Pulis sweating on Etherington fitness

The former West Ham midfielder has not played for four matches

since injuring his knee in the fifth-round clash at Manchester City

on February 13. However, Pulis said the 28-year-old was nearing

full fitness and could be available on Sunday. “We are still

waiting on Matty Etherington being fit,” he said. “It is another

player we desperately need in our team because he gives us

something that we haven’t got – pace and trickery down the side of

the pitch.” Pulis still feels Etherington can force his way into

the England’s World Cup squad before the end of the season,

following defender Ryan Shawcross who was an unused substitute

against Egypt at Wembley this week. “He has been brilliant for us

this year and he needs to get in the team,” added Pulis. “Having

seen Ryan get into the England squad there is no reason why, if he

continues his form, he hasn’t got a shout as well.” Shawcross’ stay

with the national team helped the player get over the fall-out from

his leg-breaking tackle on Aaron Ramsey against Arsenal last

weekend. And Pulis has backed the player to seize the opportunity

he has been offered by Fabio Capello, which he hopes would then go

on to benefit Stoke. “We signed Ryan at 19 and has been a fantastic

player for this club and is part of the future we are trying to

build,” he said. “I think when you are dealing with the great

players he has been dealing with it will give him an insight into

what he has to do if he has aspirations of playing for his

country.” This week’s international fixtures have got in the way of

preparations for the FA Cup tie with seven players travelling with

their national teams. Pulis will assess all of them carefully

before selecting his side to face Chelsea. “We’ve had seven away

this week, which has been a pain in the backside for us –

especially with the Chelsea game coming up because you want to work

and be prepared,” he added. “We’ve had busy period over the last

few weeks and we’ll have to look at players and see what time they

have spent on the pitch, see which ones are fresher and pick a team

which will be competitive.”