Do the right thing, Pulis

Posted by James Whittaker

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesStoke City fans are eagerly anticipating manager Tony Pulis' starting 11 ahead of Saturday's tilt with Aston Villa.

It's been almost a week of happiness, of looking at the Premier League table and seeing Stoke sitting comfortably in the top 10 reflecting on the excellent run of results that got them there. That this achievement has largely been down to making use of the squad is great to acknowledge, but it's what happens next that will dictate the happiness of the squad as a whole as they look to cement their position in the preferred half of the table.

Kenwyne Jones has been central to Stoke's success in their last couple of games and is displaying the hunger and determination many have been quick to criticise him for lacking. Jones, and indeed Cameron Jerome, had a frustrating time last campaign and found themselves in a similar situation to the one they are in now when they came in, lifted the crowd and the team, and turned their fortunes around. This impact was met with a complete lack of individual recognition by Tony Pulis, almost deliberately so in an attempt to stick a finger up to those who had been championing their introduction to a static frontline, before reintroducing said strikers the very next game.

- Jones stakes claim for starting role

This time though, things feel a little different. The manager has been more willing to substitute Peter Crouch of late, dare we hope in recognition that pace is a necessity in our unique set-up, so Crouch's availability may not result in the foregone conclusion many of us fear. The fact that Jones was singled out by Dave Kemp as well as the manager himself is very encouraging, and is something the management team have shied away from during their time at the club, instead preferring to concentrate on the team effort. The fact that the players who are often deserving of such praise are crowd favourites and not Pulis favourites might have something to do with it too.

So it was another pleasant surprise to hear more glowing praise, this time from our Captain, for Jones' impact and in particular his role in the West Brom win. His efforts on this occasion certainly seem to be attracting the right attention and a motivated, and more importantly, appreciated Jones is an asset to any club. The final piece of the jigsaw of course will be put in place on Saturday at five past two as the team sheet is read out. We've heard Crouch has had his surgery and is looking to make himself available for selection, so will Pulis do the right thing for his system, for Jones and for the squad as a whole and select the best option available? Or will he show that he's learned nothing and bring Crouch back in, and in doing so, put the final nail in the coffin of Jones' time here and any other squad member hoping for selection on merit? Place your bets now please.

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