Stoke City: Jon Walters poised to play on as Tony Pulis tells fans not to panic
TONY Pulis inadvertently paid tribute to the late Clive Dunn by issuing a "don't panic" message to fans ahead of tomorrow's potential Premier League nerve-shredder against QPR.
Victory over Rangers would leave Stoke at least four points clear of the bottom three and heading firmly towards mid-table security.
But defeat could leave them as little as a point above the drop zone and heading into a bleak winter.
Pulis insists his side's only failing at present is their inability to take chances and a lack of luck in front of goal.
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And he is quick to defend the seemingly perennial presence of Jon Walters in his team, and the role of Charlie Adam.
"We have got to be careful not to be panicking," he said, "and to stay nice and solid. If we win, we win. If we don't, we move on.
"It's not a situation where you start chucking everything out of the window.
"We have been really disappointed with results and the end product because we could have – and should have – scored many more goals.
"We have a front three who can score, a midfielder in Charlie Adam who can score, and then there's Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth, who can also score from set pieces.
"If I was here saying we weren't creating chances then there would be a concern, but we are. What we have to be is more ruthless."
But he also acknowledged: "You never stop worrying about getting results because this is a tough league and there's been bigger clubs than Stoke City get relegated.
"We need to win games for confidence and the longer it goes on, the more concerned you get. But they have trained well this week and are keen to put it right."
And Walters looks set to start his 62nd consecutive Premier League game – a record among current outfield players in the top flight – after appearing to win a vote of confidence from Pulis ahead of the QPR game.
"In sport you have to accept you are going to get criticism," he said in response to suggestions that fans are against the continued selection of Walters after just one league goal in open play in nearly 12 months.
"If Jon is not scoring goals then he will get criticism, but he's tough enough and he understands the game, that there's lots of people out there who know the game better than you.
"I think the majority of supporters love Jon, but there will always be that group who know better."
Adam has been tasked with a floating role between midfield and Peter Crouch during the first few weeks of his Stoke career.
It's a role Pulis seems set to pursue after pledging his support to the Scotland international ahead of tomorrow's game.
"If we can get Charlie between the lines," he explained, "I feel as though he can get into good areas.
"He's done smashing, Charlie. He certainly gets on the ball and makes you play, and slows the game down for you.
"But what we need from Charlie is a bit more devilment in the final third because he's a midfielder we have bought to get us goals.
"He can get us 10 goals-a-season, and we are hoping Charlie will do that."
All of which points to a team showing as little as one change tomorrow as Matthew Etherington seems poised to replace Michael Kightly.
"I don't want to change it too much," Pulis stressed. "It's just a case of putting the ball in the back of the net.
"And we have looked solid enough, apart from at Manchester United. We just need a bit of luck in front of goal as much as anything."