Season Preview: Stoke City

How did you fare last season?
We did fantastically well and it was beyond everybody's expectations to finish 12th. The squad moved on leaps and bounds on the one that won promotion in 07/08 and we couldn't ask for any more. We even managed to stick two fingers up to all the national media and a certain Irish bookmaker.

How do you expect you'll do this season?
At the minute, with the squad we have, we should just about be safe. The bottom end of the league has got a lot weaker this season and even though 17th will remain the goal until we have 42 points, with a few signings we can hopefully push into mid table obscurity.

What have you done in the transfer market this summer? Which of your new signings are you expecting most from?
Not a lot... yet! Whitehead is the only major signing and although he looks to be a great box-to-box midfielder - just what we need - we could still do with a few more signings to bolster the squad. We've signed a couple of 18-year-olds from Crewe and one has already gone out to Northampton and looks a great prospect.

Where do you think you'll need to strengthen in the January transfer window?
Nobody at Stoke can answer that yet because we all know that the squad now will be unrecognisable from the one that will be here come September 1st. Most fans have come to accept that's just the way Tony Pulis works.

Have you any promising youngsters breaking into the team?
Ryan Shotton has served his time out on loan at Altrincham and Tranmere and in pre-season has shone enough to be an evens bet to play right back on Saturday. Nat Wedderburn is the latest to come through our ranks but will leave on loan this season, as will the aforementioned Crewe lads, Lund and Marshall.

Have you got the right man in charge of the team? Will he still be there at the end of the season?
Yes, and he'll also be in charge at the end of next season, and the season after, and the one after that, and that, and that...

The relationship between Pulis and Peter Coates, the chairman, is as strong as any in the game and Coates will back him all the way.

Is the club being run well? Are you likely to be singing 'Sack the board' any time soon?
Fantastically well. No chance in hell of singing that. Coates the 2nd - his first spell in charge was very messy - has backed us to the hilt, provided funds whenever needed and we have improved every year since. There's a reported £25m burning a hole in Pulis's pocket but the media exposure we had seems to have put players off.

Which team do you most want to beat and why?
Manchester United. They're the champions, it might shut a few more mouths up and there's a long history between the clubs.

Who do you think will win the league?
I think Chelsea will but it'd be nice for Liverpool to break the Manchester United/Chelsea/Arsenal stranglehold.

Who do you think's going down?
Burnley and two from Wolves, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Wigan, Hull, Bolton and ourselves.

How do you think Hull City will fare this season?
I think you'll struggle. If Bullard get's match fit you'll improve but you need someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.

Dan Buxton is editor of Stoke City Mad

Click here to read what Dan said at the end of last season about how Stoke got on in 2008/09.