Stoke and West Brom have been almost joined at the hip since the Baggies won promotion to the Premier League in 2010.
The clubs have shared a manager in Tony Pulis; several players in James McClean, Darren Fletcher and Saido Berahino among others; and were relegated together in 2018. Both also failed to gain promotion last season back to the Premier League last season despite being considered favourites and the connection continued.
They’re only about 50 miles apart from one another as well. However, a chasm could develop between the clubs by next May if things continue to go the way they’re going.
West Brom will set their sights on a return to the Championship summit on Monday night and a return to the Premier League next May, while Stoke are looking nervously over their shoulders as the prospect of falling into League One becomes increasingly realistic.
It’s a huge game at both ends of the table.
BREAKING: Stoke City have today parted company with manager Nathan Jones with immediate effect. pic.twitter.com/1PNYAYrXFr
— BBC Radio Stoke (@BBCRadioStoke) November 1, 2019
Clubs so often get a short term boost when there is a change in the dugout and the Stoke hierarchy will be hoping that that is the case here. Stoke may not yet have found a replacement for Nathan Jones but it seldom matters.
Players will want to prove to any incoming manager that they are part of his plans as the January transfer market looms on the horizon. They will also want to redress an utterly unforgivable start to the season under Jones that saw them plummet to the foot of the Championship.
There had been some signs of recovery, however small, even before Jones’ sacking.
The Potters picked up back to back wins in October over promotion-chasing Fulham and Swansea, proving they are far too good to be in the league position they find themselves in.
West Brom, meanwhile, have shown some signs of faltering in recent weeks. The Baggies have drawn their last two home games 2-2 against Barnsley and Charlton and have only picked up eight points in their last five games, just two more than Monday night’s opponents.
They may have to wait to return to the top of the Championship.
While Stoke’s defensive record may not be as bad as relegation rivals Barnsley or Luton, it is still fairly abject.
At 25 goals conceded in 14 games, the Potters are close to conceding an average of two goals a game which is a pretty damning statistic. They have kept just two clean sheets all season and it stands to reason that they will have to score at least twice if they are to win on
Monday as they can’t be relied upon to keep a clean sheet.
Luckily for Stoke, West Brom haven’t exactly been watertight in recent weeks, shipping two goals in three of their last four games in the Championship. The Midlands club have the leakiest defence in the top five and it is an issue that needs to be addressed if they are to remain in the hunt for promotion.
Hogan may have found his level in the Championship.
He excelled with Brentford in 2016/17 when promotion wasn’t expected and the pressure was off, but more recently failed to perform for promotion-chasing Aston Villa and Sheffield United.
He seems to be more suited to clubs with lower expectations and he has made a fairly decent start to life in Stoke. With three goals to his name, Hogan is Stoke’s joint top scorer, but his minutes per goal is particularly impressive.
The Irish striker averages a goal every 121 minutes and caretaker manager Rory Delap should turn to him on Monday night.