Martin Smith's Stoke City column: Positive end to the season would be just the ticket for supporters
AS Stoke City prepare to head to Fulham this weekend, there is effectively a third of the season left to play.
We have 12 games remaining – six at home and six away – and the way we play in these matches will probably provide the abiding memory of the season for supporters.
Will Stoke finish with a stirring flurry of results and performances or shuffle unconvincingly across the 40-points finishing line?
There's no reason why it can't be the rousing finale.
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With 33 points already, we have to believe that we're easily going to pick up the six or seven extra points needed to ensure safety.
For the stirring finish to happen, though, we need to adopt a positive mindset, starting with this weekend's trip to Craven Cottage.
You have to respect Fulham for the way they have performed ever since they made it into the Premier League, but we shouldn't go thinking that an away game there represents a greater challenge than it actually is.
The West London club have won just five of their 13 home games so far this season and they've also lost five.
That doesn't mean we can turn up expecting to win, but it also means that we shouldn't write off our own chances of coming away with a positive result.
Our away record has been quite poor for the best part of 12 months and games like this one really do offer a great chance to do something about our lack of wins on the road.
One of the major sources of frustration for so many supporters this season, and last, is that we seem to have approached games like this too negatively, almost as though we expect to lose and the only result we can possibly hope for is a draw.
The fact is that we actually have a fairly decent record against Fulham since we arrived in the Premier League and this should be a game we're looking to win.
If not this type of game, then where and against whom?
A strong finish to the season would do so much to lift some of the gloom and pessimism which has descended over the Britannia Stadium over the past couple of months.
And it would be just what the doctor ordered as the club make season tickets available for sale and prepare to start working on filling in one of the corners at the ground and increasing the capacity to 30,000.
On the subject of season tickets it would be extremely remiss of me not to mention the fact that the club have once again frozen prizes, for the sixth straight season.
It is a magnificent gesture, which takes into account the tough economic times in which we find ourselves, and is a real bonus for all Stoke City supporters.
Of course, given the incredible new financial package which kicks in next season for all Premier League clubs, it would take a fair bit of spin for anyone to justify an increase in season-ticket prices. But that doesn't take away from the fact that Stoke City have not increased their prices at all since we got into the Premier League and that deserves not only to be acknowledged, but for supporters to say 'thank you' to the club.
My own guess is that despite many people stating on the internet, through many different social media outlets, that they won't renew next season, when push comes to shove I'm sure they will.
It's too good a deal and at the end of the day they're loyal Stoke fans who want to watch their team. The season-ticket prices are just too good to pass up.
The biggest spur for people to renew their season-tickets, though, will be provided by the team out on pitch.
A rousing finish to this season will be all the encouragement supporters need to commit to another season of Premier League football at The Brit and that's why it's so important that we do finish this campaign on a high note.
We have it within ourselves to do that and the only thing which can really hold us back is ourselves.
If we can finish with a flourish we could also something we have not yet managed to do even once in our entire history, and that's to finish as the top Midlands team in the country.
There are only three of us in the Premier League this season and Aston Villa are a write-off.
That just leaves West Brom to be overcome. They may be four points clear off us at the moment, with a far better goal difference, but we can easily turn that around in the games remaining to us, especially as we still have to entertain them at The Brit in a few weeks time.
So, as you can see, we still have a lot left to play for this season and should be looking to raise our game for a big finish.
With safety all but assured we can express ourselves a little more and start to work out what we're going to need for next season.
We can try some new things to see if they work, instead of plugging away with things which palpably don't, and we can look to get the supporters enthused about their team again. Endlessly banging on about '40 points', important though it is, isn't what inspires people.
Good performances and good results are.
We have it within ourselves to deliver both in the final 12 games of the campaign.