Pulis Demolishes Wembley Demons
Stoke’s relentless march to the FA Cup final is a personal triumph for their manager Tony Pulis.
Their semi-final against Bolton was supposed to be a tight and cagey affair – it turned out to be one of the most one-sided games in Wembley’s history.
And it was the first time Pulis set foot into the venue since the League One play-off final in 1999, when his then Gillingham side threw away a two-goal lead in stoppage time to eventually lose on penalties to Manchester City.
A very different looking City await in the FA Cup final next month, while Pulis is in a very different situation in his managerial career compared to 12 years ago.
People can go one of two ways after a major setback like that. But Pulis has had the character and strengh to recover. From the third tier, he has cut it at the Premier League, guided Stoke to the verge of only their second piece of major silverware in their history and secured a place in Europe next season.
Not bad for a manager who has to put up with accusations of his anti-football philosophy on a regular basis.
Most of the time it’s hard to disagree with the jibes – but it’s not a one-sided argument unlike their semi-final route.
In recent months they’ve opened up and become, in the words of their manager, more expansive.
Not nearly enough for some, but Pulis is making good use of the players he has available. Matthew Etherington in particular is in a rich vein of form and is a player who loves to have the ball at his feet, thinks positively and attacks the opposition at every opportunity.
They tend to prefer the narrow pitch of the Britannia but they made the most of the wide Wembley space to lethal effect as Wanderers simply had no answer.
And one team who will not relish facing up to the Potters is Manchester City – they have struggled against them recently and lost their FA Cup encounter last season after a replay.
Two different managers, two different styles, two different bank accounts – but the will to win from Pulis and his squad will be very hard to match on May 14th.
Tags: Stoke, FA Cup, Tony Pulis, FA Cup final, Matthew Etherington, Potters