Pennant proud of Stoke season
Jermaine Pennant has insisted Stoke City can be proud of their achievements this season, despite suffering FA Cup final heartbreak against Manchester City.
The Potters were beaten 1-0 at Wembley yesterday as their 148-year quest for FA Cup glory continued, with the club remaining the only surviving founder members of the Football League never to have won the competition.
But yesterday was their first ever final appearance, while they are also on course for their highest finish in the Premier League. That was reflected by the response of their supporters to yesterday's defeat, thousands of whom stayed behind after the final whistle to applaud their team's efforts.
No-one summed up Stoke's never-say-die attitude more than Pennant, who was their best outfield player in a poor first half and who led their early second-half charge despite badly twisting his ankle shortly before the break.
The winger said: "We've got to take a note that we've got to the final for the first time in Stoke's history. So that's a great achievement in itself. Obviously, not winning it is a massive blow and very frustrating.
"But, full credit to our lads. We kept going to the final whistle. You always want to win - you hate losing in a final - but we'll take away that this season's been a good season for Stoke."
With two league games remaining, Stoke are on course for an eighth-placed finish and could even snatch seventh if Everton fail to win their final match against Chelsea. And regardless of their league position, Tony Pulis' men have UEFA Europa League football to look forward to next season after City qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
Pennant said: "We're eighth at the minute in the league. That would be a great achievement in itself. Obviously, now getting into Europe and in the final as well. Full credit to us for getting here."
Pennant insisted he would never give up hope of winning his first major trophy after missing out once again on silverware yesterday. The 28-year-old was contracted to Arsenal during the golden period of Arsene Wenger's reign but spent almost his entire Gunners career on loan, never playing enough games for his parent club to earn a winners' medal.
And his only other major final came in the 2007 Champions League, when Liverpool lost to AC Milan in Athens. But Pennant, who always seems to shine on the big stage, said: "I've still got some more years left so I'm going to keep going, keep battling away and we'll see what happens."
City were better side
Pennant acknowledged City had been the better side yesterday but pointed out Stoke kept them at bay for almost the entire game. "Full credit to Man City, they're a great team, they've got some great players," he said.
"We didn't make it easy for them. It was only a 1-0 margin. We had a massive belief that we could win this trophy. It was a - I wouldn't say sloppy goal - but an unfortunate one. It could've gone anywhere but it bounced for Yaya Toure."
In reality, it could have been worse for Stoke had goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen not pulled off more than one stunning first-half save. Pennant revealed that had made Stoke think it might just be their day.
He said: "He makes two great saves in the first half that kept us in the game. Going in half-time 0-0, we thought we had a chance. We came out second half a little bit better but they seemed to catch us on the break and they got that goal."
Stoke will attempt to avenge yesterday's defeat in Tuesday night's Premier League game at Eastlands and Pennant was hopeful of shrugging off his ankle injury in time. "It's a little bit swollen," he said. "It's going to be sore but we'll see if I'm fit for Tuesday."