Dean Whitehead has revealed how his teammates will take great confidence from last season's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea, as Stoke City bid to start the 2011-12 campaign with victory over the Blues at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday.
Back in April, the Potters pushed Chelsea all the way, after a fine solo goal from Jonathan Walters gave Tony Pulis' side the lead, and the impetus to win the three points. However, a typically clinical Didier Drogba header ensured a share of the spoils leaving Stoke fans aggrieved that victory had been snatched from their grasp.
After overcoming the initial disappointment in the aftermath of that game, Whitehead now reflects positively on the encounter, insisting that game is a fine example that Stoke's continually progressing squad are more than capable of mixing it with the 'big boys' in the Barclays Premier League.
“We should have beaten them last season for sure,” said Whitehead. “We had the opportunities to win the game, but it just didn't drop for us.
“We hit the bar, the post and had one or two other near misses, and whilst it was disappointing at the time, we can now look back on that as a reminder that it is possible.
“Over the past few years we have progressed remarkably and we now believe that we can beat any team here on our own turf, even bigger clubs. We want to show people that by getting off to a winning start on Sunday.”
Whitehead knows that it will be no mean feat overcoming Chelsea, who, under the new stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas will be looking to prove a point, as the players stake their claim for a regular place in the team.
“Of course it is going to be tough,” he continued. “Chelsea are a top, top football club with world class players and they, like us, will be desperate to get the new season up and running with a good result.
“But we do have the belief here that we can win the game. The lads are desperate to continue on from last season and keep pushing forward.”