Date: 31st July 2013 at 12:32am
Written by:

There is a palpable excitement among Stoke fans as we countdown to the 2013/14 Premier League season which begins in just 3 week`s time. The Potters will travel to Merseyside to face Liverpool in the season opener under new boss Mark Hughes who has taken the reigns after the club parted ways with Tony Pulis.

The Welshman was a fantastic servant to Stoke City, I for one never dreamed of watching my team in FA Cup finals and experiencing European trips following my heroes, for this I will be forever grateful. However it was becoming abundantly clear the Pulis may well have taken us as far as he could. This is nothing to be sneered at he has worked miracles to guide us to and keep us in the premier league but the football was slowly becoming stagnant and the support for the manager and the team was dwindling. This prompted the club into action and I think the majority agreed it was time for a change and so it`s Sparky who has been chosen to step into Tp`s shoes, or should that be trainers and tracksuit.

The Appointment of Hughes was not met with 100% approval from all Stoke fans, the promise of a change of direction from the board, left some, including myself I have to admit feeling slightly underwhelmed by Mark Hughes` arrival. However having digested it and listened to what he has had to say I am beginning to believe this could be a very shrewd move by Peter Coates and the rest of the board. Hughes record in the Premier League is up there with the best of them, despite the obvious blip at QPR which can be put a lot down to circumstance, he has never finished outside the top ten in a season which he has managed for the full duration. A much craved after top ten finish which has proved so elusive for Stoke since our return to the big time, would be an enormous achievement and does not seem an unrealistic target. These were achieved with Fulham and Blackburn, clubs of a similar stature; if he could repeat this at Stoke I think we would all be delighted.

Having been originally unconvinced by Hughes appointment I have to say he has impressed me from the outset. When I sat down in front of Sky Sports News to watch that first news conference I didn’t know what to expect, but the Welshman spoke brilliantly about his plans and passion for Stoke city. He has spoken of “Evolution not Revolution” which I think is a great policy. Of course we all want to see a more entertaining and expansive Stoke City but we cannot go completely away from our clubs philosophy`s as that is a recipe for disaster. Too much change too soon could see us in for a very difficult season. This won`t happen under Hughes, his success at Blackburn was based on the fantastic work ethic he instilled and I expect that to be the same at Stoke. That Rovers side were also renowned for being a tough physical side and with the bookies already installing Stoke as favourites to finish bottom of the fair play league, I think it is safe to say we will once again be very competitive this season.

It has been very encouraging watching our Pre Season games to date to see the way we are keeping the ball and retaining possession. Huth and Shawcross especially playing the ball out from the back as we all felt they could rather than hopeful lumps forward. I certainly expect us to be more expansive with the ball especially away from home; it will be an area the new management team will be keen to address. Averaging three away wins a season since we were promoted is simply not good enough and a more attacking mentality will hopefully reap rewards.

There are areas in the squad that Hughes will be looking to strengthen. The obvious one being our misfiring forward line, both Crouch and Jones had runs in the team last season but neither could produce the kind of consist goal scoring we have been crying out for. Only relegated QPR scored fewer goals than The Potters last term so a new striker is likely to be top of Sparky`s wish list. Personally I would love Jermaine Defoe but he may be slightly out of the clubs range nut a striker of his mould who can produce 15 goals a season would really help us reach that top ten finish we all hope for. The long standing Left Back problem has been addressed with the addition of Erik Pieters who looks a very solid performer and I expect him to be a regular this season.

I for one cannot wait for August 17th, the big kick off, and everything to be back to normal. The summer has been long and I am more than ready to cheer on my heroes in red and white once again. I expect a very different season and there will no doubt be ups and downs along the way but I believe this season has the potential to be the start of a very successful period in the history of Stoke City Football Club.

Enjoy the ride, Every Step Along The Way.