Date: 5th May 2016 at 4:50pm
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It’s not every season Leicester City win the Premier League. That alone; amongst other things, is giving fans second thoughts when they are asked whether this has been a successful campaign or not, and Stoke is no different.

Every team has ups and downs within their season, and this time out has been no different. So, all in all, has this been a good campaign for the Potters?

In three parts, I’d describe it as a disappointing start, a decent middle and a ‘back to reality’ end.

Photo: Kieran Clarke

Hughes’ Stoke currently sit 10th in the Premier League following their 1-1 draw against Sunderland on Saturday – Photo: Kieran Clarke / Offside.

No win in the first six was far from ideal to say the least, which left some supporters thinking that Stoke would be looking over their shoulders towards the lower end of the table rather than setting their sights on European football.

The good times involved home wins over Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in the Premier League without conceding a single goal, with Stoke at their best – not to mention a cup semi-final where only a penalty shootout at Anfield eventually denied Mark Hughes’ side a place at Wembley Stadium.

All of them memorable moments above are without doubt what frustrates supporters when there is disappointing performances.

Home losses to West Brom, Watford, Crystal Palace and draws against Swansea City and Sunderland stood out amongst some poor results, but although it’s extremely infuriating, I think most football fans will accept that’s part and parcel of the game.

The truth is this league is now more competitive than ever, and whoever you are, you have to turn up and perform week in week out or you will get punished.

If you are going to look at it as a whole, it’s been a decent campaign in my eyes.

Some memorable results, a cup semi-final, and a comfortable mid-table finish; there’s not an awful lot more you can ask for, especially with the amount of injuries manager Hughes and his team have had to deal with this season.

The injury curse has struck more than ever this season, with 75 different injuries occurring to different Potters players since August, with some of these being months out rather than weeks.

Conceding four goals three weeks running recently was one probably the lowest point of the season, but even then we were on our third choice keeper, second choice left-back and right-back, plus a captain returning half fit after recent back surgery.

I’m not one to make excuses for poor performances, but these things certainly don’t help. All things considered, I think Mr. Hughes deserves some credit.

This season ends with games away to Crystal Palace and a home fixture against West Ham United.

One would hope Palace have one eye on the FA Cup final now they have almost secured Premier League survival, giving Stoke an opportunity to take advantage of a potential weakened side.

Who knows what West Ham will have to play for come next Sunday, but either way Stoke are facing a very good side.

Mark Noble is a fantastic player in the middle of midfield and Dimitri Payet has been a revelation – they will have high hopes as they move into their Olympic Stadium next term.

Hopefully Stoke can finish the season strong, the time of year that tends to stick in most people’s mind when it comes to evaluating progress.

Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Defender Wilkinson made 193 appearances for the Potters between 2001 and 2016 – Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Although there are only two games left this season, there will be one more game played at the Britannia Stadium before everybody goes off on their holidays when Andy Wilkinson’s testimonial takes place a week on Monday.

It will be great for all supporters to attend a game with no pressure and be able to react to missed chances with a smile.

I will personally enjoy seeing some old faces back who had a big role to play in keeping Stoke in the Premier League under Tony Pulis, and what better than to do it for a good cause with several different charities benefiting.

 
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