Stoke City: Fans have their say on matters at the Britannia Stadium
A BLANK weekend for Stoke City has given fans the chance to reflect on the Potters' season so far.
We asked die-hard supporters Angela Smith, Rob Doolan, Jon Owen and Liam Gibbons, their thoughts
Angela Smith: The former world squash champion has been following the Potters for 51 years and has been elected by fellow fans on to the Stoke City Supporters' Council.
Rob Doolan: Addicted to Stoke City ever since his dad first took him to the Victoria Ground in 1990.
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Jon Owen: A regular since he was a whippersnapper in 1991 and his Stoke heroes are Ricardo Fuller, Mark Stein and Peter Thorne.
Liam Gibbons: Regular Sentinel fans' panellist, from Meir Park. Follows the Potters at home and as far away as Istanbul if the Europa League demands it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE SEASON SO FAR?
ANGELA SMITH: Mixed. The roller coaster that is the lot of Stoke City fans has gone from the highs v Liverpool at home to the lows away (too many to remind us of).
ROB DOOLAN: I'm pleased we're 10th, but overall I'm a little disappointed. I thought this season, without the distractions of the Europa League, we could get on with playing the high-tempo, positive football we do at our best – but it's been dour, turgid stuff for the most part.
JON OWEN: A mixed bag. There's been some real highs (beating Liverpool, going 10 unbeaten and the defensive record up until January) but some real disappointments too, mainly how we approach certain fixtures.
Our league position is healthy, but it doesn't tell the whole story.
There is a feeling among fans I speak to that we haven't progressed over the past two years in terms of our approach.
However, we are on course for a sixth season in the Premier League. We have some excellent players and the squad is getting stronger each year.
LIAM GIBBONS: Overall fairly satisfied. We look set for our first top-half finish although that's as much because of the shortcomings of others.
Our home form's been good, but our away form is still a disappointment, particularly how we still set up so negatively and don't actively try to win games.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF STOKE'S BUSINESS IN THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW?
ANGELA SMITH: Astute. We would have all been happier with some extra defensive cover and a 30-plus goal a season addition, but we have two players who will help our future in Jack Butland and Brek Shea.
ROB DOOLAN: I'm very pleased with the business we did – two highly-rated youngsters who could achieve big things for the club.
Everyone knows about Jack Butland, but Brek Shea was training with Arsenal a couple of years ago and could be a real find.
I'm disappointed we didn't manage to bring in a left-back (among other things) but then so was the management team from the sound of things.
JON OWEN: Jack Butland is one of England's brightest young prospects, and the signing of Brek Shea is an intriguing one.
But we're crying out for two full-backs, although I'm pleased Marc Wilson is back soon from his broken leg.
LIAM GIBBONS: Pleased with Butland, he looks very promising and is good to have in already in case Begovic does move on.
Shea is an unknown quantity, but hopefully he'll get some game time before the end of the season.
I'm pleased we kept hold of Jones, but disappointed we've still not addressed our lack of full-backs and wingers.
WHO SHOULD THE CLUB BE TRYING TO SIGN IN THE SUMMER?
ANGELA SMITH: I'm sure that Stoke will be looking for defensive cover and probably another forward.
ROB DOOLAN: At the very least, a left-back and a right winger. Another striker if one of Crouch or Jones is sold as well.
JON OWEN: A natural full-back. We're also in need of two new wingers, although a lot depends on whether Shea impresses.
Cover for Shawcross and Huth is also important.
LIAM GIBBONS: If Villa do down, Darren Bent, Andreas Weimann or Matt Lowton would all be good buys, otherwise Will Hughes from Derby or Charlie Austin from Burnley would be work taking.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CRITICISMS THAT STOKE AREN'T ENTERTAINING ENOUGH?
ANGELA SMITH: I am old enough to remember Mr Durban's 'if you want entertainment go to the circus' comment.
I would love Stoke City to play more entertaining football, but if it is to be at the expense of staying in the Premier League, I'll suffer what we witness.
The most uninspiring stuff is reserved for the away games. I do think that TP can allow a little more adventure though.
ROB DOOLAN: Obviously 'entertainment' is subjective and the old cliché about football being a results business is true.
However, I get the impression that survival is the limit of our ambition and I wish we'd accept that we have a talented set of players who are capable of more than just grinding out results and defending for our lives.
JON OWEN: TP needs to believe in his players more. Our players don't have enough opportunities to express themselves. We can be so effective if we've got pace and power when attacking.
LIAM GIBBONS: I think they are fair enough, particularly away from home where we just set up to try to keep a clean sheet and try to nick a goal late on.
The main problem with this approach is if we do concede the first goal, there doesn't seem to be a Plan B.
I'm sure Tony Pulis would argue that his responsibility is to get results not entertain and it's difficult to argue when he's the most successful manager we've had in my lifetime at least.
WHICH PLAYER HAS IMPRESSED YOU MOST THIS SEASON AND WHY?
