Stoke City v Wigan: Potters look to set the record straight
TONY Pulis admits it's Stoke City v the bogey men whenever Wigan are the opposition – but he doesn't know the half of it.
Pulis is a touch peeved by the fact Stoke have only beaten the Latics once in nine attempts since promotion to the Premier League in 2008.
It was at the Britannia Stadium, you might remember, where Roberto Martinez's Wigan avoided the hangman's noose by winning on the last day of the 2010/11 season when relegation stared them in the face.
It was also at the Brit a season earlier when Maynor Figueroa scored one of the Premier League's best goals by lofting a free-kick over Thomas Sorensen from the halfway line.
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But no Stoke fan over the age of about 20 needs reminding that their problems against Wigan pre-date their various collisions in the Premier League.
It was at Wigan's old Springfield Park, for instance, where a humiliating 4-0 defeat in what is now League One back in February 1991 heralded the demise of Alan Ball as manager.
No Stoke fan at Wigan's new JJB Stadium back in November 2001 will readily forget – much as they will have tried – a 6-1 spanking which ended a 10-match unbeaten league run for the Potters.
What was worse that day, Stoke actually took the lead through Belgian midfielder Jurgen Vandeurzen and victory would have sent City to the top of the table.
And just to emphasise Wigan's role in some of Stoke's darker moments down the years, it was at the JJB Stadium in February 2000 when City played their first match after the death of Sir Stanley Matthews.
A tremendous turnout of travelling fans dutifully paid tribute to the great man at the start of the game, but sadly it wasn't long before the occasion was marred by crowd trouble.
At least Stoke won that day – thanks to goals from Graham Kavanagh and James O'Connor – and that's a winning feeling Pulis has tasted all too little in recent years.
Stoke's only Premier League victory over Wigan came with nothing to really play for when they won 2-0 in the penultimate fixture of their debut season.
Something Pulis wants to change tonight against a club he has always respected for its ability to scorn the pundits and their annual predictions for the drop.
"You've got to admit they have been a bit of a bogey side when you look at the results," admitted Pulis. "I think we have played better than the results suggest, but haven't always got what we deserved.
"Even that game when they beat us to stay up, I seem to remember we had enough chances in the first half to have put the game to bed."
Pulis acknowledges the similarities with Stoke when it comes to the chairman/manager relationship and believes that is at the core of their ability to survive year-in, year-out.
"Dave Whelan is a big football man, someone who really understands the game and understands the pressures his managers have been working under," he added.
"I'm sure if you ask each and every one of the managers to have worked under him, especially Roberto, they'd all say he has been brilliant for them.
"It sounds like Roberto could have left Wigan well before now, but I'm sure it's that relationship with his chairman that has been a huge factor in him staying and carrying on their good work together."