Stoke eye positive start to their third season in the top flight
Stoke City begin their Premier League campaign at Molineux on Saturday as they look for a positive start to their third straight season in the top flight.
Potters fans will be lifted by the record signing of £8m Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones -a player who should slot perfectly into Tony Pulis’ set-up at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis is deciding whether or not to start Jones against Wolves while Glenn Whelan is a doubt, with Abdoulaye Faye and Liam Lawrence both injured.
Stoke have enjoyed a positive pre-season, recording four wins, one defeat and a draw, including a 2-1 victory over relegated Burnley.
Trinidad and Tobago international Jones is one of only two summer signings, following Carlo Nash from Everton, as Pulis keeps faith in the players who finished 11th last season, and 12th in their debut season.
Steve Simonsen, Andy Griffin, James Beattie and Amdy Faye have all left the club, while Louis Moult, Diego Arismendi and Ibrahima Sonko have all been loaned out.
There is little doubt that the long-ball game that has favoured Stoke throughout their two seasons in the Premier League will rear its head again.
Rory Delap is of course again certain to have a major influence with his infamous throw-ins, while Ryan Shawcross and Matthew Etherington will need to be influential again this term if the club is to improve on last year’s finish. The latter pair were both unlucky to miss out on a World Cup call-up after fantastic seasons, and Pulis will once again be looking to get the best out of them.
Shawcross especially will surely be in the frame for an England call-up should he start this season as well as he did the last. It will also be interesting to see if the former Manchester United man has fully gotten over the accidental challenge that broke Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s leg.
New signing Jones will need to find the form which attracted Tottenham last summer. It was rumoured the 25-year-old striker had fallen out with Steve Bruce at Sunderland. Pulis will be hoping the forward, who took a significant pay cut to join Stoke, will settle in swiftly at the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters look set to once again cause problems for the top teams, while another good cup run will keep morale high at the Britannia Stadium. A respectable league finish will be needed for further high-profile signings such as Jones to be expected in future.