Many a football club has a defining philosophy. For some, it is about an emphasis on pleasing passing, an addiction to adventure and attack or a futuristic faith in youth. For Stoke City, it is about spirit. "If we get beat, we get beat, but we'll never give up," said Kenwyne Jones. "Here at Stoke City we play for 90 minutes."
They proved it. The Premier League's longest unbeaten home record was preserved in the dying seconds by the substitute Cameron Jerome. "We have great team spirit and we fought back and fought hard, even with 10 men," he said. Despite Steven Nzonzi's red card, which Stoke hope will be rescinded when they appeal, City showed that comebacks are not confined to the two Manchester clubs. Stoke have conceded the opening goal in their past four games at the Britannia Stadium but recovered to claim eight points. Four came in the space of as many days.
"That comes from pride," Jones added. "This is our job. No one wants to lose so you're not just going to stand there and accept defeat. Everyone knows what Stoke City is about and they have seen it time and time again. That is just another day for us." Not quite: having kicked off with the division's tightest defence and having had the fewest shots on target, they were unlikely participants in a six-goal thriller.
Southampton, exploiting Stoke's uncharacteristic frailty against crosses, scored as many times as the previous seven visitors to the Britannia Stadium had between them. "The manner in which we conceded our goals was so sloppy and the boys at the back will be disappointed with that," Jerome said. But if Stoke are sustained by their honesty, they were rescued by a replacement.
Trailing 3-1, Tony Pulis had the choice of three striking substitutes: Michael Owen, scorer of 40 goals for England; Peter Crouch, who has mustered 22 and is City's reigning player of the year; and the unheralded Jerome.
He plumped for the last and reaped a reward. There was method behind the seeming madness. Pulis values honest endeavour and eschews glamour but if Jerome, rarely prolific but invariably industrious, seems the embodiment of Stoke, his manager sees a catalytic figure. "Once a game opens up he has so much energy and pace. He influences them so much," said Pulis.
He provided the definition of an impact substitute with a glorious 33-yard, 70mph, 90th-minute equaliser. "I hope it's the goal of the season," said Jones. It may have secured him the role that tends to be regarded as the unwanted compliment, as the resident super-sub. "The manager chooses his team and you just have to accept that," said Jerome.
While Stoke's saviour started on the bench, Southampton's most illustrious player remained there. "It wasn't the day for Gastón Ramírez, who is an outstanding talent," said manager Nigel Adkins, fearful of a culture shock for the Uruguayan. "It would have been a big welcome to English football." Jerome's late leveller notwithstanding, a beaming Adkins emerged more confident that Southampton will not be bidding farewell to the Premier League.
Man of the match: Rickie Lambert (Southampton)