MATTHEW ETHERINGTON has laid down the gauntlet to his teammates . . . and challenged them to write further Stoke City history over the coming months by securing a first ever top ten finish in the Barclays Premier League.
Despite establishing themselves in the top-flight of English football over the past four seasons, City have yet to end a campaign in the top half of the table, registering 12th, 11th, 14th and 13th place finishes in each of the past four years.
However, the winger believes the current crop of players at the Britannia Stadium are more than capable of reaching that milestone, and he believes a final points tally of between 45 and 50 would be enough to secure a landmark finish.
"We have always gone down to the last couple of games in 10th spot or just outside the top 10, but never finished there," the 31-year-old said.
"I remember the last game a couple of seasons ago against Wigan when a win, which we should have got, would have meant a top-half finish.
"That's how close we have been without doing it yet. I think we deserve it because of our consistency over the years."
He added: "We are now on 33 points with 12 games left, so I'd like to think we could get to the 45 to 50-point mark; that should get us really close to the top 10."
The winger also acknowledges that his early season form fell short of his own expectations, but feels that he is gradually edging closer to returning to his very best; citing his happiness both on and off the field, as
a key benefactor to his recent improvements.
"I feel I have been getting there in recent weeks," the former England Under 21 star added.
"I've got quite a few 90 minutes under my belt and I am feeling fitter and stronger than I have for a long time. On and off the field, I've never been happier."