How cash-rich promotion favourites Stoke underestimated the Championship – then crashed and burned

You have to hand it to Nathan Jones. Tony Pulis was in charge of Stoke City for 464 competitive matches, earning a reputation for rampant pragmatism that included deliberately dour defending and employing ball boys to carry towels to help Rory Delap with his long throws. Yet even Pulis never managed to record four consecutive 0-0 draws. Jones should not expect warm applause for his consistency.

This has been a rotten season for Stoke. They were the clear favourites to win the Championship title in August after a period of significant investment following relegation, but currently sit six points off the top half. As one season preview put it: “You can’t look past Stoke and their financial firepower in the race for the title.” But lose at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, and Stoke will be 16th in the second tier. They are likely to record their lowest league finish since 2003.

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