TONY PULIS drew a lot of satisfaction from Stoke City’s final position in the Barclays Premier League table . . . even though a turnaround in events led to their hopes of a top ten finish disappearing in the final stages of the campaign.
Those hopes were raised when England striker Peter Crouch put the Potters in front early in the second half of the final game at Southampton, but Rickie Lambert’s equaliser and West Ham’s fightback in their game with Reading meant that Pulis’ side eventually had to settle for finishing in 13th position in the table due to results elsewhere.
City’s manager did, however, point to two important facts about the final placing which add to the Club’s impressive record over the past five seasons.
“The aim of the season is to always improve, and if you go by last season, then we have improved by one place,” commented Pulis after the 1-1 draw.
“I also think I am right in saying that this is the first time in the Club’s history that we have finished out of the bottom six for five consecutive seasons in the top-flight of English football. It’s a new achievement for us as a Football Club and a fantastic record.”
Pulis could not hide his disappointment at the fact that City let their lead slip and were indebted to Player of the Year Asmir Begovic for a point in the end.
“After we scored, I thought we dropped off a little bit too much, especially the two lads at the back, Ryan and Robert,” he added. “Because of that, Asmir has had to make a couple of great saves to keep the game level and ensure we came out with a point.
“I was hugely disappointed with the goal that they scored. I have watched the video and Fonte actually jumps up and puts his arm across Huthy’s head.
“We think the ball touches Fonte’s hand in the build-up to the goal. Even if it doesn’t, then he has his arm around Huthy so it should be a free-kick.”
Pulis explained the reasons for leaving Kenwyne Jones and Glenn Whelan out of his squad following events at Clayton Wood in the lead-up to the game.
“I wanted to bring a squad of players down here who haven’t been distracted by what has happened over the last few days,” he explained.
“I spoke to both Kenwyne and Glenn yesterday and I have spoken to them both today as well. I just didn’t feel that it was right to bring them down here with everything that has gone on. They understand that, and so do all the other lads.”