Stoke City: Michael Owen goal was just the ticket, says Tony Pulis
TONY Pulis couldn't resist winding up Michael Owen straight after his 150th Premier League goal last weekend.
Owen reached the landmark by glancing home a late header from Cameron Jerome's left-wing cross.
The former England striker then trotted back into the dressing room after the 3-1 defeat at Swansea to be momentarily taken aback by his manager's reaction.
"I asked him if it went straight in from Cameron," Pulis revealed, "and his face was a picture."
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Pulis will be winding Owen up again ahead of tomorrow's tie against Manchester City (12.45pm) in the hope of inspiring another late goal to sway the game Stoke's way.
Owen certainly has history on his side after stepping off the substitutes' bench for Manchester United three years ago and poaching a dramatic injury-time winner to pull off a 4-3 victory over their city rivals at Old Trafford.
He looks set to start among the subs once more against City, but last week's first goal for Stoke almost guarantees him an appearance at some stage tomorrow lunchtime.
"Coming off the bench and scoring a goal will have given him a real boost," said Pulis, "because irrespective of whether you are Michael Owen or a younger player in the group, confidence is a big factor.
"He hasn't got a point to prove to me, he just wants to do it for himself as much as anything else.
"We think he's a good lad around the place and good to have. He's picked up injuries that have held him back a bit, but he took his goal well and he's obviously in my thinking along with other players for Manchester City."
Owen's goal was one consolation from that Swansea defeat six days ago, but Pulis insists there was another out on the left wing.
"There were two high points in the game for us. That's the goal and also Matthew Etherington's performance," he explained.
"That was his best this year."
A fit and firing Etherington has usually meant a fit and firing Stoke in recent years – so it's no coincidence that he has enjoyed his moments whenever the two Citys have met at the Britannia Stadium since promotion in 2008.
It was Etherington's cross for James Beattie to head a far-post winner for 10-man Stoke in their first home game against Man City in early 2009.
Since then at the Britannia, Stoke have drawn all four Premier League games 1-1 against Manchester – including a 92nd-minute equaliser from that man Etherington in November 2010.
And don't forget a certain 3-1 victory in an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Roberto Mancini's men some nine months earlier in February 2010.
Stoke's proud home record against City has much to do with the home crowd, of course, and Pulis wants more of the same tomorrow afternoon.
"That record of ours goes out of the window as soon as the game starts," he warned, "because you cannot live in the past and you have to move on.
"We will respect Manchester City, like you have to respect a team of that quality.
"But our fans can play a huge part and I just hope they realise that... I'm sure they do.
"The players need to turn up and have a go, and the fans need to turn up and give it their best as well.
"Then you won't hear those four-and-a-half thousand Manchester City fans behind the goal.
"They will have one end of the ground, but our fans will have the rest.
"And I want those lads and lasses on the terraces to clear their throats and give the best they can for their team to help us along."