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Inside Info: views from a Stoke City fan

The latest installment of Inside Info as we get the inside scoop ahead of Stoke's visit to the South Coast.

Scott Heavey

After defeating Sunderland, one of our recent bogey teams, 8-0 last week, you'd be forgiven if you thought Saints fans were getting a little ahead of themselves. Stoke are another one of those sides, with Saints not being able to beat them in all four of their Premier League fixtures so far.

We spoke to Potters fan Matt Wheatley, who is traveling down from Stoke for today's game, to see what his club could have in store for us and why he hasn't counted Bojan out just yet.

St Mary's Musings: How do you view your season so far?

Matt Wheatley: Overall, it's been as good as we can realistically expect. Us fans are still getting used to this new passing game Stoke are playing, which can appear laboured at times. This season has already had one unbelievable high - beating Man City at their home ground - but, that has been cancelled out by the frustration of not shutting down certain games we should have, most notably our 2-2 draw with QPR. <!-- ######## START FLOATED VIDEO SNIPPET ######## -->

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SMM: What were your pre-season expectations and have they changed since?

MW: After a good season last year, it would be easy to get a little carried away with expectations this time around. But, another solid mid-table finish, accompanied by a good cup run, is all I wished for before the season started - and from what I have seen so far (touch wood), we shouldn't be far off that.

SMM: I recall Mark Hughes being an unpopular choice when he was announced as Stoke boss. What do you think of him now?

MW: Being a massive Tony Pulis fan, the whole saga surrounding him leaving still doesn't feel right and I, and many other Stoke City fans, were very dubious about the appointment of Hughes as Pulis' successor. Thankfully, we're eating plenty of humble pie right now. It's a credit to Hughes: he is quickly winning the fans over with his approach to football, both home and away, and his signings have been spot on so far.

SMM: So what do Stoke fans think about Bojan? As a neutral, it looks like he hasn't lived up to his early promise.

MW: I had to rub my eyes to check I wasn't seeing things when we signed Bojan and it's a shame we haven't been able to see too much of him so far. But, he has signed a long-term contract with the club and is still young so I find it hard to believe a player of his calibre, and having the potential he clearly has/had, will be a flop. He has shown glimpses of being the same player we know from his Barcelona days, but he needs time to settle and adapt to the physical rigors of the Premier League.

SMM: How do you view Southampton as a club?

MW: With limited knowledge of the club itself, they evidently have  good scouting system and a fantastic academy. Saints have produced some quality footballers, but seemingly find it hard to keep hold of their best players. It will be interesting to see what their team looks like next season.

SMM: What did you think of Southampton's summer? Are you Surprised at how well they've started the season?

MW: It was surprising to see Southampton so willing to let such a high volume of their better players go, with other players wanting to leave but not being allowed to do so. Because of this, I couldn't see Saints replicating the season they had last year. But, right now they are proving many people wrong. That being said, I still feel Southampton are riding the crest of a wave and I feel it is only a matter of time until said wave breaks - that's when we'll truly see what this new-look squad is all about. So yes, I am surprised. But, I'm waiting to see how things pan out before I make proper judgement.

SMM: If Stoke could sign one Southampton player, who would it be and why?

MW: I've been really impressed by Morgan Schneiderlin over the last few seasons. He has developed into a really dominant midfield player and I would love seeing him added to the Stoke squad. On that note, I would also have to mention Nathaniel Clyne, who fits the bill of a modern-day full-back and would definitely kick on our approach of trying to play football 'the right way'.

SMM: If you could sell one Stoke player, who would it be and why?

MW: Phil Bardsley. I know he's new to the team and you can't knock his desire to do his best for the club, but he's not the greatest footballer in the world and he still makes me nervous every time a player starts to run at him. His tackles are all or nothing and I can definitely see him picking up a couple of red cards this season.

I'll tell you what, how about you give us Clyne for Bardsley in a straight swap? (Editor's note: not a chance!)

SMM: What are your predictions for the game?

MW: One the back of Saints' marvelous performance last week, I'm not filled with too much optimism. My heart (especially after some liquid confidence) will always say Stoke will get the win. But, my head is telling me it will be a 3-1 loss for The Potters.