Stoke City: on paper, it’s a mismatch

All eleven of the Stoke City starting line-up last weekend had previous Championship experience -  amassing a total of 1397 games between them. In addition, 8 of them had made a total of 721 Premier League appearances. We are talking about players like Joe Allen (199), James McClean (158), Sam Vokes (113), Jack Butland (77), Sam Clucas (66), Benik Afobe (63).

Charlton's starting eleven at Blackburn could boast just five players with a combined 551 appearances at Championship level. These were Darren Pratley (217), Jason Pearce (158), Jonny Williams (106), Jake Forster-Caskey (67) and Ben Purrington (13). The other six were making their Championship debuts. In terms of The Premier League we had just Pratley (26) and Williams (12)

So the Stoke team had played 170 more Premier League games than Charlton's eleven had played at Championship level. And then we come to the substitutes:

Tom Ince, Lee (signed from Millwall) Gregory and Tyrese Campbell (son of Arsenal's Kevin) had 380 Championship appearances, with Ince and Campbell accruing 48 and 4 in The Premier League. Meanwhile, Albie Morgan, Conor Gallagher and Deji Oshalaje were Championship debutants. In fact it was Gallagher's first ever appearance in senior football.

Transfer deadline day has added some experience to the Charlton ranks in the shape of Sam Field (10 Championship games & 19 Premier League); Jonathan Leko (14 and 11), Josh Cullen (12 & 2) and Beram Kayal (81 & 37). If Tomer Hemed also joins he will bring 94 & 16

Nevertheless, it is still the case that all the players we will be facing on Saturday have been playing consistently at a higher level and would be expected therefore to have the technique and temperament to win their individual battles with Charlton players. Home supporters will be banking on the less tangible aspects of the contest - teamwork, tactics, organisation and morale - to make the crucial difference.

Stoke City FC has not been a happy place for some time now. Under Paul Lambert the club were relegated from The Premier League in May 2018. The directors replaced him with Gary Rowett for the start of last season but, when they found themselves in 14th place last January, they sacked him and appointed another former Charlton face - Nathan Jones - who had come to their attention as a result of his success at Luton. Jones began with a 1-3 loss at Brentford and an embarrassing home FA Cup replay defeat to Shrewsbury. It was a great relief to all concerned when the team beat promotion- chasing Leeds 2-1 in Jones's third game in charge.

But there followed a run of 21 games to the end of the season with only two more wins. February and March saw them score just four goals in ten games during which they played out four successive 0-0 draws. They finished the season in 16th place - two positions lower than when Jones took over. The fans were getting restless and the home defeat to QPR last Saturday did little to assuage their frustration.

In contrast Charlton fans - despite the ongoing consternation about Roland Duchatelet - will be approaching the game with more than a little buoyancy. There are a number of reasons to be cheerful:

The win at Blackburn; The re-signing of Josh Cullen; the retention of Lyle Taylor; the strengthening of the squad by the arrivals of Field, Leko, Kayal and possibly Hemed. All these mean that home fans should be approaching the game in good spirits.

It is almost enough to make us forget that the season will still be a long and arduous one and that every point needs to be cherished. We are no longer 9-4 joint favourites for relegation but we are still 5-2 (just ahead of Reading at 2-1)