The city where former Guns 'n Roses guitarist Slash spent his early years is now the new home of US National Team player Geoff Cameron. Stoke City is a Premier League club coming off a 14th-place finish in 2011-12. Just like Slash, Stoke are also currently on tour in North America.
Why Are We Here?
Geoff Cameron's link with a Premier League move is nothing new. Assuming Stoke's appeal for a work permit goes through, he'll be getting his opportunity in 2012-13. Stoke paid a transfer fee for his services, showing how seriously they see his impact with their club.
And Where Are We?
Stoke-upon-Trent, or Stoke-on-Trent to its friends and Stoke to the rest of us, a city since 1925 located in the West Midlands. It's about an hour from Stoke to your choice of Birmingham to the south, Liverpool to the northwest, and Manchester to the northeast, the homes of the nearest Premier League clubs. Historically known for pottery, yes pottery, Stoke has a population of around 240,000. In England, that's more than enough to support a Premier League team. Unfortunately, we're too late to look forward to visiting Ceramica, a pottery museum that closed last year. Chin up though, there's still the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and the fascinating Gladstone Pottery Museum, a working coal-powered pottery. Hey, have you ever seen a massive bottle kiln?
And The Club?
Ah, the football. Stoke's club date's from 1863, older than the English league system and second oldest in the country. They waited until Stoke-on-Trent was officially a city to add that to their name. We're supposed to focus on the simple fact that Stoke is very old while ignoring their distinct lack of topflight trophies. Stoke have never won the league, though they do have two second division titles when that meant the league below the topflight and one where it meant the third. They've also never won the FA Cup, coming the closest in 2010-11. They do have a League Cup, won in 1971-72 and there is their current Premier League status. Surprising no one given our brief history lessons or their logo at the top of the page, Stoke City goes by The Potters. That's a far better nickname than the season they spent in the old United Soccer Association in 1967. For their summer in America, they played as the Cleveland Stokers.
How Tough Is The Premier League?
For Stoke, not as tough as you might expect. With a limited budget and without the appeal of the bigger clubs they've kept their Premier League status for three seasons. Last season's 14th-place is the lowest they've finished, and the club is looking for the additions that will establish them firmly in the middle of the pack. There's a world of difference between there and challenging for the European slots, but it's also a significant step up from worrying about relegation in March.
That would be the Britannia, a romantic name courtesy of a sponsorship deal with Britannia Co-operative Bank. Built in 1997, it holds 27,740 fans. In Premier League terms, there are five smaller stadiums in the league this season and one that holds just over a hundred more than than Stoke's. Sellouts are the norm, unlike some of the other Premier League clubs.