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"Peter Crouch needs to pick up where he left off and put the disgraceful decision to take Andy Carroll to Euro 2012 behind him" - a Potters fan previews the new season

STOKE CITY
FAN: Gareth Ekin

The target: Survival

Survival! Anyone outside the top eight places would be fibbing if they said anything else. The league continues to get harder each season and once the points total goes over 40 then we can re-assess expectations dependent on how many games of the season are left.

My thoughts on the gaffer...

Tony Pulis is the most successful manager we have had, alongside Tony Waddington, in our most successful era as a team. A man-manager, motivator and a person who has the respect and backing of the board, team and staff.

He has taken us from a mid-table Championship side, to an established Premier League team, taken us to an FA Cup final and through into the knockout stages of the Europa League. Pulis has lifted the whole area through the success of the team.
Our key man this season

Peter Crouch. He needs to pick up where he left off and put the disgraceful decision to take Andy Carroll to Euro 2012 instead of him behind him.

Service will be the key to the number of goals he will score. Everyone knows he is a natural goalscorer, but our central midfield and wingers need to be giving him more to feed off than the scraps last season.

Youngster to watch

Jamie Ness. A central midfielder we have picked up from Rangers during the summer. At only 21, he has played more internationally than he has at Rangers, with only 16 senior appearances for the troubled Scottish side.

His signing was delayed due to international clearance, but it will be interesting to see what the manager has seen in him in only the small amount of appearances he has made north of the border.
A player who must deliver

Jermaine Pennant. His skill and talent is undoubted, but his troubles are never far behind him. Rumoured bust-ups with the manager last season made his campaign very stop-start. He also had a series of driving and public order offences to answer to at the end of last season.

He needs to come out of the blocks very quickly in August and apply himself, otherwise he will be forever known as a player with loads of skill that never quite reached his potential because of his behaviour.
Our Achilles' heel

Pace. We don't deal very well with little tricky, pacey forwards. Our back four will stop a double-decker bus towing a JCB, but nippy players seem to cause us no end of problems.

Fixture I am looking forward to the most...

Has to be Arsenal. Everything that is wrong with English football is summed up at that club. A club that appears to have no regard for how it treats its fans in terms of ticket prices in this current economy, a team that appears to have no appetite for developing the talent of English players, a team that appears to pay no particular credence to the gentlemanly laws that prevent feigning contact and one that will not give any credit to another when they are well beaten.

Our toughest opponents will be...

Every game is a tough match. Underestimate your opponents at your peril. We will approach every game the same and give each team the respect on the field that being in this league deserves.

Player we love to hate

Luis Suarez... need I say any more?

Rival Premier League player you'd have in your team

I would have to say Jermain Defoe. A player who I think would pair wonderfully well with Crouch and has never failed to score goals wherever he has been. A player who has an obvious hunger to play the game.

My first choice XI

BEGOVIC

WILSON
SHAWCROSS
HUTH POPOV

PENNANT
WHITEHEAD
CAMERON ETHERINGTON

JEROME
CROUCH

My verdict

Another season to look forward to. We are getting the much needed evolution in the team, gradually improving each season. We are now seen amongst the playing fraternity as an established team, meaning we are a much more attractive option for players than two seasons ago. Our much respected chairman Peter Coates is a life long fan of the club and has once again showed his support and is prepared to continue investment in the club whilst behind the scenes laying solid foundations for self-sufficiency.

Our early bird season ticket prices remain at the same level as when we were in the Championship which further engenders the much acclaimed loyalty of our support base. Stoke continue to support the local community, local charities and invest in the interests of the area. We are a Premier League club that continues to develop the roots on which it is built. How is it not a wonderful time to be a Potter?!

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