Stoke City: Rory Delap says class of 2011/2012 has point to prove
THE Potters' class of 2011/12 will have a point to prove when the new Premier League campaign gets underway.
While Tony Pulis looks for new recruits to bolster his squad, veteran midfielder Rory Delap says the players who finished last term are desperate to make amends for narrowly missing out on a top-10 finish.
City have confirmed their interest in England legend Michael Owen and are also being linked with Houston Dynamo centre-half Geoff Cameron.
And while Delap expects Pulis to strengthen, he says the current players are still smarting after the disappointing conclusion to last season.
Stoke had to settle for 14th place after a defeat at QPR and a draw at home to Bolton in their final two games, and Delap said: "It was a horrible feeling after the Bolton game. It was so flat because we had been going for that top-10 place for the previous nine months or so.
"From the first day back in pre-season training the manager had drummed it into us.
"All through the season we felt we could do it, but we couldn't finish it off and we have to learn from that."
Delap dismissed suggestions that City lost some of their competitive edge once they were safe from relegation.
"People said we were okay seven or eight games from the end of the season, but it wasn't a case of us thinking 'we're safe, let's start booking the holidays'.
"It meant a hell of a lot to the players and the whole club, so we were concentrated on finishing in the top 10 and were convinced we would get there.
"The manager will be looking to improve the squad again and hopefully he can bring a few players in.
"That will give us a lift, but if it doesn't happen we still have a squad equipped to do well."
Delap is getting stuck into fitness work before the squad report back for pre-season training in a fortnight.
However, his wife Helen is doing most of the hard work this week as she raises funds for the Donna Louise Children's Hospice.
Helen today began the Tres Picos (three peaks) Challenge which involves climbing three of Spain's highest mountains in three days.
Delap, a father of three, said: "I'm looking after the kids while she's away, so I think I'm the one who should be sponsored.
"But seriously, she's taken on a real challenge, hiking 14-15 hours a day for three days.
"It's for a great cause. You don't have to have children to appreciate the great work they do at Donna Louise, but maybe it hits harder if you do."
Details of how to make a donation can be found at justgiving.com/HelenDelaptrespicoschallenge