Stoke’s forgettable 1-0 defeat by fellow strugglers Huddersfield in midweek has pushed under-fire Nathan Jones toward further scrutiny. Their dismal Championship form continues, with the Potters now without a home victory in their last 11 games. Up next? League leaders Swansea.
Having applauded the disgruntled home support before swiftly racing down the tunnel, Jones’ departure was expected swiftly after full-time. Instead even with an inquest into their latest defeat and speculation intensifying, the Welshman lives to fight another day.
Honest and defiant about his situation, the 46-year-old admitted results have not been good enough this term and after ten games, they have a measly two points to show for their efforts.
Jones said: “We tried but I’m sorry, I haven’t repaid their [chairman and the board]faith in me. This isn’t a resignation speech, we didn’t test the ‘keeper enough, failed to demonstrate the quality to go and do that, had enough possession and chances but they had one decisive counter-attack to win them the game.”
An unapologetically brutal aftermath followed. Radio Stoke callers claimed it was among the worst games they’d ever seen, while stats justified their belief change is long overdue.
“What’s happening at the minute with this football club is unbelievable. Have we ever felt this low as a Stokie? The fans have been patient but players clearly haven’t played for him, this is definitely Nathan’s final game. No manager with any credibility will come here.”
Nonetheless, he will again be in the dugout for their trip to league leaders Swansea tomorrow afternoon. It doesn’t get easier from here. Stoke signed ten players over the summer months, totalling £6m with a handful of loan deals among them.
Barring 23-year-old defender Liam Lindsay, none have made a memorable impact prompting many suggestions the collective squad quality just isn’t good enough. During his Thursday presser, Jones reluctantly hinted that might be the case.
“You’d think they are [good enough] but I don’t know. I’ve tried to arrest the downward spiral but [no success] not yet. Fans are not stupid, people will always look for stuff within things. I put my hands up, I haven’t been good enough here. Something just isn’t clicking.”
With a two-year deal and lucrative wage packet, the sceptical response is that he’d never resign but analysts have also suggested no other boss would have lasted this long with such poor form, which presents a double-edged sword. Do the club’s hierarchy remain patient and stick with him through this rough patch, or eventually does the pressure take its toll?
“I’ve got a good relationship with John and Peter, we have regular conversations and meetings. They are fully behind me, otherwise I would have been gone a long time ago. No Championship team controls games like us and just loses. If there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it [his reign] would be over already. They are stats-based people, we need to be more clinical and limit errors.”
Plenty to play for
Swansea defender Connor Roberts has played every game for the Swans this term and stressed against complacency this weekend, saying:
“If you look at their team, they’ve got some really good players. They’ve been a little unlucky with results and individual errors and will come down to us determined to put things right. You cannot underestimate any side in the Championship, any side can beat any other on any given day.”
Tomorrow’s hosts have lost just once at home in 2019 and will be looking to remain top in south Wales tomorrow. Stoke desperately need a result to kickstart their campaign, ahead of a timely international break.