Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday August 4 2006
The Potters make the long trek down to the Essex coast for Saturday's opening game against Championship newcomers Southend.
Tony Pulis is wishing he was not at Southend for his first match:
'Ideally I wouldn't want to be going there so soon because adrenalin will be pumping and a lot of their players will be playing above themselves.
'I would have much preferred a Sunderland, or a Birmingham or West Brom, just like we got Wolves a couple of years ago and beat them on the first day after they had just come down.
'Southend is a bit like Gillingham with the fans right on top of you, but we'll be letting our players know exactly what they are in for and we'll be getting them right for this one.'
Former Crewe player, Efe Sodje is still out whilst recovering from a broken leg he sustained at Bournemouth back in April.
Michael Ricketts, who played for Stoke on loan a couple of seasons back without distinction, is unlikely to figure after damaging his achilles in pre-season.
Former Port Vale player, Billy Paynter has joined up from Hull City and should start the game.
With 23 goals to his name last season, we'll need to wait and see if he (and the rest of the team) can adapt quickly to life in the Championship.
Although Bangoura has finally returned from holiday, he is very unlikely to selected which will leave Vincent Pericard and Mamady Sidibe up front. Marlon Broomes is struggling with injury which should mean that new signing, Danny Higginbotham will assume the left-back position. John Eustace will not play as he attempts to regain his full fitness.
Let's see what Pericard can offer as Stoke have little talent in depth up front at the moment.
Not much to go on between the two teams in recent years. The last time they both met at Roots Hall was back in February 1997, when the Shrimpers reversed the 1-2 score from earlier in the season at the Brit beating the Potters 2-1.
This time around Southend will be on a high after getting promotion at the end of last season. These are always difficult games, so Stoke will need to be on their guard to come away with all three points
8th August: Derby County (Home) Kick-off 7.45pm
12th August: Birmingham City (Home) Kick-off 12.30pm (Sky TV)
19th August: Luton Town (Away) Kick-off 3pm
Date:Friday August 4 2006
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