Ahead of today’s clash with Stoke City, we spoke with Paul Ruane, a Stoke City fan who’s hoping for a speedy promotion back to the promised land.
How long have you supported Stoke City?
I followed the Potters progress as a kid, but my dad wasn't a fan, so we did other stuff on Saturdays. I started following them seriously as an exile in Hertfordshire in 1992 by joining the Stoke City Southern Supporters Club.
Nowadays, I have moved back to the Potteries and follow them at all levels from the first team down to U15s and a few ladies games.
What’s your favourite moment as a Stoke fan?
Probably at the time, I thought promotion to the Premier League gravy train. But that was surpassed by a 5-0 FA Cup semi final victory against Bolton Wanderers in 2011.
The final loss against Manchester City was disappointing, but led us into the Europa League, which was a great adventure to Croatia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Israel, Turkey and Spain.
Tell us about a player that you were proud to have on the back of a shirt, even if you didn’t?
I was never really one for players names on my shirt. My first was Xherdan Shaqiri when we had a plain white back, which looked pretty stupid without anything on it. Last season I had 18 year old right back Tom Edwards on it from the start of the season; he made his debut in October away to Manchester City.
An immensely proud moment for the lad and his family, who I've known for a few years. This season we have reverted to stripes on the back, so no need for a player's name.
What’s your most memorable moment playing against Leeds?
I wasn't at any of the famous victories in the 1970s, or the 6-2 or 7-2 in the 80s, so it has to be a 4-0 win on our last visit to Elland Road in 2006!
Are you happy with your dealings in this summer’s transfer market?
Happyish. With only just over a week of the transfer window left, I'm hoping Jack Butland stays with the Potters to try and get us back into the Premier League. Nigerian world cup star Etebo will be a massive part of our season. We are still a bit light with defensive back up. I expect both of Imbula and Ndiaye to leave, so we need cover in midfield. Scoring goals continues to be a problem, but we may stick with what we have up front.
I expect a clear out, which depending on incomings, could include Adam, Cameron, Choupo-Moting, Crouch, Diouf and a couple of the younger lads on loan.
What’s your realistic aim for the season?
Not to make the play-offs as a minimum would be a massive blow to the club. Prior to pre-season there was a massive amount of optimism, but a few poor performances have put into perspective where we actually are in terms of gelling into a cohesive unit capable of promotion. I'm always optimistic, so I'm hoping it's not as misguided as last season in believing that we could stay up.
Who in your mind is going to be promoted this season?
Not really a clue at this stage. Although I followed results in the Championship, I really didn't watch many games. I'll plump for Stoke, Sheffield United and Leeds.
Can you name your three for relegation this year?
QPR, because I don't like going to Loftus Road, Birmingham and Rotherham
Who’s your danger man?
Peter Etebo. He did a reasonable job on Messi in the World Cup and looks the business in training and pre-season games.
Can you tell us about a rising star in the youth ranks?
17 year-old Nathan Collins. He joined last summer from Cherry Orchard in Ireland. He captains his country at U17 level. A dominant presence in both boxes, comfortable playing out from the back and can find a man with his passes. Progressed to our U23 squad in the latter part of the season and didn't look out of place.
Prediction and scorers for the game?
Unless we gel very quickly in the next few days I'm going for an optimistic 1-1, with Benik Afobe netting for the Potters after Kemar Roofe scored for Leeds.
We’d like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him the best of luck for the season.
By Keith Ingham