Ultimately, despite the criticism that has surrounded Stoke City and Tony Pulis since the turn of the year, the Potters managed to secure a 13th-placed finish following their final-day 1-1 draw at Southampton.
It is an end-game that everyone at the club should be commended for; particularly when just a few matches ago there were appeared to be the very serious possibility of relegation back into the Championship.
However, had the Potters managed to hold onto the lead given to them in the 47th minute by Peter Crouch – only the former England international’s seventh of the Premier League season – they would have equalled their best-ever position of 11th since their return to the top flight.
The performance on the South Coast summed up Stoke’s season in essence. Chances were at a premium at both ends, though the Potters were guilty of gifting Southampton far too many chances. Meanwhile the travelling fans were occasionally heard in voicing their discontent at the rather agricultural style of play again employed by their team.
However, both Pulis and the chairman Peter Coates can now point to a sixth consecutive season in the Premier League to look forward to and that, plus the fond farewell given to the retiring Michael Owen who was afforded a cameo substitute appearance by his manager, made the occasion at St Mary’s a joyous one for all supporters present.
Indeed, there was even a late chance for the legendary former England man to bring the curtain down on his glittering career with a typically predatory strike but the 33-year-old, perhaps in an indication of just why he has chosen to call it a day, fluffed his lines when presented with the opportunity.
So, Owen leaves and he may not be the only one at the Britannia. The departures of Jermaine Pennant, Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap have long been mooted while Asmir Begovic looks set to be the subject of one of the league’s summer transfer sagas.
Additionally, given the controversy that has emerged following the dressing room-incident that saw a severed pig’s head placed in Kenwyne Jones’ locker – only for the striker to retaliate by severely damaging the car of Glenn Whelan – both players’ futures at the club are now being called into question, despite whatever the manager may say in defence of their dressing room “banter”.
The primary question though must first centre on Pulis’ immediate future as the man in charge. This week the Welshman has claimed he is keen to stay at the club but with pressure from the fans to change his style of play only likely to grow louder next season, he must weigh up whether he feels the same motivation to put his reputation on the line once again.
Knowing Pulis, the answer to that question will be a very adamant affirmative but one thing is for sure – no one will be resting on their laurels at Stoke City this summer.
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