Stoke City: Tony Pulis puts faith in young stars as club's academy is granted category one status
TONY Pulis has assured Stoke City's Academy "if the youngsters are good enough, then I'll play them" after the club was granted their coveted elite Category One status.
The anxiously-awaited decision means Stoke can now spread their net far wider in the search for schoolboy talent to nurture.
Pulis, who has frequently been criticised for overlooking young players, insists he judges Academy graduates on their ability, not their age.
"People criticised me when I first came for not playing young players," he recalled, "but how many of those young players who left us went on to be a success elsewhere at the level we have been at?
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"I can only think of Ben Foster and Karl Henry. Ben went to Manchester United, and we couldn't stop that, while Karl left for personal reasons, but he remains a friend of our family who came to my son's wedding recently.
"We are about to spend an enormous amount of money (a reported £6m to improve facilities and beef up staffing) on the development side of the football club.
"So what we have to do now is produce young players who are going to be good enough to play in the Premier League.
"And if they are good enough, there will be no-one happier than the chairman, the Coates family and myself because, as we've seen with Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shotton, right, the crowd love to see locally-born players coming through.
"As far as I'm concerned, if they are good enough, then they will get a chance.
"But at the same time, I won't be playing players just because we have spent a lot of money trying to produce them."
Pulis also claimed his record shows he has been happy to recruit young players – albeit from outside the club – and that his most used regularly deployed back five last season had an average age of 25.
Stoke face Orlando City here in Florida later tonight (midnight UK time) when Pulis will again look to field up to 22 different players during the 90 minutes.
His players have been confronting maximum temperatures in the mid-nineties – just a few degrees short of an Orlando record – as they train up to three times each day.
But the toll appears to be telling on striker Kenwyne Jones after he complained on Twitter that he had been forced to join the rest of the squad for an official visit ... when he had planned to have a jolly good sleep.
Potters make the grade to earn vital academy status: Green 'Un Page 5