Tony Pulis recalls famous day Stoke City beat Reading to avoid the drop
STOKE fans should always pay homage and give thanks to the day their team beat Reading at the Britannia Stadium.
It was back in May 2002 when Stoke had to beat the Royals on the last day of the season to ensure they didn’t drop back into the third tier of English football.
Relegation could have spelt the end of the club’s Premier League ambitions for another decade or two – and could have signalled a parting of the ways with manager Tony Pulis.
“Had that game not gone our way, we wouldn’t have been here today, no chance,” says Pulis unequivocally.
Panasonic Store Camera•20x Optical Zoom LEICA DC Lens from 24mm...View details
What Digital camera Gold award winning DMCTZ40
SAVE £20 off our store price ONLY with this voucher
Plus you can also claim a SD card or spare battery
Choice of colours, free parking behind store
Terms: Print this voucher and hand in at Panasonic Store Hanley to save £20 off our store price ONLY £269.90
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
“I think the Icelandic people would have cut back and all sorts of things could have happened... all sorts.
“Staying in the Championship gave them the life to carry the club on and push the club on, but if we’d gone down to the third tier and they walked away, you could have been in all sorts of trouble.
“I’ve seen what’s happened at other clubs when the owners walk away. It could have happened to us and you couldn’t have blamed them.
“They invested a lot of money and I was their third manager that year. Gudjon Thordarson and Steve Cotterill had both left and I took over.
“It would have been very difficult for them to say ‘we’re still going to keep the thing going.’
“It’s one of the defining moments in the club’s history and it was a very important game, one I’ll never forget.”
The game was won in the second half when, with Brighton threatening to get the victory they needed at Grimsby and send Stoke down instead, Lewis Neal whipped in a left-wing cross for Ade Akinbiyi to head home in front of a jubilant Boothen End.
“For that reason alone, Ade Akinbiyi is the best loan signing I ever made,” Pulis added. “I will always be indebted to Ade.”
Victory over Reading that day was all the sweeter for Pulis because his friend (and rival) Alan Pardew was in the opposite dugout.
Today, however, there is the far more likeable and genteel figure of Brian McDermott at the helm for a Reading side pocketing 10 points from the last 12 to scamper out of the bottom three for just about the first time all season.
“Brian is a smashing football man,” Pulis observed. “He’s been chief scout there and he’s also had a good playing career. Reading has been his club and it’s lovely to see him leading them the way he is.
“Players there have worked tremendously hard for him and results over the past few weeks have surprised everybody, but probably not them because they have been working so hard and maintaining such a great spirit.”
Reading’s recent revival was probably spawned before the end of 2012 when McDermott visibly tightened up a team considered entertaining, but there for the taking.
Who can forget how they blew a 4-0 lead to eventually lose 7-5 at home to Arsenal in the Capital One Cup?
“I’ve watched their last three games,” Pulis continued, “and they are different to when they first came into the Premier League at the start of the season.
“They are a lot more difficult to break down and they’ve got pace out wide in (Garath) McCleary and (Jimmy) Kebe... and they’ve spent a lot on their centre forward (Pavel Pogrebnyak).”
He might also have chucked in the name of Adam Le Fondre after his recent exploits earned him the Premier League player-of-the-month award for January.
Le Fondre has stepped off the bench in three of Reading’s last four games to not only score five goals, but also make seven points for his club in the process.
No wonder they are talking about him in the same breath as Reading heroes of yesteryear like Kerry Dixon, Trevor Senior and Robin Friday.