Stoke City Analysis and Opinion

It’s been another frustrating week for Gary Rowett. Two almost identical near-comebacks against Blackburn and Nottingham Forest had fans wondering what might have been, especially after missing vital chances late on in each match.

Rowett has now certainly got a much bigger job on his hands than anyone would have imagined prior to the season, with his team now gearing up to face newly-promoted Rotherham United in Saturday’s late kick-off.

The Stoke boss returned to meet the media at The bet365 Stadium on Thursday, eager to put this past week behind him and look ahead to Saturday’s game. Here’s everything you need to know from this week’s press conference.

DEJA VU

Having the exact same scoreline in two matches within the same week isn’t exactly something you see all the time in football, let alone seeing the game play out exactly the same way throughout the 90 minutes. After almost completing two identical comebacks in the same week, Rowett was on hand to dissect both performances.

He said:

“I keep expecting Bill Murray to walk and Groundhog Day to start all over again! What’s difficult for me is to put a different spin on it, when we’ve suffered the same type of game as Saturday it’s frustrating. I thought again we started really brightly [against Nottingham Forest], and that makes the mistake for the first goal even more galling.”
“It doesn’t matter how you play, if you’re at 3-0 at any point home or away, you’ve got a massive job on your hands to turn it around. As it is, twice in two games we’ve nearly done exactly that and actually should’ve done.”

“We have to be intelligent in the way we are trying to change things but ultimately we have to eradicate the errors because quite clearly we’re making it hard for ourselves. We have to give forwards chances to win games, not just get back into them.”

FEELING THE PRESSURE?

Despite explaining what needs to happen with his team’s performance on the pitch, Rowett was also keen to explain that he understands that some of the responsibility from poor results will be associated with himself.

“I hope I never shy away from that. I could very easily try to find as many reasons as I could to try and take pressure away from myself. But I deserve the pressure at the moment and I understand that pressure.”

“I’ve been here a few times before, it’s not something new to me, it’s something I’d hoped I wouldn’t be feeling this year and we have to find a solution.”

“What’s difficult is the more we talk about it, and we have to talk about it because that’s what press conferences are about, the more we highlight that we’ve not been defending well as a team. You hope that doesn’t exacerbate it.”

INJURY NEWS

The Potters have been unlucky so far with injuries to key first team players, so fans will be delighted to hear about the return of winger James McClean, who is ready to feature in training again following and arm injury sustained with Ireland.

“James McClean is back in training. It’s a difficult one because James is the first one to share his good news and of course he wants to get back in the team. He’s the type of player you want around because he’ll fight and scrap and do everything he can to lift the team up the table.”

“What we’ve got to do is assess the risk, if he plays and gets injured again what’s the timescale? There is a risk but is there a good chance he’ll get through it?”

“He was training this morning [Thursday 27] for his first full contact session and as far as I know he got through it.”

Rowett also revealed that forwards Peter Crouch and Mame Diouf are unlikely to be involved against Rotherham, after both sustained injuries on Wednesday night.

“Peter Crouch came off and I think his hip and back were a little bit locked. My intial thought was that he’d pulled his groin a little bit the way he was limping off but I think the prognosis is not as bad.”
“Mame Diouf has got a grade one hamstring injury so he’ll probably be a week or two away but its not as serious as first thought.”

ON ROTHERHAM

Saturday’s fixture will see a league meeting between the two clubs for the first time in 14 years, with the last meeting resulting in a 2-1 home defeat for The Potters in 2005.

Rowett was on hand to look ahead to this weekend’s fixture, as well giving some insight about how they’ve been preparing this week.

“We’ve played Wigan and we’ve played Blackburn, and we were 3-0 down at at least one point in the game against both sides. So I would like to think no one is taking Rotherham lightly in any way.”
“Again it’s the Championship and you’ll get a side who’ll fight and sweat for their lives. They will scrap for everything, they’ll press you and try to force you into making mistakes like other teams have done.”
“We’ve got to be more secure at the back and give those forward players and opportunity to show what they have in latter parts of the game.”
“We certainly won’t take it lightly. We will prepare for them like we will prepare for any other team but I would say once again we are capable of going there and winning the game.”

Sitting level on points with their hosts and just three points above the relegation zone after nine games, this weekend’s fixture is almost becoming a must win if Rowett and his side are going to make a serious challenge for promotion this season.

A win would see only see them climb as high as 15th, but could potentially give them the much needed boost at the first key point of the season.