Mark Hughes understands Stoke fans now have higher expectations

Mark Hughes understands the frustration of Stoke fans and accepts he is now held to a higher standard.

The Potters are chasing an unprecedented fourth successive top-10 finish in the Premier League and sit only one point and one place off that with four games left.

But after recovering from a poor start to push on towards the leading places, Stoke have stalled again with five defeats in their last six matches.

Last weekend saw Hughes’ side beaten 2-0 by relegation-threatened Swansea, and another poor performance at home to West Ham on Saturday would no doubt lead to more rancour among sections of supporters.

The Potters boss said: ” It’s a case of expectation. Since I’ve come here I’ve tried to raise expectations and for the most part we’ve matched the expectations of everybody at the club and the supporters.

“This year we’ve still got an opportunity to be in the top 10 but, for whatever reason, maybe the perception is that we haven’t quite achieved what we were capable of.

“The Premier League this year is really strong, certainly the top end is very strong, and very few clubs have been able to take points off the top sides.

“In recent weeks Crystal Palace have managed it but the likes of ourselves haven’t managed it. I think Southampton have struggled to beat top-six clubs.

“If the perception is that the expectation hasn’t been met then there’ll be a little bit of disappointment, and that goes with the territory.

“We’re quite comfortable with that, we understand that, but we’re still trying to achieve things that haven’t been achieved here and we’ve still got the possibility of doing that so we’ll continue in that way.”

West Ham sit only a point below Stoke and Hammers boss Slaven Bilic has been dealing with disquiet from his club’s supporters all season.

Hughes has sympathy for the Croatian, saying: ” There’s a lot of factors that go into the season that you face. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad manager and that’s certainly not the case with Slaven.

“He’s very experienced and knows this league. The Premier League isn’t easy and sometimes you’ll come up short.”

It is a big game for both clubs and could go a long way towards determining whether they finish the season with optimism heading into the summer or lingering disappointment.

Hughes said: “The mood’s fine. We’re looking forward to the game tomorrow. It’s an important one for us clearly.

“We were obviously disappointed with the result last weekend but, I’ve said all season, when we’ve had a disappointment, more often that not we’ve bounced back. And I fully expect us to have a good performance in front of our home crowd, g et past 40 (points) and see if we can finish the season on a high.

“It’s important to do that, it puts everybody in a good frame of mind leading into the summer and looking very quickly to the new season. Next year we’ll try and improve in terms of what we were able to achieve this year.”

Jack Butland will keep his place in goal after returning from 13 months out injured at Swansea, while Jon Walters is the only doubt having missed that match with a knee problem.

Hughes brushed off speculation about the Irishman’s future, saying: “I think Jon is contracted for another year anyway, so there’s no rush in that regard.”

Source: PA

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