Opposition View : Stoke City

access_time 3 weeks ago

We caught up with Pete Smith, Stoke City reporter for Stoke on Trent Live, to preview this Sunday’s third round clash at the Bet365 Stadium.

Peter, Stoke are almost half way through the season now, is there a positive outlook on how the season has gone so far?

The curve has started to go the wrong way but the season is pretty finely poised. Stoke are eighth and five points outside the Championship play-off places with two games in hand.

The trouble is a pretty devastating injury list. The spine of the team has taken a whack and Joe Bursik, Harry Souttar, Nick Powell, Jordan Thompson and Romaine Sawyers have been particularly missed.

The good work done in a bright start is in danger of unravelling before they are fit again.

 

Michael O’Neill has been at the club over two years now – has he built that stability the club was looking for?

Stability was definitely needed after four managers left inside two years.

O’Neill inherited a bloated and unbalanced squad put together by all those and it’s still taking time to put right.

He’s basically been trying to dismantle a failing and expensively assembled group of players and build a new one on a tight budget at the same time, while making sure he gets results in the short-term. A tricky job.

Play offs are surely the aim for the club this year. But how can an FA cup run help and galvanise this Stoke team?

Stoke made the Carabao Cup quarter-finals last season and that run gave a chance for young players like Souttar and Nathan Collins to stake their claims to become regulars.

On the back of a difficult couple of games, a win and morale booster is much needed.

O’Neill is searching for a winning formula and system he can rely on without several key players and this is a real chance for any player to show they should be a part of that.

Stoke will be the favourites for the encounter, but are the Potters aware or cautious of the Leyton Orient threat or is there a relaxed mood going into the clash?

Firstly, Stoke haven’t won an FA Cup game since 2016 so they – and certainly Stoke supporters – are not taking anything for granted.

There have been painful defeats to lower league sides Shrewsbury, Coventry and Wolves in the last five years.

O’Neill will know about Aaron Drinan from his knowledge of Irish football and Stoke fans of a certain age will just be hoping there isn’t a new Ricky Otto ready to surprise everyone.

If the club don’t make the play-offs this year, will the season be considered a failure in Staffordshire?

Play-offs was and is certainly the objective and it would be disappointing not to sustain a serious challenge.

To be fair, Stoke have kept in the top six for most of the season so far until recent postponements so we’ll wait and see how it pans out after a busy January.

The injuries are the mitigating factor. Any side would be kyboshed if you take out five key players. The sooner that one, two or three are back, the better.

Stoke were FA Cup finalists in 2011, you’ve first hand seen the beauty of this competition. Despite obstacles, the third round of the FA cup still has that charm doesn’t it?

Absolutely. That FA Cup run, particularly beating Bolton 5-0 in the semi-final at Wembley, will always be one of the major highlights of any Stoke supporter’s life.

The players will remain heroes, the memories are golden.

It’s tempting to talk about unfinished business – and it’s a big shame that the Stoke team that held its own in the Premier League for the best part of a decade doesn’t have anything tangible to show for that in the honours list – but everyone looks back with pride.

It certainly feels a long time ago and an even longer way back but no one who was there will ever not get a tingle from the FA Cup.

Ticket information for the clash on Sunday can be found below – 

Stoke City (A) Ticket FAQs – Leyton Orient FC