Football - Pulis takes time to reflect

Stoke will celebrate their 150th anniversary next weekend but it was the memories of two more recent days that were on Tony Pulis' mind as he looked forward to Monday's clash with Sunderland.

PA Sport

The Potters are all but certain to be playing a sixth consecutive season of Premier League football after reaching 40 points with wins over QPR and Norwich.

It has been a fraught time for the Potters and Pulis in particular, with the manager coming under pressure from fans unhappy at the style of play and a perceived lack of progress.

The Welshman, though, knows just how far the club have come over the last decade, almost all of which he has spent at the helm.

Ten years ago, not long after Pulis took over, Stoke staged a great escape when relegation to League One loomed, with Ade Akinbiyi securing victory on the final day of the season over Reading.

Pulis had a difficult relationship with the club's Icelandic owners and was sacked in 2005 but returned a year later following a takeover by current chairman Peter Coates. And five years ago virtually to the day a goalless draw with Leicester was enough to earn Stoke promotion to the Premier League.

Speaking at the club's impressive training ground, Pulis allowed himself a moment of reflection. He said: "Those were two monumental games for this football club. To drop out of the Championship into League One would have been an absolute disaster. I don't think people realise how big and how important that game was. And obviously the Leicester game has taken us to where we are now.

"I'm very proud. I've just been for a walk around the training ground to have a look at the academy pitches and it's just lovely to be out there.

"I'll never forget walking round this area with the Icelandic people in charge and the grass was round your knees. Sometimes we had to put the goals out ourselves. There was nothing here. No buildings, no Portakabins, nothing. It's unrecognisable.

"It's a good question for all the supporters: what was the team that got us that result against Reading, what was the team that played against Leicester and what will be the team that will play on Monday night?"

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