Martin Smith: Hopefully Jamie Ness can be the start of entertaining summer
SO Jamie Ness has become Stoke's first signing of the close season – subject to international clearance.
It's good to see Tony Pulis making some early moves in the market, in this case snapping up the 21-year-old midfielder from crisis-torn Glasgow Rangers.
Hopefully it won't be too long before other pieces of the pre-season jigsaw start to fall into place.
I understand these sort of things need to be done patiently and sensibly because the club can't operate as though they have a bottomless pit of money.
Otherwise, we could end up like, well, Rangers.
Even so, it's always a tense time waiting for pre-season and clinging on to every scrap of information coming from the club and the media.
One thing we know for certain is this year's pre-season campaign will be quite a change.
The Potters are heading off to America for three games. That means a lot of organisation, holiday time and cash will be required for fans who like to follow City in these games.
I have followed the team to Austria, Holland, Belgium and even sunny Scotland, but the trip to the U.S. will prove to be a tour too far for me, especially after the outlay of last season and our great European adventure.
I don't mind though, and I'm sure that most fans don't either.
I have had a great time on these pre-season trips, but there's no doubt they are not really as popular as they used to be.
You only have to look at the crowds we get at the annual Newcastle Town game to see there's less interest.
Two years ago I was at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham for one of our pre-season games, on a lovely, balmy summer's evening, and was surprised to see no more than 200 Stokies in attendance.
I doubt therefore whether too many supporters are genuinely aggrieved that the team are heading off to far flung stadiums in Columbus, Orlando and Kansas City.
If anything, playing two MLS teams plus Orlando, which undoubtedly has MLS aspirations, reflects the growing stature of our club.
The Premier League is big news in the U.S. and their teams are always keen to test themselves against those English sides who are prepared to venture over the pond.
Just as we all loved seeing Stoke in Europe last season, we should embrace the opportunity to see our team take on these American sides and just hope that we can find live streams of the games, dodgy or otherwise.
I was actually glad to see the back of last season. I think the team had run out of steam and I undoubtedly had. Fatigue had got the better of both of us.
However, as the summer weeks pass by, I find myself looking forward to the new campaign.
It will be very interesting to see how teams, including Stoke, approach the season.
Will teams be more influenced by the way in which Chelsea unexpectedly won the Champions League or the way in which Spain became the first international team in history to win three successive major trophies?
Chelsea's way was one of dogged determination and some luck, to defy the odds, while Spain showed it's very hard to be beaten if other teams can't get the ball off you.
No sane fan would expect Stoke and our Premier League peers to be able to suddenly start playing like Spain, but people are bound to wonder if clubs will move in that direction?
I suspect that teams will stick with what works – and that includes us.
The truth is the vast majority of fans just like to see their team doing well. If they are getting that then they don't really care how it is being achieved.
For us, though, the formula which got us out of the Championship and then saw us flourish so unexpectedly in the Premier League did start to look a little jaded and predictable last season.
We either need to freshen up our playing staff or our style if we want to continue to defy and confound those critics who have been wishing us ill-will ever since we got promoted.
Here's keeping my fingers crossed that the signing of Jamie Ness is just the first step along the road to making sure Stoke City are as competitive and equipped as ever to deal with the rigours of a tough season ahead.