Stoke have come a long way over the last ten years or so… going from being stuck at the lower end of the Championship to eighth in the Premier League, competing for a Europa League spot and purchasing high-end multi-million pound players.
It’s something not many saw coming, and some of the football and moments we see down the Brit nowadays are breathtaking.
Despite the signing of the likes of Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Gianelli Imbula, there are three old faces that are still more than making their mark in the red and white.
Captain Ryan Shawcross, midfield maestro Glenn Whelan and forward Jon Walters have over 700 appearances for the club between them and have made a huge impact throughout their time.
Shawcross and Whelan were a key part in the Potters’ promotion to the top-flight as well as ever-presents in it, and Jon Walters has been crucial in taking the club onto the next level.
The skipper will go down as one of Stoke’s all-time greats in everybody’s mind, but the Irish duo have their doubters amongst supporters.
Those big name players are a delight to watch, but each player has an individual job and there’s always room for the likes of Whelan and Walters to do the work their flair players don’t want to and wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to do.
For the last eight seasons, Whelan has sat in front of countless different back-fours and done the dirty work which has allowed the forward players to express themselves.
It’s not always noticed because fans tend to lean towards the players who score goals and put you on the edge of your seat, but Whelan’s role is crucial and the player himself has been a massive part of the club’s rise.
If you look back over a lot of the big moments in Stoke’s Premier League era, you will find Walters made vital contributions to plenty of them.
A double in the 5-0 victory over Bolton in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, multiple goals in a European campaign and continuous overlooked duties including supporting his full-backs and playing in unnatural positions.
The new TV deal would indicate that the big-money signings are going to keep on coming, but from a personal perspective I would like to see both Whelan and Walters finish their careers in the Potteries.
Eventually they will get to the age where they cannot make as big of a contribution as they do currently, and as time goes on it’s inevitable they won’t be regular starters, but their presence and experience in the dressing room alongside their undoubted ability has been, and will continue to be, important to the club.
It was disappointing that Stoke followed up three straight wins and a draw at Chelsea with a defeat at home to Southampton, but it was important to get back on the right track at Watford on Saturday.
The previously mentioned Walters scored the opener at Vicarage Road whilst Whelan battled on through injury to help see Stoke to three points in what was a dominant display and a deserved victory.
It’s always nice to pick up a win before an international break so the players can go away happy and will come back in a positive frame of mind.
Hopefully those on international duty get positive results, come back injury-free and prepared for a tough run in with ambitions to be the victors as dark horses in the race for a Europa League spot.