Stoke talking points heading into run-in

Posted by James Whittaker

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates this week put to bed any rumours that Tony Pulis would be removed before the season’s end by declaring he is staying until the summer at least.

Press Association via AP ImagesStoke manager Tony Pulis (white shirt) and chairman Peter Coates will have a heart-to-heart talk at the end of the season.

While this isn't the news many Stoke fans wanted to hear, a message from the chairman at this stage was vital and allows the manager, players and fans alike to focus on the relegation battle ahead.

How Stoke do in the next six games will decide whether or not the club will remain at the top table with all its associated riches, or ply their trade back in the Championship.

The manager keeps talking about getting to 40 points: "We only need six points from six games." That may well be the case, but given that Stoke's last six points have taken almost four months to accrue, expecting a return of that magnitude in the next six weeks seems somewhat far-fetched.

But these six games will be set amidst the backdrop of a relegation battle -- backs-to-the-wall fighting, us against the world -- which is where Pulis has thrived in the past. Firefighting is his forte; it's just tragic this particular fire threatens to tear through the very foundations he has built the last five seasons.

With those on the pitch and the terraces seemingly unmoved by Pulis' attempts at motivation, it's perhaps fortuitous that Stoke's next match is against champions-elect Manchester United.

It won't be the manager who will put the fire in the belly of those he needs to turn in a performance on Sunday at the Britannia; the opponents will do that for him. Every fan enjoys taking on one of the 'big boys', and they will be in fine voice having shared plenty of history with the red half of Manchester over the years. The players will feel a weight lifted off their shoulders as the expectation of them will be a fraction of that felt just a week earlier against relegation rivals Aston Villa.

It's a game they will hopefully enjoy, one which will allow them to get back to basics, to get that red-and-white passion running through their veins again getting in the face of their more illustrious opponents.

It's that passion which will be needed in those games where points are expected. Norwich and Sunderland afford the Potters the best opportunity of a return, and if they can somehow find them in those or any of the other remaining games, I think that should be enough to see them remain in the top flight.

Until that happens though, I, like many others, will be cheering on the likes of Arsenal (yuk), Fulham and Newcastle this weekend, hoping that, despite the Stoke score, the table remains the same or better with another game chalked off taking the club ever closer to safety.

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