Martin Smith: Forget the recriminations, we all need to get behind Stoke City
THOSE of us hoping for a sedate conclusion to our fifth season in the Premier League have been rudely shaken from our complacency by Stoke's recent results and displays.
We were already glancing nervously over our shoulders towards the edge of the precipice before Sunday's latest setback ... defeat at Newcastle delivered in the cruellest of fashion.
For the record, we took the lead with three-quarters of the game played, yet still managed to lose when we didn't really deserve to. The fact the killer goal came deep into stoppage time just added to the sense of injustice.
Viewed on its own, it wasn't a bad Stoke performance at all. We competed well and didn't get our just desserts.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Of course, it might have been better if we'd been more pro-active in taking the game to a team who, after all, had been all the way to Moscow on Europa League duty less than three days earlier, and we still didn't do enough to create many goalscoring chances.
Ultimately, though, this was an improved display. Newcastle did to us what we did to them at the Brit earlier in the season – nicked a win against the run of play.
Of course, it's disappointing it should happen while we're on a poor run because we really could have done with the tonic of a good result.
And it adds to our worsening stats of 2013. We have now taken just four points from a possible 27 since the turn of the year, meaning we have the worst points-per-game ratio of any of the 92 league clubs in the country.
Other worrying stats come in the form of knowing we have now won only eight of our last 40 games, scoring just 36 goals in the process.
So if ever we've needed a good performance and a win then it's now ... and fate has given us that opportunity in the shape of a home game against West Brom this weekend.
Now every Stoke fan knows The Baggies are our favourite opponents. We have an amazingly good record against them over the past 20-odd years, and boy how we could do with one of those victories on Saturday.
Not that it'll be an easy task. West Brom are going great guns under manager Steve Clarke.
And we mustn't forget that they won at The Brit last season, and should have also done so the season before.
That means we're going to have to be up for the fight and ready to put everything on the line. Fortune favours the brave, and we have to show the courage required to end our current run of form.
To that end, I hope the Stoke support will be fully behind the players on Saturday and that we can get away from the kind of scenes and sounds we experienced during and after the home defeat by West Ham a couple of weeks ago.
That's not to give anyone a free ride, or deny fans the right to have their say.
However, I believe everything that needs to be said has been said. It's all out there and everyone knows what the issues and grievances are.
I don't see what can be gained by repeating these complaints.
In fact, there is a danger that by doing so we could talk ourselves into an increasingly depressing spiral of doubt and doom.
We can't allow ourselves to become angry to the point where it starts to affect the matchday atmosphere at the Brit as that just has a negative influence on the players.
Those who believe we are being sucked into a relegation battle should know it won't help if they continue to vent their spleen.
For the time being, we have to be the "12th man" again, doing all we can to help push our team across the safety finishing line again this season.
Once we've done that, people are free to have their say. But until then we must show that the supporters are the ones who care most about the club and avoid doing anything that could jeopardise it.
I know some will take these comments to mean fans should put up and shut up, but that's not what I'm saying.
If anyone really does believe the club are in any kind of danger this season then we have to close ranks, forget our grievances and just make sure we support the players on the pitch.
Those who want to deliver their judgements and verdicts can do so once we know for sure our team is safe for another season. That will be the time for the final reckoning.
Here's hoping for a better result this weekend and, hopefully, a good display from The Potters.
Good football and excitement have been in painfully short supply recently, but we know that our team is still capable of delivering it when they put their minds to it.