STEVE NZONZI admits there is a huge sense of relief within the dressing room having secured a sixth consecutive top-flight campaign . . . but has assured supporters that the players’ minds won’t be elsewhere when they take to the field against Southampton on Sunday.
The Potters travel to the South Coast at the weekend for the final match of the 2012/13 campaign knowing that Premier League safety has been guaranteed for at least another year following a vastly improved recent run of results.
A potential first ever top-ten finish in the Premier League is still on offer though if Tony Pulis’ side secure all three points at St Mary’s and West Ham United slip up against already relegated Reading.
Should results not go their way then there is still a possibility of ending the campaign as low as 17th place which would mean missing out on a £5 million bounty; something that the former France Under 21 star is desperate to avoid.
“It’s good that we are safe now, but we want to get into the top ten for the first time,” the 24-year old midfielder who was crowned Young Player of the Year on Tuesday evening, told stokecityfc.com.
“It is the last game of the season and we want to go out in style. You always want to finish the season well, because it gives you a happy feeling when you go away for the summer break.
“It has been a long hard season, and we are ready for the break, but before that we want to go to Southampton, perform well and get the result that gives us a chance of finishing in the top ten, and earning the financial rewards that are on offer for the Club.”
The former Blackburn Rovers ace has enjoyed a superb debut season at the Britannia Stadium, cementing himself down as a first team regular under boss Tony Pulis.
He feels there is still a lot more to come from him next year though, and believes that the transition period he has gone through this year will give him the perfect platform to build upon once he returns to pre-season training in July.
“It’s been a good first year for me,” he added. “Obviously there are ups and downs, and games when I have played better and games when I haven’t performed as well as I can.
“That’s football though, and I am learning here. It takes time when you move to a new Club, but I feel I have fit in well here, and I am enjoying being a part of things at Stoke.
“Hopefully I can be better next season, and hopefully as a Club we can push on too. That is the ambitions of us all.”