EFL Reporter @simgholam
What went wrong for Gary Rowett at Stoke following his dismissal?
With the help of Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett, we take a look at what went wrong for Gary Rowett at Stoke...
Last Updated: 08/01/19 3:46pm
Stoke may have endured a troubling relegation from the Premier League but started this season with plenty of hope and expectation.
They were the favourites for promotion, had kept most of their squad together, spent a lot of money and had appointed an experienced Sky Bet Championship manager in Rowett to lead them back to the top flight, but it swiftly went wrong and he has been dismissed from his role after just eight months in charge.
"I don't think it's any surprise," Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett said. "It's disappointing for Stoke and for Rowett. They appointed him in the summer and they wanted him for the long-term. They thought this was a man who could get Stoke back up at the first attempt.
"The bosses at Stoke have been very disappointed. I spoke to someone very high up in the club a couple of days ago and they told me they still believe they have one of, if not the best squad in the Championship.
"This is not like Stoke; they've tried very hard not to sack managers but they also know the importance of getting straight back to the Premier League."
Losing on the opening day
Despite their much-heralded squad, their season started poorly. On the opening day of the campaign they were completely outplayed by Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds - losing 3-1 at Elland Road.
Rowett admitted it was a wake-up call for his side. He said: "We didn't play anywhere near well enough and it was a real eye opener for myself and for the group. That's what the Championship is all about, it's intense and the quickness caught some of the players out.
"It's disappointing but it's a 46-game season and this was one game. It might take some time to settle down."
Fans unhappy after Wigan defeat
If Leeds' performances since have put that particular result into somewhat better context for Rowett, their next defeat certainly didn't. Two draws followed but their first midweek game on August 22 saw them capitulate 3-0 at home to newly-promoted Wigan - and the Latics have picked up just two points on the road since.
"I can completely understand [the fans'] frustrations," Rowett said after that game.
"I'm not going to try to dissolve myself of any responsibility. We deserve that reaction from the fans. We deserve to be booed for points in games. We deserve for the stadium to be a little bit empty towards the end of the game because we have not performed well enough."
Rowett unhappy with the defence
The next damaging result came a month later at home to another promoted side in Blackburn. Once again, Stoke found themselves three goals down at home. They fought back to 2-3 and then should have nicked a point late on, only to see Saido Berahino miss a late penalty at the Bet365 Stadium.
It was a result that left them 18th in the table and left Rowett furious with his defensive line. The likes of Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi were supposed to dominate the Championship's best forward lines, but this was anything but the case.
"I've had a long chat with the players, pretty similar to the long chats I've (already) had with the players," Rowett said. "At times like this you want to collect your thoughts and be rational.
"It's disappointing when some things happen over and over again. I think Blackburn gave us a bit of a lesson late on under pressure when they are throwing bodies around and being aggressive and doing everything they can to stop a goal going in, but we are defensively soft and weak."
Beaten by Birmingham - twice
Rowett was starting to feel the pressure and, having taken issue with his own squad after previous defeats, turned his attention to the officials following a 1-0 defeat at home to former club Birmingham in October.
Rowett was left fuming after being sent to the stands following an incident which saw striker Che Adams appear to kept out Joe Allen's goalbound effort with his arm, denying them a late draw.
"If I've been abusive or sworn at the referee I'm honest enough to say that I've done that but I didn't do that," Rowett said. "I said to the ref 'That's two handballs, that's two penalties', he's sent me off. He told me that I've said something completely different. It'll be my word against the referee and of course they're going to take the referee's side of it."
Following that result, however, came a brief period of respite for Rowett as his side went 10 games unbeaten and climbed back towards the top six. A 1-0 win over Millwall in their final fixture before Christmas moved them to within four points of the play-offs.
Ironically, it would be Birmingham who ended that run in the reverse fixture at St Andrew's, leading Rowett to say sorry to the travelling fans on Boxing Day.
"We've been followed in good numbers who are hoping for another good away performance and we didn't really give them anything to shout about," he admitted. "I apologise to them because it wasn't a good enough performance."
The final straws
Big-money signing Benik Afobe is their top scorer but he has found the back of the net on just seven occasions in the Championship. Stoke have scored just 30 goals in 26 Championship games this season and a goalless draw with struggling Bolton led to a run-in between Rowett and the fans.
"They can chant what they want at me, that's fair enough," he said after that game. "I wouldn't criticise them for giving me some stick either about the football or the amount of wins we have got. But to boo your own team after 20 minutes is not helpful."
Then came their fourth home defeat of the season on New Year's Day as they were beaten 2-0 by Bristol City. A beleaguered Rowett said he knew they needed to be doing better after what ultimately turned out to be his final Championship game in charge of Stoke.
"It would be wrong to suggest Rowett had lost the players," Dorsett added. "Rowett organises, he makes his sides hard to beat but a lot of fans were disappointed with the style of football and we saw in that home defeat to Bristol City the protests and flags calling for Rowett out. That has really led the board to act.
"You look at recent results - no wins in four, one win in the last six and crucially, playing a pretty strong team against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup and still looking bereft of confidence and underperforming. There was the sense that this could only be down to the manager."
The 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury in the FA Cup turned out to be the final straw for Rowett, despite his post-match defiance.
"It shows we are still fighting regardless of the negativity around," he said after the game on Saturday. "We are not playing with the amount of confidence we should be at the moment and hopefully this will give us a lift.
"When there's all the stories, rumours and the chants around the ground, what am I do do? Sit down with my head in my hands or puff my chest out on the touchline?"
What next for Stoke?
Soon there will be a new man on the touchline in the Potteries, but it remains to be seen what direction the club will now take, having dispensed with someone they thought would be on the touchline for years to come.
"There's a subtle difference of opinion between the owner and chairman Peter Coates and his son John, who have had different views in the past of where the club should go, with regards to the manager," Dorsett revealed.
"John, very keen to appoint young managers that he hopes can take the club forward. Peter, with huge contacts within football, and has always opted for managers with more experience in the game."