Stoke City ’s dramatic improvement under Michael O’Neill has seen some players flourish, but others lose their way and head in the opposite direction.
So which three players deserve a garland round their neck – and which three know they have to do better?
Started two of 17 games under Nathan Jones; has started 14 of the 23 games under Michael O’Neill, including the last 13.
But even those stats don’t do him complete justice because it’s not just the ingenuity and occasional goal he’s brought to the team, something we might have anticipated, but also his power in the air and all-round tenacity, which we might not have.
He has gone from being a figure of derision when Jones was manager to an automatic pick under O’Neill.
If there was a season-defining moment for him it came during that New Year’s Day thrashing of Huddersfield, since when he hasn’t looked back.
Not too far behind Powell, in some ways his rise has been even greater at this early stage of his career.
Feeling unwanted by Jones and setting his heart on seeing his contract out, even after O’Neill arrived, it took his explosive re-introduction at Huddersfield and subsequent schmoozing by his manager, and one or two team-mates, to convince him to sign that new contract.
In the space of a couple of months he has come from the margins to become the club’s big goalscoring hope – and put a decent price on his head in the process.
He wasn’t doing too bad under Jones, certainly better than most, but has since propelled himself into player-of-the-year contention.
A little confused under O’Neill’s predecessor, along with one or two others, he was under-selling himself until the change of manager.
Two goals in O’Neill’s first game at Barnsley was just the tonic he needed and he has since become a player not only admired by his manager, but also by supporters not too keen to previously acknowledge his attributes.
And with those attributes including a goalscoring record of 10 for the season, he has become an indispensable part of Stoke’s fight for survival.
One of Jones’ keynote signings in the summer, he was a regular face under the Welshman and might just have started hitting more goals given a longer run in the team.
It didn’t happen, however, and he was to pay the price as O’Neill eventually promoted Sam Vokes and Tyrese Campbell above the former Millwall striker.
In January he was linked with a move to Cardiff, to be re-united with former Millwall boss Neil Harris, and that remains a possibility in the next window.
O’Neill insists he was given his chance and he did start five of his first seven games in charge, but only has an FA Cup start at Brentford in the next 16.
But age is on his side and at the recent Fan Forum his manager did state: “We spent quite a bit of money on Tommy Smith, but Tom (Edwards) is very much in the plans, but he’s going to have to do more to push his way into the team.
“He’s got the potential, but the onus is on Tom to fulfil that potential.”
Started 11 of Stoke’s 17 games under Jones this season, but played just two games at right back for O’Neill.
The Tottenham defender deserves to be cut some slack after stepping into the chaos that was Stoke City during those first few miserable months of the season.
And then after O’Neill’s arrival, he was identified as indispensable, not so much because of performances, but because he was on loan and could be got rid of to lighten a bloated squad.