Martin Smith: Potters' performance shows the future's bright at the Brit
WE'RE four games into the season and although we have yet to record our first victory, you won't find too many Stokies who are too concerned.
We may still be waiting for that first three-point haul, but we're also unbeaten and have every reason to feel optimistic about the way things are going.
Saturday's 1-1 home draw against Manchester City was, once again, a tight and fiercely contested affair, with the biggest-spending club in the world once again unable to take the spoils at the Britannia Stadium.
That alone is reason enough for us all to be pleased, although it was the way in which we played which was the most pleasing aspect.
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We were second best in the first half, but for most of the second Stoke were superb.
We applied the pressure, and it's just a shame we didn't create more chances. than we did during this period.
The television highlights are always going to concentrate on goalmouth incidents, so they ended up painting a distorted picture of the game, incorrectly suggesting that Manchester City had been completely dominant.
The point was one thing, but the performance of our players was another – none of them had a poor game.
We were all impressed with Charlie Adam's debut at Wigan, although Steven Nzonzi was even better in his first appearance in a Stoke City shirt.
The midfielder popped up all over the pitch, winning the ball, getting stuck in, competing for headers and producing neat passes.
It was mightily impressive stuff and struck the right chord with an appreciative Stoke support.
Nzonzi had his work cut out trying to deal with the menacing presence of Yaya Toure, but he more than held his own.
Also worthy of mentions are Asmir Begovic and Ryan Shawcross.
Both players conspired to deny Manchester City in the dying moments, as the Premier League champions showed exactly why they won the title on the final day of last season.
Begovic had already produced one stunning save to deny Toure, but his reflex save on to the post to deny Garcia a second headed goal was just world class.
As for Shawcross, what can you say?
His Herculean effort, with the very last kick of the game, to deny Dzeko as his lobbed effort bounced towards the empty net, was incredible.
That Shawcross continues to be overlooked for selection to the England national team is nothing short of a disgrace.
He has performed superbly in five successive seasons for Stoke and conducts himself superbly as our captain. He is a conscientious young family man who doesn't make any headlines for his behaviour off the field. He is a credit to the game.
It almost beggars belief that he is continuously overlooked, while other less-deserving players are awarded England caps.
The fact is, if Ryan Shawcross played for any one of about 10 or 12 other clubs in the Premier League he'd be an integral part of the England set-up.
If there were any complaints about the Man City game then they're picky ones which, for me, consisted of only two observations.
The first was that we didn't deliver our dead-balls well enough. We're a team who relies so heavily on them that they have to be better than they were on Saturday.
There was also an incident very late in the game when Glenn Whelan had the chance to try to slide a through-ball into the path of Michael Owen, who was showing where he wanted the ball as he peeled away from his marker.
Our Irish midfielder had a superb game, but he just didn't seem willing to try to make that killer pass.
If we're going to have Owen in the team, then it's a pass we're going to have to try to make if we're going to get the best out of him.
They are only minor quibbles though, and there was so much to be pleased about as we now look forward to our next daunting challenge – Chelsea away this weekend.
Given the tough start we've been handed, it's no surprise that some are almost writing off this game and looking forward to the Swansea home match the week after.
In my mind though, the mere fact that nobody is expecting us to get anything from our visit to Stamford Bridge is the very reason why we should go and enjoy the occasion.
We have nothing to fear if everyone is expecting us to lose anyway, so why not go there and give it a go?
That doesn't mean a reckless approach, but why not line up as we did against Manchester City and see how the dice fall?
We have nothing to show from our five previous visits to this part of West London, so what do we have to lose?
Fortune favours the brave and we've seen the sort of changes to the Stoke team in recent games which suggests we might finally get some reward from out trip to Stamford Bridge.