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At home with... Stoke duo Danny Batth and Sam Vokes

Sky Sports exclusive: Stoke duo Danny Batth and Sam Vokes discuss a difficult start to the season, working with Michael O'Neill and much, much more

Danny Batth and Sam Vokes discussed a wide range of topics as Sky Sports joined the Stoke duo at home.

Jonathan Oakes and Danny Higginbotham spoke to the duo about 'bouncebackability', learning from experience and much, much more.

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On recovering from a difficult start to the season…

Batth: "The club signed 14 players in the summer - that's excluding myself and Sam, who arrived last January - and that's basically a whole new squad so it did just take that extra bit of time for us to gel. When the pressure is on and you are expected to be promoted, I think that really takes its toll because you don't have the time and the structure within the group to get results early on and pick that momentum up and we all know how important that is.

"Michael has looked at the players he has at his disposal and we're now playing a style of football that brings out the best in players individually as well as collectively. We've got players who have strengths in different positions but he allows everyone the chance to show their best abilities and that's shown - in the last game against Hull, we were free-scoring and played an open game. That's what the Stoke fans want to see and that's how I want to play."

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Vokes: "It felt like we were turning in a different direction and a lot changed when Michael O'Neill took over. It's been well-documented that we had a slow start to the season, especially for the squad we had, and we didn't perform to our capabilities. It was a tough task to get that first win and it didn't come until October. When Michael came in, it changed a lot and we started to play to our strengths, which showed in our performances and also the results that started to come.

"As players and as a squad you can't take anything for granted, especially in the Championship, but from the outside noise and people around the club, promotion was mentioned a lot and I think that was the expectation. As much as you may have that within yourself, I don't think you can talk about that going into the season. Later in the season, we've dealt with that a lot better and, looking at our statistics since December time, we're right up there."

On Michael O'Neill balancing the Stoke and Northern Ireland jobs…

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Batth: "To be honest, you wouldn't know that he was still managing Northern Ireland as well because the only time that he really wasn't really at the training ground was during the international break, during which a fair few players still go away.

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"He was very much committed to doing the day-to-day work at Stoke and joined back up with the Northern Ireland team and their plans during that time. He must've had a good squad of players there and a team who he trusted to go and watch them week in, week out."

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Vokes: "This situation has changed things because I'm sure he wanted to complete his duties this summer with Northern Ireland but with him committing to Stoke now, it's focused his attention on us. It's great for us because it means we can get more time on the training field working with him."

On learning from past experiences of promotion and relegation...

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Andre Ayew of Swansea City in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Swansea City at the Bet 365 Stadium on January 25, 2020 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Batth: "I was fortunate enough that I was a young lad coming through at Wolves so I was watching from the outside, really. I think I played 10 games in the Championship season that resulted in relegation but at that point I was just watching everything, learning how the pros dealt with it.

"I guess that gave me an opportunity to know the best route out of the situation at the start of the season and it was clear that we just had to keep working hard, keep everyone together and, most importantly, dig out results. That's what we've had to do at Stoke and it's all been based on the foundations: being solid at the back, a pacy, dynamic attack. That's given us a foothold in the league and hopefully we can build on that."

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Vokes: "It's not just on the pitch; I think there has to be a togetherness in the dressing room and I feel like we've got that at Stoke. Since myself and Danny came in I think there has been that transition period, everything has knitted together in the last six months and there's a close group of team-mates and friends. That's what's important in building a promotion campaign. We know we had the sticky start to this season but, going forward, there's nothing to say we can't compete at the other end of the table next season."

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