One more point. That’s all Stoke City need to record their best ever Premier League points tally – beating last season’s total in Mark Hughes’ first season in charge.
They are set to equal last season’s ninth place after Swansea’s win over Arsenal all but confirmed Garry Monk’s team will claim 8th. But Hughes has still had another superb season at the Britannia Stadium and this despite an injury crisis which over the course of season has robbed the Potters of players such as Peter Odemwingie, Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and, perhaps most disappointingly, Bojan – who was hitting form when he got injured in the FA Cup at Rochdale in January.
Hughes’ achievements with Stoke are even more impressive when you take into account he has spent just £8m since his arrival in the Potteries in 2013. In comparison, just since the summer 2014 transfer window, Steve Bruce has spent £42m at Hull City, Newcastle United have spent £37m, QPR £33m and even Leicester have spent more than £20m.
In fact, the five clubs directly above Stoke have spent £455m on new players in the last ten months, and the three clubs directly below us have each spent at least 17 times as much as Hughes.
The only disappointment this season (aside from losing Bojan to injury) has been the lack of a very strong cup run, with the Potters going out in round four of the League Cup versus Southampton at home, and an abject defeat away to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup 5th Round. Stoke have the squad, capability and desire to make an impact in the cups, and hopefully next year we will.
This summer, I expect Hughes to spend a little more money than in previous windows. We won’t be going out and spending £20m on a player, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see maybe one ‘bigger’ signing – especially if, as expected, Asmir Begovic bids farewell to the Potteries for a fee around £12-15m, giving us more money in the transfer kitty.
Next season gives Hughes and Stoke the chance to push on to next level again. Southampton and Swansea have both had brilliant seasons, but they could be caught by us next year – along with an improving Everton and perhaps West Ham. Next season, we should be aiming to make another improvement to our points tally and position and see where that gets us; hopefully pushing for a place in Europe.
For now, The Potters have two more games; away at already-relegated Burnley and at home to already-Europa-League Liverpool. Two wins, although difficult, would be a great achievement and a perfect end to great season.