TONY PULIS considers Stoke City’s final day escape from relegation at the end of his first season in charge of the Club to be one of his greatest achievements.
Pulis reflected on that survival battle and indeed many more memorable moments on the day that he celebrated the tenth anniversary of his arrival at the Club.
While he is rightfully proud of leading the Club into the Barclays Premier League, to their first-ever FA Cup Final and into Europe, his thoughts turned to the early days at the Britannia Stadium and the 2002-03 season when the outlook was bleak.
City were plummeting back into the third tier of English football when he took up his initial appointment as manager and it took a dramatic upturn in fortunes capped by a final day victory over Reading for them to eventually climb to safety.
“There have been a lot of great moments since I first arrived here, but the biggest thing for me was us managing to avoid relegation in that first year,” he said.
“That must be one of my greatest achievements and I really don’t know if we’d be where we are today if we hadn’t succeeded in staying up in that season.
“If we’d got relegated back down to the third tier after one season in the Championship, it would have been a massive ask to get back up again. In the end, we only stayed up by winning three of the last four games and getting that result against Reading.”
While Pulis’ pre-match press conference was an opportunity to look back on the ten years after members of the media attending had presented him with a cake to mark the occasion, he was quick to focus on the challenges that still lie ahead of him.
“I’m not one to stand here taking slaps on the back because there is always a danger that you will take your foot off the pedal,” he commented.
“The biggest thing in life, and indeed sport, is that you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. You have to stay on the front foot as much as you can.
“This is such a tough League and it can fall away so quickly if you don’t stay focused on what you are trying to achieve which remains, as it has been for the past four seasons, getting to 40 points as quickly as possible to stay in the Premier League.”
He added: “I said at the time I was first appointed that I was proud to be manager of this Football Club and I’m very proud of that to this day.
“I’m also proud of what we have achieved, especially the fact that we are now in our fifth season in the Premier League, we’ve reached our first-ever FA Cup Final and played in Europe. But there is still an awful lot more work to be done in the future.
“We are just starting a new project to extend the Training Ground facility to accommodate the expansion of our Academy set-up because producing home-grown players from this area is going to be such a crucial part of us sustaining our progress.
“When you look back 10 years to what we had then, and more significantly what we didn’t have in those days, we have come an awful long way.
“So much has already been put in place and we are now trying to evolve as a side, but that takes time and requires patience. At the same time, getting results is still most important of all, so we must not take our eye off the ball in that respect.”