer, Joe Allen, has enjoyed a fine first season with Stoke. The Welsh midfielder has scored six goals and added two assists across the campaign, transforming himself into a box-to-box midfielder that has caused so many problems for the opposition.

It is easy to look at Stoke’s season as a disappointment, particularly with the club set to finish in their lowest position since 2013, but it must be remembered where they were in 2007, when establishing themselves in the top-flight will have only seemed like a dream.

The 2017/18 campaign will mark Stoke’s tenth in the Premier League, and it is crucial that Hughes is given time and the opportunity to deliver an improved finish on this season because, as he has shown before, he is more than capable of moving the club onto the next level.