Date: 28th April 2017 at 3:56pm
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Manager Mark Hughes has challenged the Stoke City players to make a historic fourth straight top ten finish in the Premier League, starting with victory over West Ham United this weekend.

Admitting that 2016/17 has been a ‘difficult campaign’ the Welshman is demanding a strong finish to the season now to ensure a fourth top ten placing in a row.

With Swansea City last weekend being our fifth straight loss on our travels, he wants a reaction at this time of asking.

Speaking to the Official Website as he met with the media for his pre game press conference, Hughes explained.

‘I have said for a number of weeks, only because it was highlighted to me, but if we finish in the top 10 then that will be the first time in this Club`s history that we will have done that four years in a row. We are always trying to achieve things and make history, so that is our real focus now, and we are using that to really drive us to the conclusion of what has, at times, been a difficult season. It has been tough this year for many reasons, but other clubs, including the likes of Southampton and West Ham can say the same – their story has been similar to ours. That said, we still have things within our hands that we can achieve, so it is down to us to go out there now and make sure we end the season strongly, which I feel we will.’

Turning his thoughts more to the opposition, he confirmed that Jack Butland would continue between the sticks following his return to competitive action at the Liberty Stadium.

‘It was important to get Jack back involved last weekend and he will keep his place this weekend too. I said before and after the game that my decision was in no way a reflection on Lee Grant, because he has arguably been our player of the year. I made the change because it was important for Jack`s development, especially looking towards next season. He will be better for that and he has a home game to look forward to tomorrow, which is another major part of his rehabilitation.’

In terms of an injury update he confirmed that Jonathan Walters was our only real doubt.

‘The only player we are still waiting on is Jon Walters. He missed out last weekend and hasn`t been able to do a great deal this week to be perfectly honest. He will train today and we will assess him after that. We are trying to manage his week and make sure he is available for matches, so we will see how he is after the session today.’

He went on to say about our preparation and the mood in the camp.

‘The mood in the dressing room is good and the guys are all looking forward to the game, just as I am. It is an important one for us, clearly, especially after the setback at the Liberty Stadium last weekend. I have said all season that when we have a disappointment we more often than not bounce back, and I fully expect the guys to do that again tomorrow. We want to get past the 40-point marker tomorrow and then go on and end the season on a high. We have good games coming up, but first and foremost it is all about getting the job done against West Ham.’

With West Ham have struggles of their own, he went on to say about Slaven Bilic.

‘Focus will come on your shoulders when a team is struggling for results. There are a lot of factors that go into the season you face, like injuries, difficult runs of fixtures and the like, and if things are going bad then it doesn`t mean you are a poor manager, which Slaven most definitely isn`t. The Premier League is an incredibly difficult league to navigate through successfully, and if you slip below the bar on occasions then it can be difficult, just as several clubs have this season, maybe including ourselves.’

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