Stoke City did not have the season they’d have envisaged at the start of the campaign this year, and will be looking to address that in the summer.
In part, they’ll feel as though they’ve taken steps already to remedy things, removing Gary Rowett for former Luton Town boss Nathan Jones mid-way through the campaign.
Indeed, though Jones did not see a massive turnaround in form after coming in, there is genuine hope that, with time and a summer under his belt, he can begin to help Stoke back towards the top flight.
And, that said, other recent developments would help suggest that there is belief the club will offer the challenge next season that they failed to this.
Although there is still work to be done for Jones, he is on the brink of a first arrival of the window in the shape of Millwall forward Lee Gregory.
A proven player at this level, he’ll be itching to show what he can do with the supply lines the Potters can provide him after largely feeding on scraps with the Lions in the last nine months or so.
Indeed, according to yesterday’s printed Mail (page 56,) the Trentside club are to beat Premier League-bound Sheffield United and Derby County – who could also be a top-flight side next season.
For sure, this is a sign that there is belief Stoke can challenge for promotion next year from Gregory, and it’s bound to be reflected by other players they go for.
If this report is accurate in terms of the clubs snubbed – and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be – this will be a boost to Nathan Jones’ confidence that he can still attract targets up against Premier League opposition.
Of course, not every player he goes for will sign, but it is apparent the project appeals – in this case more than a battle to stay in the Premier League with the Blades.
We, of course, don’t know the ins and outs of the deal financially and that might have also come into play but, clearly, Stoke will still have promising clout in this window.