Martin Smith: Stoke City's potential needs to become prized points haul
WE are six games into the new season, but find ourselves still looking for our first win. of the campaign and
In three matches we’ve been the victims of late goals, and if it wasn’t for Ryan Shawcross’ goal-line clearance against Manchester City, it could have been four.
having already been the victims of heartbreaking late goals in three of those matches. In fact, had it not been for captain Ryan Shawcross’s extraordinary goal-line heroics against Man City we’d have felt the sharp sting of late, late disappointment in four of our six games!
That sort of run would normally have everyone pulling their hair out and a line of fans as long as Stanley Matthews Way ready to vent their anger and frustration. about the way things are going.
But that’s far from the reality of the situation right now.
Make no mistake, everyone is waiting anxiously for that first win, of the season but the prevailing mood among the faithful is upbeat and positive.
And so it should be. We may only have two draws and a defeat to show from our last three games, but the performances from Tony Pulis’s men have all been encouraging and offer the prospect of more to come.
Especially when you consider that two of these matches have been against the European champions and the Premier League champions. – both of whom are among the highest spending clubs in the world – then context is everything.
We have been derided and lauded in equal measure since we arrived in the Premier League.
Our approach and style of play has often being criticised, even by those who acknowledge how well we’ve done to implant ourselves into the heart of England’s elite and survive in one of the world’s most competitive domestics leagues.
Our approach has been a basic one. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been focused, direct and effective.
It has achieved what it set out to achieve and even our fiercest critics have to admit that even if they have to do so through gritted teeth.
Ultimately, though, merely aiming to survive is not the way forward.
If you set your sights too low and only ever do the bare minimum to achieve those goals, then one day you’ll get caught out.
Just as teams who aim for the title sometimes miss out by a few points and have to settle for second, third or fourth, so those who aim exclusively for 40-odd points will one day fall short and find themselves playing Championship football. the following season.
In order to prosper you have to move forward and you have to aim higher.
You may not make it, but you give yourself some leeway and protection if you fall short.
The first signs of Stoke City making a genuine move forward have, in my opinion, been seen in the past few games. on the field of play and by the way the team is beginning to take shape.
Boosted by the recent arrivals of Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi, our squad looks stronger than ever. and that appears to have reflected in recent performances.
The goals haven’t arrived, but 49 per cent possession at Chelsea, along with 12 attempts on goal, suggest they may not be far away.
Once the goals do start to arrive, and we’ll have to see if the acquisition of Michael Owen, pictured below, will help us to remedy this weakness, then the results will follow.
I believe Stoke City could be on the brink of something very special with regards to our place in the Premier League and the direction we’re heading.
However, not until we start to tuck some wins under our belts will we really start to enjoy the season.
We have a very good opportunity to get the ball rolling at home to Swansea this weekend.
Despite their amazing start to the season, when they won 5-0 at QPR and then walloped West Ham 3-0, it has to be said the Welsh side have looked less convincing in other recent games.
Their 3-0 home drubbing by Everton last weekend followed a two-goal reverse at Aston Villa. and there are already some muttering voices to be heard from the ranks of the Swansea faithful.
We have had a tough start to the season, and it’s going to get tougher still, with trips to Liverpool and Manchester United following this game.
That’s why we HAVE to capitalise on the chance to play at home against a team like Swansea.
Our failure to hang on to that lead at Reading and to take advantage of the chances we had at Wigan means an awful lot of pressure is now being piled on to the Swansea match.
It’d be a little melodramatic to describe this weekend’s game as a “must win” for The Potters, but after no wins in our first six games, a failure here would it seven and those next two tough trips could stretch things to nine.
No teams wants to be nine games into a season and still looking for their first win, so we’ll have to hope the team makes good on the potential displayed in our recent games and deliver our first three-point haul.
The signs are good, and the players have been performing very well. However, we’ll all start to enjoy the unfolding season a little more – and sleep more comfortably in our beds at night – if Stoke could get into a winning habit soon.
It’s a tough-looking Premier League this time around and you really have to make the most of the kind of fixture we face this weekend.
If you don’t, then you start to make life very tough for yourselves.