NEWPORT’S Tony Pulis is ready to lead Stoke City to FA Cup glory – before returning to boost his hometown club.
Born and raised in Pill, 53-year old Pulis enjoyed the biggest day of his managerial career on Sunday as the Potters shocked Bolton Wanderers with a stunning 5-0 Wembley win in the semi final, setting up a showdown with Manchester City.
Pulis is delighted to be living his dream, particularly after the death of his mother Jean, a Newport native her entire life.
He said: “It will mean a lot for me to lead the team out. I lost my mum this year. We used to sit round the TV and watch the FA Cup together as a family,” he said.
A Welshman hasn’t lifted the FA Cup as a manager and Pulis insists his side can upset the odds against money bags City.
“The players have embraced this like you can’t believe and they will look forward to coming back to Wembley,” he said.
“This victory will give them the confidence to give it a good go. We know we will be playing against a good football team, with great players and one that has great tradition.”
Pulis retains an interest in his old stomping ground and has agreed to send a full first team to Newport Stadium on July 16 for a friendly with the Exiles, announced by County boss Anthony Hudson yesterday.
The Argus understands that the friendly was set-up after director Matt Southall, director of football Tim Harris and academy boss Glyn Jones visited Stoke on a fact finding mission.
“Tony has always been great mates with Glyn (Jones) and he’s been great with us, he’s keen to send down a very strong side,” Harris commented.
Plaudits poured in for Pulis after Sunday’s amazing victory, with Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross keen to ensure he gets the credit he deserves.
“Tony Pulis has been a legend for a long while. He’s done so much for the club, to take us from where we were,” he said.
“When I first joined we were struggling in the Championship and for him to take us all the way to the FA Cup final and hopefully a top-10 finish is massive.
“He doesn’t get enough credit for it. He’s a very good man-manager and a very good manager.”
Pulis hadn’t been to Wembley since 1999 when as manager of Gillingham he lost the League One playoff final in truly heartbreaking fashion, leading 2-0 with five minutes to go before losing the contest on penalty kicks.
The opponents? Manchester City.
“We didn’t deserve to lose that game and I had never been back to Wembley for a game since because of it,” Pulis admitted.
“But it made me a much stronger person. You take things out of defeat as well as victory.”