MARK HUGHES believes the Potters are more than capable of building upon last season’s historic ninth place finish in the Barclays Premier League.
The City boss led the Club to its highest position in the top-flight in almost 40-years – in what transpired to be a hugely successful first term in charge at the Britannia Stadium for the Welshman.
He acknowledges that eclipsing such a memorable campaign will be difficult for himself and his players, but remains confident of being able to do just that having improved his squad significantly during the summer.
“I think everybody is incredibly excited by what could be ahead of us,” he revealed to Stoke City Player on Friday morning.
“There is certainly no apprehension here within the building, we are just genuinely excited by what we could achieve this season.
“We have got to go out there now and produce. It’s not going to be easy of course because lots of teams will be hopeful about the season ahead and their expectancies will be similar to ours. Perhaps they just don’t flag it up as regularly as we do.
“I believe we can live with that expectation though. It is something which I feel we can use totally to our benefit.”
Hughes admits he is also anticipating a slightly different approach from opposition teams visiting the Britannia Stadium throughout the 2014/15 campaign.
“I think there has always been a healthy respect for the Club at the Britannia Stadium, because it has always been a difficult place to come to.
“That said, maybe with the different options we have available to us now though, teams may well set up slightly more rigidly to combats the threats we have.”
He added: “We will have to deal with that though and I am sure we will do, because we have very good players here at the Club.”
Aston Villa provide the first test to the Potters in less than 24 hours’ time, and Hughes feels it is vital to get the campaign off to a winning start in front of the home supporters.
“It’s a home game so it is imperative that we get the campaign off to a winning start. That will settle everybody down and we can then look forward to the games ahead of us.
“It is a good fixture, and we can take confidence from the fact that we picked up two good results against them last season.
“They have brought one or two lads back in from the cold and added a couple of new signings too, but we have made good signings here, and I am certain it will be a good game.”