EFL pundit Dean Ashton has revealed that he has been left disappointed by Stoke City’s performances in the Championship this term and believes Michael O’Neill will be under pressure next season.
The Potters have struggled to keep themselves up amongst the sides chasing a top-six place during the second half of the campaign and they have fallen well out of the mix. O’Neill’s side were 7th in the table and level on points with sixth in mid-December, but a run of nine games without a win after that saw them slide down the table.
Since then, it has been a bit of a scrap for points for the Potters and whilst they have continued to be largely solid they have lacked enough of a threat upfront without the injured Tyrese Campbell. That has left O’Neill needing to do some reflection ahead of next term where they hope to challenge for promotion.
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Speaking on EFL on Quest, Ashton revealed that Stoke’s form and performances have been disappointing to him as he felt they could be outside bets for promotion. He also insisted the pressure will be O’Neill next term to get more from his side.
“They were my sort of outside bets for promotion, if I’m honest. So, I’ve been a little bit disappointed, it’s one thing being solid and stable now as a club, but you look at the squad and you know Nathan Jones was lambasted for his time at the club in his last 22 games he’d won three. Well in the last 22 under Michael O’Neill they’ve only won five. Lots more draws in there, but stable is ok.
“I think there needs to be a bit more, especially going forward they’re a hard watch Stoke, and I think the pressure will be on Michael O’Neill at the start of next season.”
— Quest (@QuestTV) April 17, 2021
These are harsh comments on O’Neill’s side, but you can see where Ashton is coming from here with the Potters having not been good enough during the second half of the campaign. There have been injury issues to key players that have been a factor in their loss of form, but they still should have been getting more wins you feel.
In terms of pressure being on O’Neill, that is harsh because he is having to work with a much more limited budget than either Gary Rowett or Jones did and he is on course to finish a lot higher than either of those two would have done. Having said that there is talent in the squad to be performing better.
Unless Stoke got off to a terrible start to next season, it is difficult to see them wanting to part company with a safe pair of hands such as O’Neill. However, he will need to find more regular wins to keep supporters onside and believing he is the man for the job.