Why Stoke City need to shun the serial managerial contenders and opt for either Gary Rowett or Graham Potter

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 08 January 2018, 10:36

Stoke City aren’t accustomed to rashly pulling the trigger when it comes to sacking managers. The Potters have employed only two gaffers in the last 12 years - Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes - which is the second fewest to Arsenal in the Premier League during this timeframe.

However, Stoke have now started the search for a new boss having finally came to their senses on Saturday when they put Mark Hughes out of his misery after a woeful 2-1 FA Cup defeat to League Two side Coventry, which followed a rotten run of results in the top-flight.

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It was the first time that Stoke had sent a manager packing during a season since 1999 when they replaced Gary Megson with Gudjon Thordarson following a takeover, but they will hope that axing Hughes proves to be the correct decision.

The traditional relegation ‘firefighters’ are all back in management, meaning Stoke’s net is smaller than perhaps it would have been. The likes of Martin O’Neill, Steve McClaren, Ryan Giggs, Slaven Bilic, Ronald Koeman and Michael O’Neill have all been bandied about in the betting, but it’s the emergence of two young English gaffers that have really caught the eye: Gary Rowett and Graham Potter.

Gary Rowett

Simply put, Rowett is an outstanding manager and it’s inevitable that he’ll be working in the Premier League in the near future, whether that’s with current club Derby or with a top-flight club that come calling.

Rowett began his managerial career with Burton Albion in March 2012. He twice led the Brewers into the League Two play-offs, laying the foundations for the club’s title success under his successor Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Rowett left Burton in 2014 - with the club top of League Two - in order to jump up two divisions to the Championship with struggling Birmingham City. When he took charge of the Blues they were 23rd in the table following a shambolic 8-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth, however Rowett impressively steadied the ship and conjured up a turnaround in form, leading the club to a 10th-place finish.

Another 10th place standing followed, but then Birmingham unexpectedly sacked Rowett in December 2016, with the club 7th in the table and three points off 3rd spot. It was undoubtedly one of the most perplexing sackings in recent memory, and it proved to be a dreadful decision as the club subsequently plummeted down to 19th spot, only avoiding the dreaded drop on the final day of the season.

Rowett returned to management with Derby County in March 2017, finishing 9th last season, but the club are now flying high up in 2nd with 49 points from 26 games. The club’s superb form - 11 wins in 16 league games - means that Rowett is inevitably going to be linked with a move up a tier whenever a vacancy becomes available.

That has proven to be the case as Rowett now finds himself as the 2/1 favourite to replace Hughes at Stoke. Whether he would opt to leave promotion pushing Derby for struggling Stoke is open to debate, but make no mistake about it, the Potters will reap the rewards if they can prize him away from the Rams.

Graham Potter

The average football fan would be forgiven for not knowing who Graham Potter is, given that he's never managed in England, instead opting to learn the managerial ropes over in Sweden with Ostersunds FK.

However, take a read of this before clicking away.

Potter has worked wonders in his first managerial post with Ostersunds, leading the Swedish outfit to three straight promotions from the country’s fourth-tier up to the top division, then last season he hoisted the Swedish Cup which propelled the club into the Europa League qualification stages.

Potter has since successfully negotiated his troops through to the main draw and it didn’t take long for his accomplishments to catch the eye of the English press and the wider football community.

Potter is the only Englishman managing in European competition this season and he’s currently preparing to lock horns with Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger in the Europa League knockout stages. But, there’s now an outside chance that Potter may no longer be in charge of Ostersunds for the Gunners tie next month, considering he’s come in at 12/1, from 50/1, for the Stoke job.

The 42-year-old has undoubtedly developed into one of the hottest up-and-coming British bosses in the game today, and it’s testament to his work that he’s now getting linked with a move back to his homeland. He has links to Stoke too having played for the club in the 1990s and now if reports over the weekend are to be believed then the innovative coach is now interested in returning to Staffordshire.

While an appointment would be viewed as a big gamble, it could well prove to be a wise wager for a struggling Premier League side completely void of confidence.

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