Mark Hughes believes Leicester City’s success this season could be one of several surprises in a new era for the Premier League.
While Leicester need only three wins to seal the title, Stoke City’s hopes of securing European football for 2016-17 have been hit by a 2-2 home draw against Swansea and then a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool in their last two games.
That has left them ninth in the Premier League – their final position in their two seasons so far under Hughes’ management – on 47 points with five fixtures to go.
Hughes says Stoke bettering their record Premier League points haul of 54 from a year ago remains a very realistic target, but he is looking beyond this season with optimism as well.
Asked ahead of Monday’s home clash with second-placed Tottenham about Leicester and their remarkable campaign, Hughes said: “I’m not sure about the statement ‘it might not happen again’.
“I think there is a possibility it could very well happen on a more regular basis.
“I think this is maybe just the first of many seasons where, given the resources involved for teams in the Premier League and the opportunity to get good players into your club, you can go on a run and surprise people.
“I don’t see it as a one-off season, and we hope at some point we’ll have a story along the lines of Leicester – mind you, it will take some to beat their story!
“But I think the situation with Leicester and what they have been able to achieve has made everybody realise that if you have got ambition and desire to get better every year, then you can go as far as you want, as far as your capabilities will take you.”
Hughes admits securing a European berth will now be “tough” for his side this season.
But he has no doubt there is still enough for his players to be motivated by as they look to continue their year-on-year improvement.
“After the last two games we’ve made it (qualifying for Europe) more difficult, obviously,” Hughes said.
“It will be tough for us to be able to make it.
“But we have to make sure we are in a position to take advantage if other teams slip up.
“And we are still in a position with five games to go where we can beat our biggest ever points total in the Premier League. So it’s not all doom and gloom.
“We have great opportunities to still achieve things this year and that is our motivation.”