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By ESPN Staff

Etherington warns Stoke against complacency

Matthew Etherington's experience of the most famous relegation battle in Premier League history will keep him on his toes as his Stoke City team fight for survival.

The winger was in the West Ham United squad which, inspired by Carlos Tevez, won their last four games to condemn Sheffield United to a controversial demotion two years ago.

Etherington will never forget the premature celebrations of the Blades fans after the Hammers were beaten 3-0 at Bramall Lane as the season moved towards its climax.

''The reaction after the game told you the Sheffield United players and fans believed that was it,'' said Etherington. ''They thought that was the result to keep them up.

''At that stage they were five points above us with five games to play. We were beaten by Chelsea four days later, but won every match after that.

''It was incredible really and just shows it's never over in football until the mathematics say so. We certainly can't take anything for granted. There is still time for the teams below us to put runs together, so we have to keep going.''

Etherington was in the West Ham team which beat Blackburn 4-1 last August, but he expects a much tougher contest when Sam Allardyce brings Rovers to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

''There is a lot of difference between a free flowing game at the start of the season and a relegation battle towards the end of it,'' he said.

''I'm sure it will be tight, but I'm confident we can win. Stoke have not lost at home since I came here (in January) and the fans have played a big part in that.

''I know it's an old cliche about the supporters being the 12th man, but it is certainly the case at the Britannia. The noise they make is deafening.

''They really drive us on and we should have beaten Newcastle for them last weekend. The lads were all disappointed not to do so, but we will be aiming to make up for that against Blackburn.''

Etherington insists he has not had to alter his style of play since switching from West Ham's passing game to what some perceive as 13th-placed Stoke's kick and rush tactics.

''I've not changed anything,'' he said. ''I have to do my defensive work as well as getting forward, but I always did that at West Ham.

''I know people say Stoke don't play attractive football, but that's not right. We've got some good players who get the ball down and pass it around.

''Glenn Whelan has been in great form in midfield. He's relaxed and calm on the ball and he gets the team ticking. We've been playing some good stuff.

''There is a tough side to the way we play, but there's nothing wrong with that. We get in people's faces and are always fully committed.''

Etherington has excelled for Stoke since a £2m from Upton Park and believes his first goal for the club is getting closer.

He added: ''I've had a few chances in the last couple of games and I'm sure I'll score soon. Hopefully it will be against Blackburn.

''But the only thing that really matters is helping the lads to get three points. Two wins should be enough to make us safe and it would be nice to get them as soon as possible.''

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