Stoke City news

Pulis: Owen given no guarantees

September 22, 2012
By David Instone

Tony Pulis believes it won't be long before Michael Owen forces a way into his Stoke City side - but has rubbished suggestions that the former England striker was ever guaranteed a starting place with him.

Michael Owen
EmpicsMichael Owen moved to Stoke in the summer

Owen is again almost certain to be on the substitutes' bench when Stoke meet another of the Premier League's unbeaten teams, Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

The manager is happily persevering with a 4-3-3 formation that looks more like a 4-5-1 in away games, with the in-form Peter Crouch as a lone target-man.

But the intriguing possibility of Owen being handed a full debut away to Liverpool is looming as Stoke are at Anfield in two weeks, on Sunday, October 7.

"Michael is okay," Pulis said. "He has trained brilliantly again this week but the lads did brilliantly against Manchester City last week and it will be difficult to change it.

"I don't think it'll be long until he gets in the team if he keeps performing as he is on the training ground. He's earning people's respect there already. It's just down to me to give him the opportunity to play.

"I've read all sorts of stuff, and apparently he only signed for us because I guaranteed him he would start every time he was fit to play.

"We just don't work like that at this club. You just want everybody, especially the players, to be reassured, whether we sign Michael or whether we sign Maurice Edu for a nominal fee from Rangers, that if they are good enough and they are performing, they will be in the team.

"I would have to pack my bags and leave if the players found it was true that I had promised someone he was going to play every week. It just doesn't run right with me."

Owen was given a terrific reception when sent on as a late substitute against City and will be licking his lips in anticipation of impressing from the bench and earning promotion either at home to Swansea next weekend or away to his first club the week after.

But, behind the three-goal Crouch, Pulis has been impressed in the meantime by the industry and endeavour of Jonathan Walters and the contribution of winger Michael Kightly.

"It has got nothing to do with people's names," the manager added. "Michael (Owen) is a great lad. He has been absolutely fantastic. He's only had one week with the full squad but if you speak to our players, they are already looking at him and saying he has got a fantastic attitude.

"He's very down to earth. He has got a great sense of humour and that will fit in with what we've got here. We've got a group of lads who are always at it.

"He has been slaughtered over everything he's done since he's been here but he would expect that and I think he would be disappointed if he wasn't. He even got slaughtered for not tipping that 100-1 winner the other day."

Pulis has ruled out the idea of organising any behind-closed-doors friendlies for Owen to improve his match sharpness, arguing: "We do a lot of 11 v 11 with the shape of the team and I've got Michael involved within the 11.

"We're just getting him used to what we do and the way we work. For someone of his age, I don't think semi-competitive games would make his juices boil. I think he has got to play in top, top games, and any game in the Premier League is a top game.

"These (away matches) are ones where people are not expecting us to do anything, so they might be a good opportunity to give him some time."

The fact Stoke visit Chelsea - a ground at which they have never taken as much as a single Premier League point - means their wait for a win may well stretch until at least the final weekend of September.