As we head nervously into the unknown, we have dusted off the archives from one of our favourite – and most nerve-wracking, nail-biting and rollercoaster – seasons from Stoke City ‘s recent history.
We have gone back to March 17, 2008 with the thinking that we can re-live the run-in to that campaign that we all know ended in promotion.
No one was particularly sure then. Stoke had been out of the top flight for 23 largely miserable years, spending a chunk in the third tier never mind the second.
But Tony Pulis had built a spirited, skilful and much-loved team that was greater than the sum of its parts.
At this point of the term, they sat top of the Championship, level on 67 points with Bristol City.
So here, with no further context, is the Sentinel’s back page from 12 years ago today. Enjoy.
‘I’m here to stay’
NEWCOMER Jay Bothroyd has told Stoke City “count me in for the promotion party” as he aims to extend his loan spell beyond its initial one month period.
Bothroyd made his debut in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Watford – just hours after meeting his new colleagues – and helped City re-claim top spot in the Coca-Cola Championship on goal difference from Bristol City.
“I first heard about Stoke’s interest on Thursday night. I was over the moon,” said the Wolves striker.
“I drove down and had the first training session on the Friday. I’m here for a month initially and then we’ll see what happens. But I’m really happy to be here. Everyone has made me feel welcome.
“The buzz in the camp is that everyone believes and I‘d definitely love to stay.
“I want to be involved to the end of promotion and the battle for promotion.
“I like the run-in because most of the games are win-able, but we have to be consistent for the last seven games.”
The 25-year-old played the first hour at Watford, observing: “It was a good point away and we are top of the league, so it’s not too bad.
“We are not happy with a point because we thought we could win, but we’ll take it.”
Saturday’s clash was marred by referee Rob Styles after he controversially dismissed former Stoke favourite John Eustace for a 22nd-minute challenge on Richard Cresswell.
He then harshly penalised Stoke skipper Andy Griffin for an alleged handball in the Stoke box 10 minutes after the break.
It took an excellent save by Carlo Nash from Darius Henderson’s spot-kick to ensure justice was done.
Bookings for Ricardo Fuller and Ryan Shawcross mean they miss Stoke’s next two games – at home to Blackpool and at Sheffield Wednesday.
But manager Tony Pulis said Portsmouth striker David Nugent was no longer on his hit list to replace Fuller after revealing: “We have tried for Nugent all last week, but I think Pompey want to keep him and so that’s that.
Commenting on the match, he added: “We looked tired in the second half, but also on edge. I sensed that at half-time. We weren’t winning second balls and second challenges.
“We looked so nervous second half – as if one mistake could cost them.
“In the second half I wanted to get the ball wider, I wanted to win the game, but we played very much on the back foot.”