Stoke City: Tony Pulis puts City on alert over stronger top flight
TONY Pulis fears the Premier League will be even tougher next season after seeing Reading, Southampton and West Ham graduate from the Championship.
The Stoke boss believes all three will hit the ground running on August 18 because of their spending power.
Pulis, who is planning for Stoke's fifth campaign in the top flight, believes the promoted trio can quite easily emulate QPR, Norwich and Swansea by surviving their first season back in the top flight.
"Next year will be tougher," he cautioned. "Southampton and West Ham have both had longer in the Premier League than Stoke, while Reading also had a taste of it for a couple of seasons not long ago.
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"It also looks like all three have the potential to go out and build strong squads.
"Southampton have shown their intentions by going for Jay Rodriguez at Burnley and Jack Butland at Birmingham."
The Saints have completed a £6m deal for 22-year-old striker Rodriguez and have been linked with a £3m bid for 19-year-old England squad keeper Butland.
Pulis added: "Everybody knows Reading have got money to spend and West Ham will spend anyway."
However, reports that the Hammers have targeted Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones are wide of the mark.
The Sentinel understands the hit-man is not on the Hammers' short-list as manager Sam Allardyce plots their transition back into a Premier League force.
Although the Hammers are not in the reckoning, Stoke could consider other offers for Jones as they try to generate more of their own transfer budget this year.
City have spent close to £84m on transfer fees, while bringing in around £15m on player sales since winning promotion in 2008.
They've been helped by a £60m investment from internet gambling giants bet365.
If Jones stays, City may consider off-loading Cameron Jerome who became frustrated after only starting seven Premier League games last season.
Pulis says he will be surprised if "second-season syndrome" affects Norwich or Swansea, despite both clubs losing the managers who guided them to mid-table safety last season.
Liverpool snapped up Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers, while Paul Lambert opted to quit Norwich for Aston Villa.
Pulis believes Norwich have made a smart move by poaching Chris Hughton from Birmingham.
He said: "We all saw what a great job Chris did at Newcastle when he was unlucky to lose his job so soon after getting them promoted.
"And he also spent many, many years at Tottenham under various different managers, so he knows the game and knows the score."
Stoke's potentially rocky road ahead will become even clearer next Monday when the Premier League fixture list for 2012/13 is published.