St. Mary's Musings: What were your expectations for the season and has the season lived up to those so far?
Matt Wheatley: I made a rookie mistake this season by actually having reasonably high expectations for the season. After a somewhat shaky start, I realised why I don't go into a season expecting much. We have started to find our feet now and the team looks to be gelling and we are putting out performances and picking up the type of results I was hoping that we would see this time out.
SMM: How do Stoke fans view Mark Hughes now you're a couple of seasons in under his management?
MW: ‘Mark Hughes' barmy army' definitely reaches high decibels nowadays. I was skeptical of the appointment, I'll be honest. But, I am more than willing to hold my hands up and say that season by season he is proving all of his critics wrong. There are times that I question some things, but that's football. All in all, you'd be hard pushed to find a stoke fan that has a negative attitude towards the man.
SMM: From the outside, it looks like Stoke are now playing a more expansive style of football compared to that under Tony Pulis. How does the football compare and how do you feel about the "cold Tuesday night at Stoke" tag the club is still lumped with?
MW: There is no question that the football we play nowadays is completely different from that of the past. That being said, in typical Stoke fashion, I've still been left scratching my head many times about how we've failed to score. As for the ‘cold, wet night in Stoke' tag, I'm really quite fond of it and its s shame that we don't strike the same fear into opposition on their travels as we used to. I think that is something Hughes has recognised and is trying to restore somewhat - which is good in my opinion.
SMM: Stoke shocked the world with signings such as Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri - how have the two players taken to life at Stoke?
MW: Signings like these really did leave me pinching myself, especially after how well the Bojan signing worked out for us. I never thought I'd see an Catalonian wonder kid loving life down the Brit, but he really does seem to love life in the red and white. As for Shaqiri, we are yet to see his full potential. As with Bojan when he first came, I think he needs some time to settle and then he will flourish. The Chelsea game before this international break was the best I've seen him play. It's a shame he break came after that, but hopefully he will come back ready to kick on from there. Names attract names, so these two enjoying life and producing good football in the Potteries will only encourage other high profile names to join the party... hopefully.
SMM: Who is Stoke's key man on Saturday?
MW: Ryan Shawcross: captain, leader, legend. His return to the team has restored much needed stability to our defense as well as a balance to the whole team. Hopefully he can keep your attacks quiet and let our boys counter quickly.
SMM: If you could sell any Stoke player from your regular starting XI, who would it be and why?
MW: A question that a season ago I probably would've named a couple of players with relative ease. This time around though, its much more of a struggle. I think I would go for Charlie Adam. He does offer a different dynamic to our team and does have the potential to really impact games. No matter how good of a game he has, I can't overlook the fact that he is overweight for a footballer. A Premier League footballer shouldn't struggle to complete 90 minutes of football.
SMM: If you could sign any saints player, who would it be and why?
MW: I'm going to make this decision based on my previous answer as that's where I think we could really benefit from signing a player to accompany Whelan. Victor Wanyama. I think the presence of a player like him in midfield, doing the job that he does in there would really solidify our central midfield and let our flair players thrive even more.
SMM: Finally, what do you think the score will be on Saturday?
MW: My prediction was right the last time we spoke so hopefully lightning can strike twice. I think this is more of a score I'd take right now if I was offered it - I'm going to say 1-1.