Mark Hughes insists it is “not all doom and gloom” at Stoke, even if Europe now looks unlikely, and has suggested the club could be one of a number set to follow Leicester’s lead as surprise packages in the not-too-distant future.
The Potters’ hopes of securing European football for 2016-17 have been hit in their last two games, with them being held to a 2-2 home draw by Swansea, then suffering a 4-1 loss at Liverpool.
That has left them ninth in the Barclays Premier League – their final position in their two seasons so far under Hughes’ management – on 47 points with five fixtures to go.
The Welshman has stressed that means Stoke bettering their record Premier League points haul of 54 from a year ago remains a very realistic target they can relish working towards this term.
And he is looking beyond that with optimism as well.
Asked ahead of Monday’s home clash with second-placed Tottenham about leaders Leicester and their remarkable campaign, Hughes said: “I’m not sure about the statement ‘it might not happen again’.
“I think there is a possibility it could very well happen on a more regular basis.
“I think this is maybe just the first of many seasons where, given the resources involved for teams in the Premier League and the opportunity to get good players into your club, you can go on a run and surprise people.
“I don’t see it as a one-off season, and we hope at some point we’ll have a story along the lines of Leicester – mind you, it will take some to beat their story!
“But I think the situation with Leicester and what they have been able to achieve has made everybody realise that if you have got ambition and desire to get better every year, then you can go as far as you want, as far as your capabilities will take you.”
Hughes admits securing a European berth will now be “tough” for his side this season.
But he has no doubt there is still enough for his players to be motivated by as they look to continue their year-on-year improvement.
“After the last two games we’ve made it (qualifying for Europe) more difficult, obviously,” Hughes said.
“It will be tough for us to be able to make it.
“But we have to make sure we are in a position to take advantage if other teams slip up.
“And we are still in a position with five games to go where we can beat our biggest ever points total in the Premier League. So it’s not all doom and gloom.
“We have great opportunities to still achieve things this year and that is our motivation.”