Hughes’ Biggest 90 Minutes
Whilst there may be plenty of national fanfare regarding Tony Pulis’ 1,000th match in charge, there is no doubt that Mark Hughes’ 142nd game as Stoke boss is his most important.
The visit of West Brom is often a fixture supporters relish, and this weekend is no different- although there may well be a bit of trepidation related to the excitement.
Hughes is on thin ice following a disastrous run that has seen Stoke win just six times in the Premier League in 2016- three of which were against sides that have now been relegated.
A spell of 15 games without a clean sheet is the club’s worst run in the Premier League, and that is likely to see Lee Grant, 33, make his Premier League debut against West Brom. The man he will replace- Shay Given- has leaked goals at an alarming rate. One every 32 minutes since making his Premier League bow in April, to be precise.
One win in 12 matches is, quite frankly, relegation form. The free flowing Stoke City of late last year has been replaced by a nervous squad that are making error after error.
But there were plenty of positives to be taken from the midweek defeat to Hull. The loss was harsh on a Stoke side that dominated throughout, and with more punch in front of goal it could have been the side’s biggest victory under Hughes. Ramadan Sobhi’s outing was particularly pleasing and he’ll hopefully play some part against the Baggies.
Players and supporters should take heart from the team performance ahead of what feels like one of the biggest matches for quite some time. It may only be the sixth match of the league season, but you really feel that, at the very least, this is a must not lose game for Hughes.
Even a draw- coupled with defeat at Manchester United next weekend- may not be enough to keep him in the job, if reports are to be believed.
But putting the pessimistic view aside, a victory could explode our season to life. And that is what we all must focus on come 3pm.
If ever there was a time to back the team it’s now. Supporters were pivotal in helping us avoid relegation in the opening few years in the Premier League, and we must recapture the spirit of yesteryear to bring the bet365 Stadium to life.
The fact that Pulis is in town is quite fitting- he knows just how hard this place can be to visit when it rocks. So let’s make it rock tomorrow.
Congratulations on your 1,000 games Mr Pulis, but tomorrow needs to be our day.
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