Stoke City: Pressure on as TP aims to make sure Stoke cash in
TONY Pulis admits he has never been under greater pressure as a Premier League manager because of the extra millions due to pour into top-flight clubs this summer.
He says himself and Reading boss Brian McDermott, his opposite number tomorrow, cannot afford to see their clubs miss out on the gravy train following the lucrative new TV deal.
Pulis believes new worldwide TV contracts could mean up to a 70 per cent rise in income for clubs next season.
"I think every manager outside the top six or eight clubs would have been under more pressure this year because the rewards waiting next year will be astonishing," he said.
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Stoke were sitting comfortably in the table at the turn of the year, but a run of two points from the last 18 leaves them looking over their shoulder ahead of Reading's visit.
"We still want another 10 points to reach 40, and then we can think of where we go from there," added Pulis."
Relegation would spell changes on the field, but also hit building work off it too, a sobering thought in the week that Stoke were given planning permission to spend several million pounds filling in the corner of the East and South stands at the Britannia Stadium.
"Over the past five or six years we haven't just invested to the team," Pulis continued, "but also into the infrastructure of the club.
"It (ground expansion) is another step forward for the club, a chance to sell another 1,800 tickets and to help keep the fans warm.
"I think you have to accept that being in this league we have spent a hell of a lot on the football club as well as what's on the pitch to try to make sure we progress."
Not that the pressure of maintaining Stoke's Premier League status is getting to him, Pulis insists, after casting a glance back to his younger days in management in the lower leagues with the likes of Bournemouth and Gillingham.
"You draw on the fact you've been through these experiences and had it tough.
"I've managed at the bottom of the league and so I know how tough it is – and it's a lot tougher down there than it is up here.
"You do have the media impact here that makes it more difficult personally, but in respect of being a manager you accept you're going to have good times and bad times.
"Take Brian. Three weeks ago Reading were being written off. Now they've had some good results and things are looking up for them. That's how quickly it changes."
Indeed, while Stoke go into tomorrow's game on the back of two draws and four defeats from their last six Premier League fixtures, Reading have clambered out of the drop zone after losing just one of their last seven.
However, that's only half the story.
They came from 2-0 down to beat West Brom 3-2, from 2-0 down to draw with Chelsea, from 1-0 down to beat Newcastle away late on and then, only last weekend, they claimed an 85th-minute winner to beat an in-form Sunderland team.
God help Stoke if ever they take a 2-0 lead into the last five minutes tomorrow.
"Yes, they've had a great run of results," Pulis acknowledged, "and they've shown they've got a really good spirit in the team by scoring so many goals late.
"Brian will be really pleased with the belief the team has shown and it's given them great heart, I'm sure.
"Brian getting the manager-of-the-month award is brilliant for him, and for (player-of-the-month) Adam Le Fondre as well."
Not that Pulis, pictured below, is overlooking the need for his own players to start extending that narrowing nine-point gap between themselves and the bottom three.
"We've got to get some points," he admitted. "We are keen to get back to winning ways after a tough run. We are still 10th in the league, but we have to win a few games.
"We knew the start of the season and this period would be difficult for us because of the way the fixtures have fallen.
"For them to all come at once, almost, is disappointing, then picking Manchester City again in the FA Cup made it even more difficult.
"I think the performance at Arsenal (last Saturday) was what we needed. That will give the players and people around the club a lot of confidence.
"Reading are the form team in the league and we need everybody's help to push on again."