Stoke City were relegated from the Premier League last season and have discovered their fixture list on their first return to the Championship since the 2007/08 season.
There is no hiding from the fact it was a terrible season for the Potters last season. Mark Hughes was sacked before Paul Lambert came to the helm but was unable to save the Staffordshire outfit from their fate in a season where their squad appeared divided.
However, there is reason to be optimistic for Stoke fans. Experienced at Championship level, Gary Rowett might just be the perfect fit for the Potters in their bid to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Furthermore, Stoke have already splashed serious money for a Championship side, with Oghenekaro Etebo joining from Feirense in the middle of the park for £6.35m.
Stoke fans will certainly have a better idea how things will pan out after today’s announcement which revealed their first six fixtures are…
August 5th – Leeds United (A)
August 11th – Brentford (H)
August 18th – Preston (A)
August 22th – Wigan (H)
August 25th – Hull (H)
September 1st – WBA (A)
Rowett’s home fixtures look presentable, although in Brentford, Hull and Wigan, Stoke will host three attractive teams who all carry a goal threat early on.
It is the away trips that look the toughest, however. Nobody wants to go to Leeds so early on when optimism will be high under new man Marcelo Bielsa.
Preston was one of the toughest away trips in the division last season and then the opening six matches is rounded off by a visit to fellow relegated club and relatively local rivals West Brom, which all adds up to a tricky opener for Rowett.