There are some huge English clubs that nowadays can’t make it into in the Premier League. When considering the likes of Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday have been struggling in the Championship for some time, you have to say that the rise of Stoke City over recent years has been phenomenal.
When the Potters were promoted to the Premier League back in 2008, betting company Paddy Power paid out on them to be relegated before a ball had even been kicked. Since then, the only way has been up.
The top teams have never had an easy ride at the Britannia, in particular Arsenal, who have been beaten five times, only triumphing once. There also hasn’t been a single season where, with limited games remaining, Stoke have been in trouble of relegation.
A combined effort from Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes has left supporters dreaming of potential European qualification through league position, or even from another FA Cup final as was the case in 2011.
Pulis himself bought the club on leaps and bounds when he took over for the second time, but since becoming manager two seasons ago, Mark Hughes has taken the club to another level.
In their first game in the Premier League away at Bolton, Stoke lined up with an XI of: Sorensen, Wilkinson (Dickinson 76), Cort, Shawcross, Griffin, Delap, Olofinjana, Whelan (Lawrence 56), Cresswell, Kitson, Sidibe (Fuller 65). Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Pericard, Diao, Amdy Faye.
Compare that to the line-up to Sunday’s vs Liverpool: Butland, Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Pieters (Wollscheid – 45′ ), Van Ginkel, Whelan, Walters, Adam (Sidwell – 78′ ), Afellay Odemwingie – 78′ ), Diouf.
And Sunday’s was in fact a weakened line-up, with captain Ryan Shawcross, Bojan and Marko Arnautovic missing through injury. The strength and depth is there for all to see with the likes of Peter Crouch, Joselu and Stephen Ireland only able to make the bench. That’s before you even mention Xherdan Shaqiri.
Teams such as Swansea and Southampton deserve huge credit for their successes since promotion, but it’s important Stoke aren’t forgotten in that list.
So, what’s next?
Despite the losses of Asmir Begovic and Steven N’Zonzi in the summer, the squad is looking fairly strong with three weeks of this transfer window still remaining. The feeling is that if Hughes can get one more through the door, it could be yet another special season in the Potteries.
Improvement is tough, especially when you have broken records in back-to-back seasons, but the club’s progression and ambition is getting Stokies as excited as ever.
The club’s rise over the last eight years has not only pleased the supporters, but has shocked fans of fellow clubs. Not only are they surprised Stoke are bringing such a high calibre of players in, they are asking the question why these players are making their way to the Potteries instead of to their respective clubs.
It’s an exciting time to be a Stoke fan, and although everybody is rightly looking forward to what will hopefully be a successful campaign, it’s nice to reminisce and recognise just what great success has already been achieved.