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It’s been an emotional ride for Stoke fans ever since their promotion to the top flight back in 2008. On the one hand, they’ve managed to turn the Bet365 Stadium into a “fortress” and teams up and down the country are wary of an away game at Stoke. However, not finishing higher than 9th, and their 13th place finish last season has some fans questioning their manager. The 2017/18 season is “make or break time” and Stoke simply have to challenge for the coveted Europa League spots.
The slightly dull but robust and hardworking football that fans became accustomed to under Pulis has changed dramatically. Mark Hughes should be praised for his recruitment of fine players, such as Berahino, Afellay, and Shaqiri. However, many of these players haven’t really lived up to expectation, and they simply must perform better this season. The signing of Choupo Moting turned a few heads, but he’s been very impressive so far this season.
Despite their opening day loss to high spending Everton, Stoke have been mightily impressive so far. They were magnificent against Arsenal, their resolute defending sent a strong message to the other teams that they will be extremely hard to beat at home. But despite only picking up a point, their home draw to Manchester United was an ever-stronger statement of intent. Scoring twice against a team that hadn’t conceded previously this season, and being the first team to take any points from Mourinho’s side, was surely a massive confidence booster for the players and the manager. Mark Hughes was vocal in the build-up to the game, saying he could spot weaknesses in United’s ranks, and his game plan worked almost to perfection. Capturing Jese on-loan from PSG may well prove to be a masterstroke. The Spanish footballer has taken well to the Premier League, and all the signs suggest he will have a terrific season.
The great start has silenced many of Hughes’s critics, but should they start to falter the boo boys will be back out in force. When the former Manchester United and Barcelona legend joined the club, there was plenty of optimism, but several poor seasons put his position in serious jeopardy, and the fans demand nothing less than a top half finish. With the squad, he’s assembled, Stoke should be challenging for the Europa League spots, especially considering how poor West Ham and Everton have been so far this season.
Premier League managers have become an endangered species in recent years, with managers getting the sack as soon as things go south. Just this week Frank De Boer was fired by Crystal Palace, after just 77 days in the job. It’s unlikely Mark Hughes will be axed anytime soon, but another bottom half finish won’t do him any favors.
At the start of the 2016/17 season, the second oldest professional club in English football signed a new sponsorship deal with Bet365. The sportsbook is hugely popular in the UK with the Bet365 app has been downloaded by thousands. The new deal meant the famous Britannia Stadium would be renamed the Bet365 Stadium.
Although this deal was a huge financial boost for the Potters, some old-school fans still have an issue with selling the naming rights. Chelsea and Manchester United fans would gag at the very thought of renaming their stadiums after a corporation, but they have the luxury of a global fan base and huge revenue streams. The world’s favorite online betting company have been sponsoring Stoke City since 2012, and have enjoyed a good working relationship, which looks set to continue.
With new sponsorship deals and new blood in the team the future looks bright for Stoke City. It remains to be seen if Mark Hughes is the man to lead them into the future. 2017/18 season is all to play for.