Pulis puts friendship aside

20 March 2009 08:37
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has nothing but respect for Gareth Southgate, but remains fully focused on pushing Middlesbrough closer to relegation.

The Potters welcome Southgate's Boro side to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday for a vital fixture in the battle against the drop.

Pulis' troops are in the bottom three on goal difference, while the visitors are a further two points adrift with just nine games of the season remaining.

Southgate made an immediate impression on the Stoke boss when they first met almost 10 years ago, and Pulis has nothing but praise for the Premier League's longest-serving English manager.

BrilliantHe said: "Gareth is a smashing lad. The first time I met him was when I was manager at Gillingham and we were preparing for the play-off final against Manchester City a few years back now.

"I took Gillingham up to Villa's training ground for a break before the game at Wembley. John Gregory was manager at the time and he arranged for us to use their facilities.

"And Gareth, who was playing for Villa then, was doing some training there on his own ahead of an England match.

"He came and asked me if he could join in with us for three days, and he was brilliant. I have had a lot of time for him ever since."

But come kick-off on Saturday, Pulis will put sentiment to one side and has called on his players to use their home form as a platform for survival.

Stoke have been a force to be reckoned with on home turf, but appalling away from home, which is why the Potters boss sees their five remaining home games as vital.

DestinyHe added: "However much I admire him and what he has done, when the game starts there is only one team that I will want to win.

"We have nine games to go and destiny is in our own hands. We have five home games left and we must glean as many points from those games as possible.

"Our away form has not been good so it is five home cup finals now for us to save ourselves.

"We can determine our own future, nobody else. Especially in the home games.

"Our fans have been fantastic, they have loved every minute of the Premier League and have never turned on us."

Source: SKY_Sports