Stoke City legend Ryan Shawcross believes the Potters have a real chance of remaining in the top six this term if they can remain consistent and avoid upsets, going on to criticise the standard of this season’s Championship in his column for Stoke-on-Trent Live.
After a bright start to their second-tier campaign, with the Potters establishing themselves as top-six favourites early on, three consecutive losses saw them sink to ninth place at the end of last month in what was a huge blow for Michael O’Neill’s men who had seemingly entered a bright chapter after a productive summer.
However, an impressive 1-0 away win against an in-form Blackpool side on Wednesday night elevated them back into the top six with several teams across the Championship failing to gain any form of consistency so far this term.
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They take on fellow play-off hopefuls Luton Town at Kenilworth Road tomorrow, with Nathan Jones’ side currently sitting just one point and two places behind the Staffordshire outfit going into this tie.
Just four points currently separate Queens Park Rangers in fifth and Preston North End in 15th – and going into the international break after tomorrow afternoon’s fixture – a win for Stoke would be a huge boost ahead of their next set of fixtures.
Ex-Potter Shawcross believes this season as a whole is a great opportunity for his former side to succeed, delivering a damning verdict on this season’s second-tier clubs and writing: “The thing I’ve taken most from the last fortnight is that if we can be consistent and win the games we’re supposed to win then we’ve got a chance this season.
“The Championship is not of a huge standard.
“We’ve lost three games out of four but won one and leapt from 12th to sixth, back in the play-off places.
“I think there are only two stand out teams in the division and there are four places behind the up for grabs.
“The key will be to not get too high when we’re winning and not get too low when we’re losing.
“We had a dip in form and didn’t play great at Blackpool but got that win.
“It’s a strange season but could still turn into a great one.”
The only consistent thing in the Championship right now seems to be the inconsistency of teams.
Only AFC Bournemouth have been able to remain fully consistent, with Fulham performing reasonably well in most matches despite losses to Blackpool, Reading and Coventry City.
This is what currently separates them and West Brom who endured three frustrating draws in September against Millwall, Derby County and Preston North End and have lost three games since then after their unbeaten start.
You could argue the only other team fully worthy of their place near the summit of the Championship are Coventry City after exceeding all expectations under Mark Robins and looking convincing in most games.
That’s no insult to the likes of QPR and Stoke, because they have the ability to do even better than they are currently with their potential.
The former have managed to build on their good form in the second half of last season and have a very capable strike force that can fire the R’s towards the Premier League.
And after an outstanding summer of change off-the-pitch at the bet365, the latter have given themselves the perfect platform to build from. Now is the time to put their plan into action.