ANGELA SMITH: Huth has been immense, Begovic, outstanding, but Nzonzi has been consistent throughout.
ROB DOOLAN: Cameron Jerome should be known as 'the postman' – he just always seems to deliver. Jerome deserves a run in the side. People claim he can't do it when he starts, but he's hardly been given a chance.
JON OWEN: Asmir Begovic has gone from being one of the most promising goalkeepers in the league, to arguably the best goalkeeper in the league.
LIAM GIBBONS: Until he got injured Marc Wilson was having a good season. Geoff Cameron has settled in well too, but overall it's got to be Steven Nzonzi.
WHICH PLAYER HAS MOST DISAPPOINTED YOU AND WHY?
ANGELA SMITH: Pennant, pictured right, a waste of talent and I hope he realises you can only have so many 'last chances'. He's probably had his last one.
ROB DOOLAN: Michael Kightly started the season well, but has faded badly.
Not sure if it's a confidence issue or if he's just not quite good enough, but he's certainly not proven himself to be any upgrade on Jermaine Pennant so far.
JON OWEN: Charlie Adam. I was delighted when he signed, and still feel he's got plenty to offer.
It could be that he has been played out of position, but he has been hit and miss so far.
LIAM GIBBONS: Michael Owen hasn't had any impact whatsoever and Charlie Adam has also been disappointing.
FAVOURITE GAME OF THE SEASON SO FAR AND WHY?
ANGELA SMITH: Liverpool at home. An example of how well we can play, how the fans can lift our team when we go behind and just what the work ethic and effort that our players have can achieve against any side if we play at a high tempo for 90 minutes.
ROB DOOLAN: Like everyone else, I'll say the demolition of Liverpool on Boxing Day.
A terrific display full of fight and power that Liverpool just had no answer to. Some great goals too.
JON OWEN: Stoke 3, Liverpool 1. It was like a game from the first season when the atmosphere got the better of the opposition.
LIAM GIBBONS: Has to be Liverpool at home on Boxing Day.
It's always nice to put one over on Liverpool fans who still seem to think it's still 1984 and they are the greatest club in the world.
WORST GAME OF THE SEASON SO FAR AND WHY?
ANGELA SMITH: Man City away. The side of Stoke that parks a bus and shows no attacking threat at all.
ROB DOOLAN: Waving the white flag at Swansea was bitterly disappointing. No away games are easy in this division and away wins are rarer for most teams, but we didn't even look like we wanted to win that game.
JON OWEN: Stoke 0, Man City 1 in the FA Cup. The result was never really in doubt. We went out with a whimper.
LIAM GIBBONS: Wigan at home. At 2-0 this should have been a routine home win, but the second half was one of the worst performances I've seen at home since we got promoted.
The way we set up was baffling and the substitutions made half the players not know where they were meant to be playing.
SINCE PROMOTION TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE DO YOU THINK STOKE HAVE OVER-ACHIEVED, UNDER-ACHIEVED, OR ARE ABOUT WHERE THEY SHOULD BE?
ANGELA SMITH: We over-achieved at the start (two seasons) and have under-achieved since, although the Europa League had an effect on the league position for one season.
If we don't finish in the top 10 this season I'll be disappointed.
ROB DOOLAN: We probably over-achieved for the first couple of seasons but now, £100m and five seasons in, I think we are about where we should be in terms of league position.
JON OWEN: I think we're where we should be. We're a mid-table Premier League club, which after years in the doldrums, is a fantastic sentence to write.
LIAM GIBBONS: I'd say we're still over-achieving.
Since we've gone up we've never really looked like going down or getting involved in the relegation battle apart from the first half of the first season.
We are five years in the top flight and on for our first top-half finish so most fans should be pretty happy with that.
WHAT ARE THE CLUB DOING WELL OFF THE FIELD AND WHERE COULD THEY IMPROVE?
ANGELA SMITH: The academy and training ground infrastructure has been a bonus. The proposed addition of extra seats and a cover over one of the corners will mean hypothermia will not be a problem.
The community work that the club undertakes is of great value, although perhaps we could improve the egress from the stadium after games, or provide beds and food for those who wait anything up to 90 minutes to get off the car parks.
ROB DOOLAN: It seems like the club are taking the steps to move in the right direction and laying the foundations for the future in terms of the academy, the apparent change in transfer strategy with Mark Cartwright coming in and the stadium plans.
The season ticket price freeze is great news as well. No complaints from me off the pitch!
JON OWEN: Everything seems in good shape to me.
One thing I'd like to see the club introduce is more incentives for season ticket holders to buy cup tickets. The Man City attendance in January was so disappointing, albeit not helped by the snow.
LIAM GIBBONS: It seems like we're putting a lot of money into the academy and training facilities which is a good thing.
As for areas of improvement the club website never seems to be that up-to-date and buying tickets online could be improved.
Compiled by MIKE BAGGALEY