TONY PULIS believes the challenges faced by Stoke City on their pre-season tour of the United States will gear them up for another big Barclays Premier League campaign.
Pulis’ side complete the eleven-day trip by taking on Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday evening in what promises to be another tough test provided by a Major League Soccer outfit who are challenging for a second successive title in the Eastern Conference.
Their final preparation for the game at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park involved two gruelling training sessions in scorching temperatures, the first at 7.00am in the morning at the Swope Park Training Complex before an open training session at the stadium in the evening.
Although the tour is now coming to an end, there has been no let-up in the three sessions-a-day as they endeavour to sharpen up their match fitness for the season ahead, so sandwiched in between all that training, they took to the hotel gymnasium and swimming pool.
“It’s been incredibly difficult for the players in lots of respects, but that is why we have come here,” commented City’s manager ahead of the Sporting Kansas City match.
“It was important to work the lads very hard because we want to prepare them for what lies ahead in the Premier League when the challenge will be as tough as it’s ever been.
“We’ve come from a very wet Britain to an extremely hot and humid climate, which has made it tough for them to deal with that when they are doing so much fitness work.”
While the intensive training schedule has been gruelling at times, Pulis insists that it has also been an enjoyable experience and an indication of what is to come in the future.
“It’s the first time we’ve been here as a Club and we’ve enjoyed the whole experience; the three clubs who have been such wonderful hosts, the company and the people who have been so welcoming. I think it’s a fantastic country and they look after you so well,” he said.
“We were told that the facilities and the quality of the opposition would make it ideal preparation for the new season, and that is certainly the way it has turned out so far.
“It has been a real insight into the way soccer is going in the States. It’s a big nation, football is the sport of the world and America should be up there with the very best.”
He added: “Obviously, from what we have seen over these past few days and from the way things are going, that is their aim and I don’t think it will take them all that long to get there.
“We’re rounding off this trip in a fantastic new stadium with the very best facilities and from the way the team is performing, they have certainly got the balance right on and off the field.
“It’s going to be another big test for us. Kansas City are going well in the League and they are very, very good at home. It’s going to be baking hot, probably hotter than we have experienced up to now out here, so it’s a question of whether we can deal with the conditions.”