Martin Smith: Before we start envying Swansea, just look at what we have to be grateful for
I HAD always considered a home game against Fulham in 1986, when Graham Shaw's winning goal was the only thing to warm us up, to be the coldest I've ever been at a Stoke City game.
Well that was before Tuesday night and Stoke's bone-numbing FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace at the Brit.
So Palace's 87th-minute equaliser was a crushing blow ... as it condemned us to a further half-an-hour of frozen torture.
Yet there was something to give us a warm feeling as it was during this 30 minutes that the Potters finally got their 2013 underway.
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While we failed to impress for the first 90 minutes, we were very good for that final half-an-hour.
And the prize for finally managing to see off Palace so handsomely? Well it's that fourth-round tie against old cup foes Manchester City at what will hopefully be a much warmer – and fuller – Britannia Stadium.
Seeing Jon Walters shrug off his Chelsea disaster to inspire our victory over Palace was also heart-warming.
Walters had nothing to apologise for after those couple of own goals and his penalty miss last weekend, but he still set the record straight against Palace by bagging a couple at the right end. It was a victory for endeavour and commitment over cruel misfortune.
There have been times over the past 18 months when I don't believe Walters has deserved the automatic place he's been granted in our starting XI. However, over the past few weeks he's been back to his very best and shown why the manager has so much faith in him.
And the response he received from fans towards the end of his Chelsea nightmare must have meant a lot to him. You could see his appreciation on Tuesday when he ran to supporters to acknowledge them after both of his goals.
Of course, exactly how many fans were left inside the Brit by the end of our Chelsea mauling has been a matter of much angst over the past few days.
We're all used to seeing some fans start to slip away from the stadium from about the 85th minute onwards, irrespective of how important the game is or what the score might be.
On Saturday, though, there was a lot of anger and even a few verbal and physical confrontations at the mass exodus which took place when Chelsea netted their fourth goal on 72 minutes.
Many fans didn't appreciate seeing so many of their fellow Stokies get up and leave when they were doing their best to support their team in the face of such bad luck. If you have paid your money then it's up to you what time you decide to leave a game, but it did detract from the bear-pit image of the Brit when so many people head for the exits straight after an opposition goal. It's not something I'd ever do. Not again, anyway.
Back in March 1973, my dad and I were faced with the prospect of missing the last few minutes of a night game against Tottenham to catch the 151 bus to Baddeley Green.
It was either that, or watch all of the game and then wait an hour for the next bus home.
We left early. Stoke were trailing 1-0 at the time.
We got home to see on Sportsnight that Jimmy Greenhoff had netted an injury-time equaliser. How we both wished we had waited for that later bus. That's the last time I left a home game early, but nobody should have to face confrontation just because they have opted to go. It is their choice and should be respected.
Snow permitting, this weekend we face Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
It will doubtless be a tough match, although we may benefit from the Welsh side being distracted by their League Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea just a few days later.
All they have to do is protect their precious 2-0 first-leg lead to ensure a Wembley final place against Villa or Bradford City, so you can see why it will be a big deal for them.
Of course, that first-leg victory at Stamford Bridge followed equally impressive wins at Arsenal and Liverpool, prompting some Stokies to compare what Swansea are achieving at the homes of big clubs to our own record at these grounds over the past five seasons.
If truth be told, I wish we were a little more adventurous at some of these places too, and I don't mind admitting that I've been somewhat envious of the Swans' accomplishments since promotion – achieved on a far smaller budget than ours.
But you do have to be careful when looking at what other clubs have done. You can often forget all that your own club has achieved and all you have to be thankful for.
What Stoke City have done over the past six seasons has been wonderful, and we also have plenty of moments to look back on and cherish.
Take away the odd frustrations and moments when you feel we could have done better and you are still left with an awful lot to treasure.
Yes, Swansea have done well, and you have to tip your hat to them in recognition of that, but we have done very well too.
We have reached the point of being an established Premier League side who have still yet to be involved in a serious relegation battle after five years in the top flight.
So we may look a little enviously at what Swansea are doing, but we should also recall the current status of Hull, Wolves, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton and Middlesbrough – to name just a few. They'd all love to be in our position.