The signing of Shawcross was a particular masterstroke as 24 hours after signings on loan from Manchester United, the then unknown centre back scored the ony goal of the game at Ninian Park as Stoke got themselves underway with a victory.
The usual first round exit in the Carling Cup followed at Rochdale, with Shawcross and Cresswell taking the game to penalties, before a grreat performance in front of the TV cameras saw a late goal from sub Parkin seal a 2-1 win over recently relegated Charlton.
Four games without a win halted the early season charge until a Fuller brace sealed a 3-2 comeback win at home to Plymouth
Three defeats in a row at home, to Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry and Sheffield United, would have put the Potters well down the league had it not been for a dramatic late 3-2 win at Scunthorpe and a great 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
A 12 game unbeaten run followed including a 97th minute penalty equaliser away at Barnsley and a Ricardo Fuller hat trick that tore apart eventual champions West Brom at the Brit.
Stoke were now rocking and had spent big in january to acquire the permanent signatures of loanees Danny Pugh, Ryan Shawcross and Leon Cort, whilst free agent Salif Diao rejoined and ex-Potter Paul Gallagher returned on loan.
The single goal defeat at Charlton didn't affect the side as they won 5 in a row after that, including coming from two goals down to win at home to Scunthorpe and a 4-2 defeat of Wolves at Molineux. Stoke were now going to places where they tradionally struggled and picking up wins and another example of this was at Norwich when Sidibe flicked in a Delap throw in for the only goal as Stoke sealed another 3 points.
Promotion was within the sights now but 4 games without a win allowed the chasing pack to group round and just when the Potters needed a run they got one defeating Coventry, Bristol City and Colchester by one goal to set up the final day when a point at home to relegation threatened Leicester would be enough. A nervy game finished goalless and the faithful joined their heroes on the pitch to celebrate a return to the top flight whilst the Leicester fans in the corner sportingly showed their applause even after their relegation was confirmed.
This team will go down in the history of the club and Tony Pulis and Peter Coates had proven to all the doubters that they were right to return.
46-Rory Delap(46/0), Richard Cresswell(44/2)
44-Ryan Shawcross(42/2), Liam Lawrence(43/1), Ricardo Fuller(41/3)
32-Jon Parkin(6/26), Danny Pugh(29/3)
30-John Eustace(24/6), Carl Dickinson(21/9)
14-Dominic Matteo(14/0), Glenn Whelan(13/1)
6-Peter Sweeney(0/6), Vincent Pericard(2/4), Shola Ameobi(3/3)
4-Jody Craddock(4/0), Anthony Pulis(1/3), Jay Bothroyd(1/3), Stephen Pearson(3/1), Lewis Buxton(0/4)
2-Danny Higginbotham(2/0), Demar Phillips(0/2), Russell Hoult(2/0)
15-Ricardo Fuller(2P), Liam Lawrence(4P)
8-Ryan Shawcross, Leon Cort
2-Jon Parkin, Rory Delap