After two defeats from two games to open their Championship campaign, Stoke City finally got their season up and running on Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the opening round of the Carabao Cup.
But while 18-year-old stand-in captain Nathan Collins’ first goal in senior football will have been a big relief for Stoke boss Nathan Jones, the Welshman will surely know that he will need more than that if he is to avoid coming under some serious pressure in the next few weeks.
Indeed, Jones need only look at the experiences of his predecessor for the reality of that to be brought home.
Having been appointed as the Potters’ new manager following their relegation from the Premier League in May 2018, things simply did not go to plan for Gary Rowett during his time in charge of the club.
Despite a big-spending summer that saw Rowett bring the likes of Peter Etebo, James McLean, Tom Ince, and Sam Clucas to the Bet365 Stadium, and start the campaign as favourites for an immediate return to the Premier League, the former Derby and Birmingham boss had been sacked by early January, after winning just eight of his 26 games in charge.
Into his place came Jones, and although things have yet to really pick up under the new boss, it doesn’t really feel as though Rowett’s successor has come under all that much scrutiny during his time at Stoke.
That however, will surely change sooner rather than later if results do not.
Whereas during the back end of last season, Jones did at least have the defence of not being given the opportunity of a transfer window where he could spend while familiar with what his club needs, that is no longer the case.
Having recruited even bigger this year than Rowett did last summer – bringing in no fewer than ten new faces for his senior side – there will now be a sense that this is a squad now built more in Jones’ own vision.
As a result, that defence has now gone for Jones, and so the expectation should be that the Welshman now has the ability to get this side to play the way he wants, something which will be a worry given their early season performances, not least when you compare the records of Stoke’s current, and most recent, manager.
In comparison with the eight league wins Rowett claimed in his 26 games as Stoke boss, Jones has so far tasted victory in just three of his 22 league games in charge of the club, which means that even if Jones does win his next four games in charge, Rowett will still have one more win than his successor after the same number of league games at the club.
Even so, if Jones does now oversee four wins on the bounce, that will relieve any sort of pressure there may currently be on the Welshman, and it will only renew hope that push for a return to the Premier League is not too far away.
If he doesn’t though, then those comparisons between Jones and Rowett will surely only start to grow more prevalent, both in terms of results and spending, and neither would look particularly promising for the current Stoke boss when the Potters board are forced to decide on the direction they want to take the club.
One advantage that Jones does have over Rowett however, is that Stoke’s entry into the opening round of the Carabao Cup has at least allowed them to get up and running earlier this season than they did the last.
That is something that Jones must look to exploit in the coming weeks, or else the stats suggest that his season with Stoke has the potential to be a rather short one indeed.