After meandering their way to a 14th place finish in the Championship earlier this year, it was always going to be intriguing to see how Stoke City would fare during the opening stages of the 2021/22 campaign.
Although the Potters did show some signs of promise last season, a lack of consistency hindered their progress in the second-tier.
Stoke manager Michael O’Neill opted to make a number of alterations to his squad in the summer transfer window.
As well as waving goodbye to the likes of Nathan Collins, Kevin Wimmer and Ryan Woods, the Potters boss decided to swoop for a plethora of players.
One of the individuals who made the switch to the bet365 Stadium was forward Sam Surridge who was signed by Stoke for an undisclosed fee from AFC Bournemouth.
The 23-year-old made an instant impact for his new club in August as he scored on his debut against Reading.
Since this particular clash, Surridge has taken his overall goal-tally to four in all competitions.
Surridge’s team-mate Jacob Brown has also featured up-front for Stoke this season on several occasions whilst O’Neill has regularly turned to Steven Fletcher for inspiration.
Having scored nine goals for Stoke during the previous campaign, Fletcher would have been relatively confident in his ability heading into the new term.
However, the forward’s displays in recent months have left a lot to be desired as he has failed to find the back of the net for the Potters despite playing nine games for the club.
With Tyrese Campbell closing in on a return to senior action for Stoke, it is extremely likely that Fletcher will fall further down the pecking order at the club when it comes to their attacking options as his team-mate provided 13 direct goal contributions in the second-tier last season before suffering a serious knee injury.
When you consider that Fletcher is only averaging a WhoScored match rating of 6.49 in the Championship this season, it could be argued that O’Neill ought to consider the possibility of cutting ties with the forward in January.
The upcoming transfer window represents the last opportunity that Stoke will get to secure a respectable fee for Fletcher as his current deal expires next summer.
Having now entered the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old is clearly struggling to deliver the goods on a consistent basis at this level and thus allowing him to move on to pastures new could turn out to be a wise decision.
In order to convince O’Neill that he is still capable of making a difference in the Championship, Fletcher must step up to the mark when he is given the opportunity to lead the line for the Potters.