ANDY GRIFFIN is predicting a close battle when his two former clubs meet on Saturday . . . and believes newly-promoted Reading can take lessons in survival from their visitors.
Stoke City kick off their fifth Premier League campaign when they take on the Royals at the Madejski Stadium, with the 33-year-old full-back insisting that the Potters’ success so far can be the blueprint for promoted sides looking to make an impact in the top-flight.
“I think a lot of teams can learn from Stoke City,” said Griffin.
“They’ve been extremely successful over the last five or six years – they’ve played in Europe, they’ve played in an FA Cup Final and they’ve established themselves in the Premier League.
“To see the players they have at the club now is wonderful. You only have to go back not so long ago and all this would have been unthinkable. Peter Coates has been good in the transfer market, kept faith in the manager and has been rewarded with regular Premier League football.”
Griffin appreciates the challenges his former employers will face this weekend, though – he was released from Reading at the end of the last campaign, so is well-placed to judge their capabilities.
He insists the atmosphere at the Madejski Stadium will reach fever-pitch come 3.00pm on Saturday afternoon as the new Premier League campaign gets underway, and that Brian McDermott’s team will be eager to fly out of the blocks in front of their own supporters.
“It’s always difficult to go and play a newly-promoted team because there’s an excitement all around the place, especially with the players they’ve brought in,” he stated.
“A lot of the players will have something to prove, having not played Premier League football before. They’ll want to show people they’re good enough.
“Stoke are more or less an established team, though, and are very difficult to break down. I can see it going 1-0 either way, but I think if it was a draw then both teams would be happy.”
The defender, who had three spells in the Potteries, is well aware that a fast start can fire the starter pistol on a productive campaign.
He remembers fondly City’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa in their first top-flight game at the Britannia Stadium back in 2008, and insists that set them off on a sound footing.
“I think it was huge. We lost to Bolton on the first day and most people had us down as certainties for relegation,” he added. “Newspapers were saying negative things, but then we played Villa and Ricardo Fuller scored that brilliant goal.
“The Britannia became this place where, whoever came, we were going to do it our own way and hopefully get the three points.
“Reading will need to make sure they get off to a similar start – if they can, I think they can have a good season and stay in the division.”
As for Stoke’s prospects, Griffin thinks consolidating their status will be the main priority.
“In my eyes, if they stay up, then that will be another successful season,” he added.
“I think sometimes you can become a victim of your own success. Tony Pulis will know he has to keep pushing and pushing and not take things for granted.
“Hopefully, they can have a good cup run, maybe winning one of them. As long as they stay in the league, though, that’s the main thing. Tony will make sure complacency doesn’t creep in.”
In terms of his own career, Griffin is very much on the lookout for his next adventure. He admits he would have like to have tied something down sooner, but he’s remaining positive on his future.
“I’m currently just working hard myself, being patient and hopefully the right club will come.
“There’s been contact with a few clubs, a couple of maybes, but they need to shift players on before they can get people in. I’ve just got to make sure I’m in shape for when my chance comes.”