What happened last season?
After the previous season's disapointment, Stoke totally surprised most people by achieving a respectable mid-table position. Tipped by many to be relegated, it was looking that way for the first half of the season before the fortunes changed.
The season started off well, which was also surprising because of the dismal pre-season. The final friendly against Rhyl saw arguably the side that would start the first game away to Derby lose 4-2. However, Stoke destroyed the Rams on the opening day by winning 3-0 and we were topping the league in the early stages.
However, there was another side to the coin and Stoke went on a poor run which saw us heading for Division Two. It is said that one man doesnt make a team, but the arrival of Gerry Taggart on loan recharged the Potters and they went on a run which left those with rose-tinted specs thinking of a play-off place. However a few loose results at the end saw Stoke gain their mid table position, but some great results against the likes of West Ham and Sunderland.
What's going to happen next season?
We have made some good signings, but Gerry Taggart has yet to sign and his experience would be vital if Stoke are to aim for an advancment on last season. The arrival of Dave Brammer gives more competition for places in the midfield. He also scored a real scorcher too!
One thing Stoke now have is stability which the club has not really had for a long time. Tony Pulis will have been in charge of the club two years this Christmas which really is a long time for a manager at the Britannia Stadium. Also, the team now looks reliable in each department and the extra faces the manager has brought in can only influence those around them.
There has been some pleasing results during pre-season and Stoke have showed themselves worthy of the opposition against Roma and Valencia. They beat the UEFA Cup Finalists 1-0 too!
Of the times I can remember Stoke been in the First Division (1993 onwards) I believe that this is the strongest chance Stoke have of gaining a high position in the league. It would be a real credit to Tony Pulis and his budget side if they were to reach the play offs, and also a real credit to the hardwork and fortitude that the side puts in each and every week. GOARN STOKE!
Key Men: Ade Akinbiyi, John Halls, Dave Brammer (and Taggart if he signs!)
Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"noel williams isn't really as useless as he looks"
"You ought to know how to tie your own shoelaces by now"
"My pizza's late - do I get it for free?"
"I used to live in Bermuda, I now live in Hong Kong, but I'm swapping it all to go back home to Stoke next month to ensure I brutally indoctrinate my son (to be born in September) into all things "Stoke City". I've suffered all my life, so why shouldn't he?
Another fact: my wife (before she was pregnant) was the creator and first exponent of Stoke City mascot "Pottermiss"!! "
"My mate is a Plymouth fan and STILL wants to bomb Watford for dumping them out of the FA Cup semi back in the days. He's waited years for your fixture at Home Park!" (doesn't work on a building site, does he ? - ed)
"We love Watford for letting us have Big Gifton for nowt"
"Throw bricks at Steve Cotterill and Kris Commons for us. Thanks"
"brynjar gunnarsson is not very good"