Ahead of Saturday's game at the Britannia Stadium, we caught up with Stoke fan Rob, from Chief Delilah. He gives his views on City's start to the season, Tony Pulis, Mark Hughes and more. You can also find Rob on Twitter @ChiefDelilah.

It’s been a mixed start to the season results-wise for City, how have performances been?

They've been very much a mixed bag to be honest. We made a promising start to the season in terms of results and performances, we were brilliant in grabbing a win at West Ham at the end of August and impressive at home to Man City in a game we should have won. Things seem to have tailed off since then though. We're more positive than we were but we're still struggling for goals, and have lost the last three games. The home defeat to Norwich in particular was dreadful and we really need to bounce back with a result against you lot.

Much has been made of the team’s change of style under Mark Hughes, is it really that noticeable? And most importantly is it an improvement?

It's hugely noticeable. Under Pulis it was virtually always 4-4-1-1, with the main (and at times only) priority being not to concede and our play centring around defenders/keeper hitting the big man. We'd play four centre halves across the back four and most outfield players would have an absolute bucket load of defensive duties. Hughes wants us to keep the ball more, and we've been a lot more positive in taking the game to teams. He's playing a kind of 4-3-3 with the midfield and full backs given license to support the attack, which never happened under the old regime.

It's still too early to say if it's an improvement or not, but we're certainly better to watch.

Thoughts on Tony Pulis? And was Hughes the right man for the job? Was there anyone else you would have liked?

Pulis will always be a hero for what he achieved at Stoke and the success he brought to the club on its journey from mid-table Championship side to the Premier League, cup final and Europe. But he'd proved he couldn't change and his methods weren't working anymore. He lost his touch in the transfer market and spunked millions on players who either weren't good enough or couldn't fit his system. When we reached the cup final we were playing some fast, enterpriding football with two flying wingers, but he seemed to panic about that and dismantled it. He's happier being the underdog but expectations are the price of success and ultimately he couldn't handle that. The goals dried up, the results dried up, and slowly but surely a sizeable number of fans and those in the boardroom turned on him. He had to go, sadly.

Hughes gets a lot of stick for the QPR debacle and he's a tough guy to like in many respects with his handshake-phobia and sleazebag agent, but overall he's done a decent job at most of the clubs he's managed. Was excellent at Blackburn, decent at Fulham, and even at Man City he brought in some key players like Kompany, De Jong and Zabaleta. I thinkhe'll be a pretty safe pair of hands. We were strongly linked with Roberto Di Matteo but he's never convinced me despite what he did at Chelsea.

Final thoughts on last season?

The least enjoyable season since promotion. No goals, no ideas, and just three wins after Boxing Day.

Hero of last season?

We'd have been relegated without Asmir Begovic. One of the best goalkeepers in the league.

Villain of last season?

It seems harsh to call him a villain, but Pulis truly lost the plot. To flirt with relegation after keeping our best players and spending another £20m was really poor.

Most amusing ‘terrace chant’ heard last season?

Spurs fans' sarcastic rendition of Happy Birthday as they spoiled our 150th anniversary celebrations with a win at the Brit was pretty funny.

You’ve got plenty to choose from… but is there any particular highlight / memory that stands out from previous Albion v Stoke games?

Ricardo Fuller's hat trick at the Brit in 2007 was pretty special, particularly the solo goal for his third. I was also a big fan of our win at The Hawthorns last season. You'd just won at Sunderland and were on a massive high, we were rubbish, yet we still won with virtually our only shot of the game. Got to love the hoodoo.

Prediction for Stoke’s season? Many ‘pundits’ reckon you are in for a relegation battle, fair comment?

Way too early to say. We desperately need a striker and if we get injuries to key men we could be in real trouble. That said, there's not much to fear beyond the top 7 or so sides and if Hughes gets us to click then we could just as easily sneak into the top 10.

Stoke player to watch?

Marko Arnautovic arrived in the summer with a repuation for being a) the most gifted Austrian footballer of the last 30 years and b) mad as a bottle of crisps. His time in the Potteries may be brief. It won't be dull.

Prediction for Albion’s season?

I thought you might be in trouble when Lukaku went but you've actually spent some money this summer and your attacking options look very impressive. Sessegnon was quite a coup, and the lad from Marseilles looks a player as well. With Mulumbu and Yacob you've got a bit of bite as well, you seem to have the balance that we're lacking at the moment. I'll say 9th.

Premier League Champions?

Man City.


Sunderland, Palace, Fulham.

Prediction for Saturday's game?

I'll be optimistic for a change and predict a 2-1 Stoke win.


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