Michael O’Neill knows what it should take to keep Stoke City in the Championship – now it’s just a case of getting there.
Stoke head into their final 11 games on 38 points, with their next six matches against teams around them at the bottom of the division.
“Everyone talks about 50 points as being the number for safety and we’re 12 away from that now. That’s four wins if you look at it like that,” said O’Neill.
“I think overall we’ve done reasonably well. There are areas where we could have picked up points that we haven’t managed but we’re certainly in there fighting and the application of the players and the desire of the players has been shown.”
The manager has been talking about other – often surprise – results around the lower regions and how he has been keen to keep his own players focused on the job at hand.
Nathan Collins on his return to starting XI
Nathan Collins is desperate to play, more desperate for Stoke to win and sounding every bit a manager’s dream.
The 18-year-old centre-back was recalled to the starting XI for the first time in the Championship since August when he helped secure a clean sheet and draw at Blackburn Rovers. It remains to be seen how vital that point will be in the long run but for now it – and goal difference – is the difference between Stoke and the relegation places.
No one made more clearances (seven) on a night that was about making clearances, if not having backs against the wall.
So how is he looking at his own part in the rest of the season?
“It’s not up to me, it’s up to the manager. Hopefully I’ve put something in his head. I don’t really mind at this point – I will play if needed but it’s all about the results,” he said.
Championship relegation predictor up and running
The situation looked grim back at the start of November when Stoke had picked up just eight points from their first 15 games.
But 30 from their next 20 – the seventh best record in the Championship in that time – has hauled them out of the bottom three… but only just.
So have a go on our Championship relegation predictor to see who stays up and who is for the drop.
Michael O’Neill’s message to supporters
From 3,033 at Derby County and 1,642 at Queens Park Rangers to the 861 at Blackburn Rovers and just under 3,000 at Barnsley, from manic celebrations to the conga and the odd frustration, Stoke fans have been enjoying backing O’Neill on the road.
There have been wins at Barnsley, Huddersfield and West Bromwich Albion and a point at Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday – remarkably only the second away draw of the season – and there has been a lot of singing.
Supporters have been serenading O’Neill since he touched down from Belfast and it has not gone unnoticed. This is his message.