‘Everton game is the biggest in Stoke City’s Premier League history’ – Martin Smith


It’s important to start with the good news from the Manchester City game.

First of all, it only finished 2-0 and any worries of another severe beating at the hands of one of the bigger clubs didn’t materialise.

We also didn’t suffer any injuries to key players. I’ve spent the past few weeks having nightmares, as I’m sure Paul Lambert has, about what our chances would be if Shaqiri pulled up lame during the match.

With the good news out of the way, it’s time to gingerly pick our way through the bad stuff.

It was another game without a win and one in which we didn’t really look like scoring either.

Of course, we were playing against Manchester City, who may well go on to break several Premier League records this season, but it was all still rather deflating an experience to see us so easily turned over on our own ground.

As powerful as Man City are there are still occasions this season where they have been forced to scrap.

They needed late goals to win 2-1 away to Bournemouth, West Brom and Huddersfield; they have been held to draws by Everton (with their dreadful away record) and Burnley; they needed Crystal Palace to fluff an injury-time penalty to escape from Selhurst Park with a point and, quite recently, they were beaten 1-0 by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup.

It is possible to give Pep Guardiola’s team a tough match, but we just didn’t manage to do that and in the end our opponents were able to get through the 90 minutes without ever moving out of second gear and in a manner which, at times, looked something like a low-key, pre-season game.

I was personally hoping to see a little more from Stoke and, while the defeat was what we all suspected would happen, I didn’t get the encouraging signs I was hoping for.

However, that game is out of the way and now we’re left with the far more important matter of the Everton match on Saturday.

It is no understatement whatsoever to say that this is a ‘cup final’ for us and, without resorting to melodrama, the biggest game we’ve faced since we were promoted to the Premier League.

We are now on a run of only one win in our last 10 Premier League games and that has to end.

We can’t realistically keep allowing winnable games to go un-won and hope to stay up and if the statistic on Saturday evening is that our league run stands at just one win in 11 games then a lot of supporters are going to be throwing in the towel, especially with games against Arsenal and Tottenham to follow.

That’s not defeatism, it’s realism. If the team have any hopes of staying up this season then they have to start showing that they’re capable of winning games, and a game against Everton is one we should be going all-out to get three points from.

We have the joint-second worst away record in the Premier League and the team we share that distinction with is Everton.

Our away record of one wins, five draws and nine defeats from 15 away games, with a goal difference of -21, is exactly the same as The Toffees.

Even with dreaded referee Martin Atkinson in charge of things on Saturday we have no excuses left to offer.

What remains to be seen in is how Paul Lambert lines up for this game.

It looks increasingly as though there’s no great winning hand available to be dealt from the cards which make our forward line, but our manager has got to do it somehow.

Raheem Sterling is foiled by Badou Ndiaye and Jack Butland as Stoke City take on Man City.
Raheem Sterling is foiled by Badou Ndiaye and Jack Butland as Stoke City take on Man City.

Against Man City we saw Jesé given a run-out and against Everton we have to be similarly innovative.

There’s no room for faint hearts at Stoke now, either on or off the pitch and the manner in which we set about trying to get three points off Sam Allardyce’s team will quite possibly define what genuine chance we have of getting out of the bottom three by 4pm on May 13.

I’ve seen some calls on social media for Stoke fans to turn the bet365 Stadium into a cauldron of noise this Saturday and to roar the team on to greater efforts.

Of course, I’d echo those sentiments – our ground is always a better place to be when it’s rocking.

It’s almost a redundant plea to make, though. The supporters know how crucial the game is and there’s no doubt whatsoever that they will again be 100 per cent solidly behind the team and ready to roar them on to victory.

The average attendance figures this season, in the face of some really poor returns on the field of play, show how solid the support has actually been.

What we need now are the players to give it their all and to finally give the supporters something to shout about.

The problems this season have not emanated from the stands; they have come from the boardroom, the manager’s office, our recruitment team and the dressing room.

The fans are not at all culpable for the lamentable position in which the team currently finds itself in the Premier League.

But it’s not yet the time to play the blame game. That won’t get us anywhere. Instead, it’s a time for unity.

The team can be sure that the supporters will turn up on Saturday fully prepared to get behind them with all of their hearts.

If the manager and players do their bit then the stadium will be an amazing place to be and we can take a huge step towards keeping the flickering flame of Premier League survival burning at Stoke City.

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