TONY PULIS considers an encounter with Reading 10 years ago to be ‘one of the defining moments in the Club’s history’ . . . as Stoke City prepare to welcome the resurgent Royals to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Pulis firmly believes City would not be a Premier League club now if it had not been for events going their way on a nerve-racking final day of the 2002-03 season as they narrowly avoided a drop into Division Two.
It was Ade Akinbiyi who headed home the winning goal that sparked wild celebrations at the Britannia Stadium as the Potters completed a great escape from relegation at the expense of Brighton & Hove Albion.
Although City only needed a point from their meeting with Reading to secure Division One survival, defeat on that tense occasion coupled with a Brighton win at Grimsby Town would have sent them down on goal difference.
“Had we been relegated that day, I doubt that we would be here now talking about the Premier League,” said Pulis.
“It is without question one of the defining moments in the Club’s history in my opinion and I will never forget that day.”
He added: “I will always be indebted to Ade and the Club should too. I can remember the goal as if it was only yesterday.
“Although we didn’t need to win the game -a point would have done - those occasions can have so many twists and turns.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to go into the final few minutes of that game on level terms; it could have all changed so quickly.
“I really do think the Icelandic people would have cut back if we had gone down and all sorts of things could have happened. You couldn’t have blamed them for doing that because they had invested a lot of money.
“Staying in Division One gave them the incentive to carry on and push the Club on. But if we had gone down to the third tier, it would have been a massive blow and who knows what the future might have had in store.”
City’s escape from the relegation by a four point margin in the end was all the more remarkable for the fact that they had gone 16 games without a win in the first half of the season and were written off as relegation certainties late in February when they crashed to a humiliating 6-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.
But they bounced back from that mauling and suffered only two defeats in their final twelve matches of the campaign.