It hasn’t been the happiest two-and-a-half years since Stoke City were relegated but things are finally looking up for the club.
The year-long reign of Michael O’Neill appears to have finally got Stoke back on track with the team eighth in the Championship, just two points off the play-off places.
Stoke-on-Trent Live’s Potters correspondent Peter Smith believes there are three more reasons for optimism heading into 2021.
“The whole aim is to get back to the Premier League but you’ve got to enjoy the fight to get there,” he said.
“It’s such a crazy division. Stoke are a pretty consistent part of it.
“It’s going to be an exciting season. There’s a couple of things which will happen over the next few weeks, which will hopefully be a trigger for what happens next.
“First of all there’s Ryan Shawcross coming back. He’s been one of Stoke’s best ever players.
“If they can get him back to close to his best then that’s a reason to be excited. Then there’s Joe Allen.
“He should back by the end of the year, Christmas time perhaps.
“He could come through a couple of 11 v 11 games and then the plan is integrate him back into the starting XV
“Michael O’Neill can’t wait to have him as part of his plans. He’s seen him in training and is excited to get him involved.
“The next part is the fans coming back. If Stoke fans are coming back in and they’re in the play-off zone, what a time to be in the stadium.
“That’s the best time, when there is something riding on games.
“Everyone will have loved seeing Neil Warnock and the red mist descending (last weekend). It would have been like when Arsene Wenger was a the Brit.
“Everyone would have loved it.”