Pulis pleased by play-off draw

Stoke – who are taking part in major European competition for the

first time in 37 years – are now just a two-legged play-off away

from the Europa League group stages after completing a 2-0

aggregate win over Hadjuk Split on Thursday evening. The Potters

will travel to Switzerland for the first leg on August 18 before

hosting the return match seven days later. Giving his reaction,

Pulis said: “I’m obviously pleased with the draw, in respect to

having the second leg at the Britannia Stadium. “It’s good for us

to travel away first so we can get them back to our place and have

the full backing of the Britannia Stadium, which I feel is crucial.

“As with a lot of teams in the competition, we don’t know much

about them but I am sure they will say the same about us. “No game

in Europe is easy, so we will make sure we are fully prepared for

this tie.” Stoke ensured their progress into the play-off round

with a controlled performance in a 1-0 win in Split, and Pulis was

delighted to see his decision to start Jonathan Woodgate pay off.

“I thought he and Ryan, the two centre-halves, were absolutely

fantastic,” Pulis said. “I don’t think they put a foot wrong. The

game was picked (for Woodgate) because we knew we would need

experience. “That was also why we brought Salif Diao on for the

last quarter of an hour, because he has played in this type of

atmosphere as well. “As the game went on they were throwing caution

to the wind and pushing players forward, and when Salif came on he

steadied the game and there was more space. “Those players helped

us enormously.” Woodgate’s previous competitive start was for

Tottenham in November 2009 and prior to Thursday night, the

injury-plagued player had made just four appearances in two years.

Following his release by Spurs this summer, the 31-year-old was

offered a chance to resurrect his career with a pay-as-you-play

contract at Stoke and Pulis is confident that if Woodgate keeps up

his fitness levels, he can excel with the Potters. “We are hoping

he will get better and better,” Pulis added. “I think if he plays

the games, we will see that we have taken a real, real player.”

Woodgate was delighted to make his bow for his new club and is

grateful for the belief Pulis has shown in him. “That’s my first 90

minutes for 18 months, so let’s see how I feel,” Woodgate told the

club’s official website. “But I enjoyed the game and felt good.

It’s a tough place to come, but all the lads did fantastically well

in those circumstances.” He added: “I had a few options in the

summer, but Tony Pulis was very keen to bring me here. “When

someone is that keen and they really believe in you, then that’s

what you want, so I signed and I feel it’s the right decision.

“This club has come so far in a very short space of time and this

performance proves that we are a good team. “It’s only a few

seasons ago that the club were playing in the Championship, yet

here we are winning at a top club in Europe. “It’s a big

achievement and it gives the lads great confidence going into the

new season.”