Pulis vows to continue Stoke success

The visit of Blackburn in the Premier League marks the milestone

for Pulis, who was first appointed manager at the Britannia Stadium

in November 2002. Having prevented the Potters from slipping into

the football league’s third tier in his first season and then

establishing them in the Championship, Pulis was sacked in 2005

after falling out with the club’s Icelandic owners and spent a year

as manager of Plymouth Argyle. But Potters chairman Peter Coates

brought Pulis back to the club in 2006 after buying out the

Icelanders and it has been a success story ever since, culminating

in promotion to the top flight at the end of the 2007/08 campaign

and an impressive 12th-place finish last year. Stoke are currently

occupying 12th spot this season as well and with games in hand on

the teams immediately above them – including Blackburn – the club

are in a good position to take the next step up and make the top 10

between now and May. Pulis is thinking even further ahead, though,

and has warned his players against complacency as they look to

establish themselves as a force in the Premier League. “It’s been

lovely. Both spells have been different and they have been

enjoyable in lots of respects – but I still have a job to do, a

massive job,” Pulis said. “We have got to stay in this Premier

League for at least three years, like I keep telling everybody. We

mustn’t get blase about it. “If we stay in the Premier League for

three years then I think the football club will really push on, but

it needs that base. “The 300 games have been fantastic, to be able

to say that. It’s a great club and it’s a tough club to manage, but

I wouldn’t have it any other way. “The most important thing is that

you keep your feet on the ground, you keep working hard and you

keep driving forward. “I keep relaying that to the players. It’s

very important that you do that in any profession because you get

your ups and downs.” One player that has seen his fair share of

change at Stoke is Mamady Sidibe, who arrived at the Britannia

Stadium in 2005 just as Pulis’ first spell was coming to an end.

Sidibe this week signed a new contract that extends to the summer

of 2012 and Pulis was delighted to hold on to a player who has

played a vital role in the club’s recent progress. “Mama has been a

great signing for us. I actually signed him on a free transfer from

Gillingham and got sacked the day after – I put it down to him

really,” Pulis joked. “But he has been a great signing for this

football club, he has been absolutely top-drawer. “I’m so pleased

for him because he is a great lad, everybody in the dressing room

likes him. He has proved that he is a handful in the Premier League

as well. “Mama has always stepped up to the mark, whether we were

fighting for our lives in the Championship, playing for promotion,

fighting to stay in the Premier League, and now trying to establish

ourselves – he has always moved up that gear. “He has got his

critics but he is such a good team player.” Another signature Pulis

secured this week was that of Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who

completed a move from Portsmouth on transfer deadline day. Stoke

had been in long-running talks to sign Pompey’s first-choice

stopper David James, but Pulis revealed that it was James’

understudy Begovic who had first interested them. “People think

that Begovic was just a shot in the dark, but we actually asked

about Begovic before James,” Pulis said. “We were told he wasn’t

available and then 12 days into the James saga, we were told then

that he was available and that he was going to go to Tottenham.

“Luckily for us, we managed to speak to the agent and told him we

would be interested, and it went from there.” Pulis would not be

drawn on whether or not he would be allowing Steve Simonsen – now

Stoke’s third-choice keeper – to go out on loan, but insisted the

30-year-old was still very much a part of his plans. Begovic will

be included in the squad for Saturday’s match, while club captain

Abdoulaye Faye faces a late fitness test after suffering back

spasms.