It has not been an easy time for Nathan Jones.
What has gone wrong at Stoke?
With Stoke in the relegation zone and still looking for their first win, Adam Bate examines the club’s problems.
At times Stoke have been unlucky but there are times where Jones also hasn’t helped himself. On Tuesday, even with his side crying out for a win, he made a host of changes to his side for their trip to Crawley. They drew 1-1 after ending the tie with 10 men, before being dumped out on penalties.
“Pretty much every higher-league club made changes, and we didn’t actually lose the game we lost it on penalties,” he says defiantly. “I expected we had enough to have won that game, but I misjudged it.
“The first 45 minutes was as poor as I have seen from a group of my players since I have been a manager, but in the second half we came out and controlled the game. Then, another rash decision costs us and we end up drawing the game.
“Errors have cost us and we have had a bit of bad luck in terms of sendings off, penalty decisions and so on, and it does seem like everything has gone against us. But we can’t hide behind that because at the minute we haven’t been good enough. With the level of players we have here we are underachieving. I make no bones about that, and that falls with me.
“We have tried to be dominant in every game and in the early part of the season we were statistically as good as any side in the division. That has slightly changed now with certain things, but the performances have given me enough hope to know we can turn this around.”
Stoke were expected to win promotion straight back to the Premier League after being relegated in 2018. They managed to keep the majority of their squad together and made some big signings, but bouncing back from the drop is never easy, and their struggles in the Championship have only served to highlight the difficulties at the club that triggered their demise in the first place. It hasn’t, after all, been too long since the Potters were regulars in the top half of the top flight.
“It has happened to Leeds, Sunderland and other clubs that are used to playing in the Premier League,” said Jones. “Suddenly you can go on a downward spiral and it is important to arrest that curve before it continues.
“Much has been made of the problems here. I came in with my eyes open over what we had to do, but it has taken longer than I thought, not just in terms of results, but also in changing certain things. We knew what we had to do and it has taken time.
“The last 10 days are the only times I have been able to pick from a full squad, and it has been very unsettled. But we are not hiding behind that, because even with all the uncertainty we know we should be getting better results. But I know the good work we have done behind the scenes, and I know the platform is here to put the club standing in good stead for a long time.
“I know either I get results or I will be replaced because that is the nature of the business, and I have absolutely no problem with that. But we know the work we have done and the owners have as well, that is why they have given us the patience they have. Now it is time to start repaying that faith.”
Luton were very much a club on an upward trajectory under Jones when he left at the start of this year. They went onto win League One and the irony that they are now above Stoke in the table won’t be lost on him.
But does he regret his decision to make the move? Not one bit.