Stoke City: Gary Neville was spot on, Jon Walters scored a good goal, says Tony Pulis
ALL eyes will be on the forearm smashes and brutal body checks whenever Stoke win a corner against Fulham this afternoon.
At least you’d think so after reading and listening to some of the reaction to THAT goal at West Ham on Monday.
A short corner dragged low towards the penalty spot and smashed inside the near post by Jon Walters was a devastating culmination of all the hard yards on the training ground.
But subsequent TV analysis showed that two or three other Stoke players were systematically impeding West Ham defenders inside a crowded penalty area.
Foul play or fair play? And how many of the collisions took place when the ball was actually in play anyway?
Either way, Tony Pulis is shrugging his shoulders at all the fuss, some of which he inadvertently prompted by owning up to the blocks in an after-match TV interview.
Not that he is saying referee Chris Foy should have blown for a foul had he seen any of them.
“It is blocking,” he now says, “but what you are actually doing is just staying in your space.
“If you look at West Ham, Kevin Nolan is standing in front of the goalkeeper. You could say it’s blocking, but he’s just staying in his space.”
Stoke found at least one friend in Gary Neville following his protracted adulation of the goal in his freeze-frame analysis of Stoke’s first-half strike during Sky’s live coverage.
“I just think we surprised our critics more than anything else,” Pulis continued.
“I heard one comment where someone had said ‘typical Stoke, scoring from a set play’!
“I’ll take more notice of what Gary said, he’s a football man.
“I’ll take that on board rather than people who’ve never played the game. I don’t really care what people say, especially certain individuals.”
Either way, Pulis couldn’t conceal his satisfaction at a goal honed during repeated practice on the training ground.
“We worked for two or three days on trying to get that area free and we managed it. It worked like clockwork, but that doesn’t always happen.
“But it was lovely and rewarding for the players. They deserve a lot of credit for taking it off the training ground and on to the pitch.
“You spend hours and hours working on it and it’s great when it works. It was a great pass from Glenn Whelan and a fantastic finish from Walts.”
So can we expect something similar again today against a Fulham side without their suspended defensive lynch-pin Brede Hangeland?
“Whether people criticise you or praise you, I’ll be going out on the training ground and doing exactly what I want to do. I won’t be affected about what other people say.”