Gary Rowett’s Stoke City are currently 11th in the Sky Bet Championship this season having remained unbeaten in their last five league matches. The Potters have earned 31 points having scored 29 and conceded 27. Second place Norwich City, who are undefeated in their last 10 league games, have conceded just one goal less (26) than the Potters this term under Daniel Farke.
Stoke City are presently just five points away from Tony Pulis’ playoff positioned Middlesbrough who are currently 6th. Meanwhile, Welsh midfielder, Joe Allen, has scored three goals in his last five games for the Potters with the in-form, Tom Ince, also netting three in his last five league games for the club this term. Elsewhere, Stoke City’s leading goal scorer, Benik Afobe, who has scored two in his last five league games, has hit the net seven times in 2018/2019 with two assists registered also.
Stoke City hosts Neil Harris’ struggling Millwall at the Bet365 Stadium this Saturday afternoon followed by an important Boxing Day clash against Garry Monk’s 10th place Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s. Three days later, the Potters face troubled Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Before the Potters showdown in Stoke-on-Trent this Saturday, FOX Sports Radio 96.9 FM/1340 AM’s Dean Perretta briefly caught up with Stoke City and England’s highly-rated goalkeeper, Jack Butland, to discuss his thoughts on Stoke City’s expectations this season in the Sky Bet Championship, as well as the positive changes since Gary Rowett’s arrival at the club, coupled alongside his views on England’s success so far in the UEFA Nations League this season.
Dean Perretta: Jack, what are the main expectations and goals for Stoke City this season in the Sky Bet Championship?
Jack Butland: First and foremost, it is promotion. We were all disappointed with relegation (from the Premier League) last season, so the main target and goal for us this season is promotion, whether that be by automatic or through the play-offs. That’s what we want to achieve.
Dean Perretta: What are your thoughts on the Potters forthcoming league fixtures throughout the festive period?
Jack Butland: The Christmas period is an extremely important part of the year. It is an opportunity to kick on and really shoot up the league with games in such quick succession. It involves the whole squad, especially with tired legs, so rotation is essential. But ultimately, there are games we can win, and are more than capable of winning, and ultimately four games over Christmas and into the New Year gives us a great opportunity to shoot up the table.
Dean Perretta: What have been some of the highlights so far up to this point in the present campaign?
Jack Butland: I think there has been ups and downs and frustrations because we know what we are capable of doing, but I think that I would have to point out the win against Derby County at home. Obviously they are local rivals, going down to ten-men and what the game meant to the team kicking on, was probably the highlight of our season so far and a thoroughly important win.
Dean Perretta: What do you feel Gary Rowett has ultimately installed and brought to the club since his arrival this past summer?
Jack Butland: I think a lot of stability. In previous years there has been a lot of change, a lot of players coming and going and with a lot to say, but he has come in and we have gathered a bit of momentum and stability now and put all those negative discussions and thoughts in the past to allow everyone to just go out and play their football.
Dean Perretta: Lastly, can you talk about England’s advancement to the UEFA Nations League Semi-Finals next summer?
Jack Butland: It is a great achievement as we have come up against some great sides and qualified against Spain and Croatia. We have a tough game in Holland to come, but as a country, the manager (Gareth Southgate) has always talked about wanting to succeed and achieve, and as players as we believe we are good enough to win tournaments and trophies. Despite it being a new tournament, it is a great opportunity to perform against the best and go and win a trophy for the country and that would be a massive stepping stone going into the upcoming Euros.