ANDY WILKINSON celebrated 10 years as a Stoke City player in the early stages of the 2011-12 season . . . and what a contrast in fortunes in that decade.
While the Stone-born defender made his debut by coming on as a substitute in a Football League Trophy match against Blackpool, his tenth anniversary fell in a week when the Potters played their Europa League Group Stage tie against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
As a local lad who has emerged through the Youth Academy at the Club, he has become a fans’ favourite with committed and passionate performances.
Wilkinson gained much of his experience in the early stages of his career in loan spells at Telford United, Partick Thistle, Shrewsbury Town and Blackpool.
The 27-year-old played his part in the side that gained promotion to the Premier League and then featured regularly in the second half of the first campaign in the top-flight after the form of Andy Griffin had kept him out of the side for a long period.
Like so many of the other players, a high point in Wilkinson’s career was reaching the Club’s first-ever FA Cup Final and he had a hand in setting up the fifth goal of their emphatic triumph over Bolton Wanderers in the semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
Although he has never scored for the Potters in a competitive fixture, he was on target in a pre-season friendly against Austrian side SV Thal in 2011 and he was only denied a first Premier league goal by a brilliant save from Manchester United ‘keeper David de Gea.
Wilkinson stated after that fixture that it was one of the best matches he had played in and it was a few weeks later that he celebrated his 10th anniversary as a Stoke player.