Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, reflected on a thrilling seven-month adventure to the corners of the continent after his side's Europa League run was finally brought to an end by Valencia last night.
After beating Hajduk Split in Croatia in their very first game on 4 August and then coming through a group containing Besiktas, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv, Stoke found Champions League regulars Valencia one step too far.
Defeat at home last week left them with a mountain to climb and they might have managed it had Kenwyne Jones taken one of two glorious opportunities, but he fluffed his lines and Jonas' 24th-minute goal earned Los Che a 1-0 win on the night and 2-0 on aggregate.
Pulis said of the run: "It's been fantastic, we've really enjoyed it. It's given everybody at the club a lift. It's something we've never experienced before.
"To play the number of games we have in Europe, to go all over Europe – and sometimes, in my mind, just outside Europe, and I've been caned for that – but tonight we had a right go.
"In the first 20 minutes, if we'd just have had a bit of luck, we needed a goal and it just didn't come. But the players have been absolutely brilliant, and even at the end Kenwyne missed a header that normally he'd score from. We needed to take our chances, we didn't do that, but the rest of the game we were absolutely fantastic."
Pulis was criticised in some quarters for his squad selection, leaving the likes of Peter Crouch, Walters, Matthew Etherington and Ryan Shawcross behind and handing starts to Salif Diao and Diego Arismendi in midfield, while Jones, Ricardo Fuller and Cameron Jerome formed a front three. "The team I played today is the team that have played the majority of games in Europe. I don't know what all the fuss is about," said Pulis, whose side was urged on in the Mestalla by 7,000 Stoke fans who had made the trip from the Potteries.
Valencia Guaita, Bruno, Rami, Dealbert, Jordi Alba, Parejo, Topal, Pablo, Jonas (Soldado, 62), Piatti (Feghouli, 62), Aduriz. Substitutes not used Diego Alves, Albelda, Barragan, Victor Ruiz, Mathieu.
Stoke City Sorensen, Diao, Huth, Woodgate, Collins, Arismendi (Shotton, 65), Delap, Palacios (Pennant, 65), Jerome, Jones, Fuller. Substitutes not used Begovic, Dawson.
Referee M Strombergsson (Sweden).
Porto threaten complaint over incredible abuse
Porto are considering a bizarre complaint to Uefa against Manchester City fans after they taunted Brazilian striker Hulk with chants of "You're not incredible".
Hulk was also targeted by City fans with calls of "cheat" and Porto communications director Rui Cerqueira said they would take action about the "improper behaviour that may be normal in England but [that] Porto want to help eradicate from sport".
The action may be seen as retaliation for City's complaint – and Uefa's charge – that Porto fans racially abused Mario Balotelli and Yaya Touré at Estadio do Dragao last week. Porto deny that charge; a disciplinary hearing will be held on 29 March.