Guest co-editor: The tricky fifth season
Most Stoke fans seem to fall into one of two camps; those who tip us to beat everyone & those predicting disaster. I am in the middle, we are strong & won`t struggle but we need to improve seeing as our record of scoring, at 36, was the lowest number of prem goals by any other team last season & only Blackburn were lower in the average possession stakes (ours was 44.1%- hardly Barcelona, but then Arsenal have a high average but won`t relish the trip to the brit bear pit next week).
Whilst we may not have great flair & Tone always has one player he plays come hell or high; Jonathan Walters, we have great resilience -the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - we`ll play how we want.
Add a fit again Palacios ,who can pass a ball & tackle (a novelty) , Kightly who will inject pace , Geoff Cameron who will show graft, guile & presto and also a proven centre forward to latch onto Crouchy`s knock -downs, things will improve.
There is bad news though about Popov`s visa, as we need full backs, last season demonstrated centre backs playing wide doesn`t work. Whilst Wilko is a good squad player & loyal local lad, his distribution just isn`t improving, but with Ness being added into the equation with Wilson, things could look up. Shawcross made most headed clearances in the Premiership last season combining with Huth and Begovic to form a solid spine.
If we recall back to the late 90`s nightmares of the Prudhoes (Huddersfield & others) , Robinson, Oldfield vintage and then fast forward 15 years & we have seen Stoke in a FA cup final(after the 5-0 pasting of Bolton) holding their own in Europe & glorious times like crouch vs Man Citteeh. Don`t underestimate the impact of the 150th anniversary which will get the stadium rocking that helps fire our lads, preserving the fortress Britannia reputation.
• Stoke will finish 10th beating Liverpool, Arsenal & others plus another good cup run.
• 5 years more of progress & will arrive on the pitch with 11 full internationals, chasing a top 6 finish.
• We will be the tallest league side again, even if we sign Michael Owen.
• Arsene probably won`t enjoy his 26th celebratory tribute day.