Potters boss Pulis plotting top-10 finish

Unbeaten in their last three games, the Potters have gone beyond

the 40-point mark to guarantee their top-flight status for another

year and have also broken into the top 10 as they look to better

their impressive effort from last term. In their maiden Premier

League campaign Pulis’ team finished 12th on 45 points, but with 43

accrued already this time out and five games still to play, Stoke

are well on course to continue their upward trend. A win against

Bolton at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday will confirm that in

terms of points, and Pulis is hopeful the league position at the

end of the year will reflect their improvement as well. “Everybody

wants to improve and everybody wants to get better, and that is how

it should be,” Pulis said. “Our supporters should want that and

demand that, (although) I think it is important to look at what we

have achieved so far and not forget that. “We are 10th at the

moment – if it finished tomorrow, I’d be doing absolute

somersaults. “To finish 12th and 10th in the Premier League in two

years, as well as making the quarter-finals of the League Cup and

quarter-finals of the FA Cup, it will have been two great seasons

for us.” Having relied heavily on their form at home last season,

Stoke have become better all-rounders this year with improved

performances on the road, and Pulis believes with a little more

luck they could have been looking at an even higher finish. “We

have done better in lots of respects this season, especially away

from home,” Pulis said. “Our away form has been very good, and

there have been a lot of games away from home where with that

little bit more luck, we could have had more victories rather than

draws, and could be a lot better off than where we are.” Bolton

have endured a far more torrid season, having sunk into the

relegation zone under Gary Megson – who was an increasingly

unpopular figure among the club’s fans – before replacing him with

Owen Coyle. With Wanderers still only five points above the drop

zone, their safety is not yet guaranteed. While Coyle’s side will

continue their scrap for survival on Saturday, Pulis is delighted

to be free of relegation anxiety. He said: “It’s lovely that we are

not there. We mustn’t get blase about what we have done and how

quickly we have done it, but the players, supporters and everybody

connected with the football club need a real good pat on the back.”

Bolton go into Saturday’s match having lost four games in a row,

but Pulis remembers the tough time his team had in a 1-1 draw at

the Reebok Stadium earlier in the campaign and believes Coyle has

quality to work with. “They have got good players. I think when

there is a change of manager – they were unfortunate that there was

that bad feeling about Gary,” Pulis said. “I think that stunted the

start of their season a bit, but when we played them you could see

they have got some quality in the team. “Owen will need this summer

to bed everything down and put in place what he needs to push on.”

Pulis has a number of injury concerns ahead of the match, with

Matthew Etherington – who is in “ongoing” talks about an improved

contact – having picked up a knock in training. Ricardo Fuller is

another injury doubt while Ryan Shawcross and Mamady Sidibe are

almost certain to miss out, but James Beattie could return.