Stoke City have done a wonderful job to establish themselves as a Premier League club.
The Potters have been a part of the top flight for so long that it is almost hard to remember that they were tipped to go straight back down when they first won promotion from the Championship.
They initially kept their place in the Premier League thanks to the hard work of Tony Pulis. Stoke fans revelled in their reputation as a physical side who took no prisoners but over time it became almost a millstone around the club’s neck.
So, Pulis was thanked for his work and replaced by Mark Hughes with the promise of the Welshman ushering in a new era for the club.
Hughes has brought some very exciting players to the club but when one of them, Marko Arnautovic, left for West Ham in the summer he was scathing about Stoke. If you take the Austrian at his word, things are not 100% behind the scenes at the bet365 Stadium which could spell problems for the season ahead.
Hughes came under quite significant pressure last season for poor results and uninspiring football. He will need a fast start this time around or the boo boys will be back out in force and once things start going badly time can quickly run away from you in the Premier League.
There are some Stoke fans who believe that the club have made the right decision in terms of which players to move on this summer. That view could be a little clouded in pre-season optimism as the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan have played important roles for the Potters for a while now.
Kurt Zouma and Bruno Martins Indi look like good captures but there is an imbalance in the squad.
Are they the rough, tough team of old who will always make life hard for the opposition? Or are they a team of skilful, creative players capable of wowing when they get on the ball?
Then there’s last season. Stoke beat just one of the teams who finished above them in the Premier League, conceded three or more goals seven times and had a lower points tally than all but one of their previous seasons in the division.
Stoke could surprise a few people this season by having a poor campaign and Mark Hughes could well pay the price early on into the new campaign.
Best Bets for the Season
Stoke to finish in the bottom half at 4/11 with Coral
Stoke to finish below Bournemouth at 10/11 with Ladbrokes
Mark Hughes to be the first Premier League manager to leave his job at 4/1 with Sky Bet