Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stoke City versus Boro; at Bet365 Stadium Today (5.30Pm Kick-Off)

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stoke City versus Boro; at Bet365 Stadium Today (5.30Pm Kick-Off)

Article excerpt


Opposition view STOKE suffered early season 'culture shock' after relegation to the Championship but are starting to show signs they are maybe finding their feet.

We asked Martin Spinks, City reporter for the Stoke Sentinel for the lowdown.

How has the season panned out so far? "It has been very erratic, very unpredictable and you never really know what you are in for from one game to the next.

"They had a sticky start, especially at home where they felt the pressure of expectation on one hand and had to deal with teams who came to sit deep and make it very difficult on the other.

"They leaked a lot of goals early on and there were a few setbacks and that dented confidence a bit.

"And I think there was a bit of culture shock too. Stoke had been up in the Premier League a long time and you forget exactly how much of a grind the Championship can be... it takes time to adjust.

"They are starting to find their feet now though. They have tightened up. A few times they have come from behind and shown resilience and they are not far behind the pack now so there are reasons to be positive."

How have expectations changed since August? "I think you become realistic very quickly in this league.

"A lot of people around the club and a lot of supporters in the summer assumed we'd be right up there.

"They signed a lot of players and were pre-season favourites. We started off talking about top two, and then we were talking about the top six. I think that is where most people believe we are now, a team battling for a play-off place.

"For a while Stoke were stuck down in the bottom half and it looked ominous, but they have stabilised a bit now and a had a good run and suddenly it is just five points to the play-offs.

"Boro is seen as a big test because of where they are and who the manager is but if Stoke can get a positive result then suddenly things will look a lot brighter."

What shape and style can we expect? …

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