Well could there have been any Stokie who walked away from the Brit on Saturday whose chest wasn’t positively bursting with pride?
On the face of it (and perhaps to some neutral observers) a point at home for Stoke could possibly slip under the radar. Make no mistake though; this was a watershed performance from the Potters. Since our promotion Chelsea and Manchester United have been the two teams that we have failed to make any real impression on (or take any points off for that matter.)
Clearly they have easily been the two strongest and most successful sides in recent seasons and always displayed more back bone than say Arsenal, who have always looked vulnerable against motivated and physical teams.
So for Stoke to take the game to a full strength Chelsea who were going for a fifth straight win in the Premier League speaks volumes for the effort, skill and application of Tony Pulis’s charges this weekend.
The positive display also highlights just how important the correct mentality and the right starting XI are to this Stoke City team. TP has done superbly for us but he would perhaps admit that we have sometimes been guilty of paying teams such as Chelsea too much respect in the past and almost being beaten before the game kicks off.
We now have a solid looking back four again and our midfield looks balanced with the twin threat of Etherington and Pennant looking capable of causing even the best defences problems. Up front Jon Walters’s current form is sending out a clear message that he now believes he can produce the goods at this level. Another pleasing aspect of Saturday’s display was the return to form of Kenwyne Jones. For quite some time now KJ has looked a shadow of himself and clearly issues outside of football were affecting his form. The end result has been some very below par outings with no real indication of the great physical presence that has in the past ruffled the most esteemed of feathers. Hopefully he can use his new found form and work ethic to reap greater rewards (and goals) over the coming weeks.
The response from the majority of the media has been refreshingly positive as well. Even when we’re playing well our performances are often unfairly maligned but some of the rave reviews we have received made many a Stokie do a double-take to make sure it really was us they were talking about. Far from making the excuse that we got the result due to a poor Chelsea effort we were praised for matching (and bettering) our guests in many aspects in a fixture the champions actually played quite well in. Paul Merson in particular was gushing in his analysis of our superb second half display.
Saturday’s game was a proper humdinger and a great advert for the Premier League. The Potters’ performance was a real two-fingered salute to the likes of Mick Dennis and Adrian Durham who have rarely hesitated in sticking the knife into us over the last three years.
We now find ourselves on 38 points with seven games remaining not to mention the small matter of an F.A. Cup Semi-final to look forward to. Our last three matches have really shown just how good this Stoke team can be and how we can give any team in the land something to think about, especially at the Brit. If we can continue our current form and secure a top ten finish as well as a cup final then the pride in the Potteries will reach heights not seen for nearly 40 years.