Stoke City v Hajduk Split

Pulis praises Woodgate

July 28, 2011
By ESPNsoccernet staff

Injury-plagued defender Jonathan Woodgate could make his debut for Stoke City in Thursday's Europa League tie against Hajduk Split.

Jonathan Woodgate
GettyImagesJonathan Woodgate: Released by Stoke

• Pulis backs vocal fans

Woodgate, who played just 32 minutes for Spurs last season as a substitute and made only three appearances the season prior, joined Stoke on a pay-as-you-play deal after his contract at White Hart Lane expired at the end of last month.

There is no doubt that Woodgate would be a key asset if he remains fit - and he made 92 Premier League starts between 2006-2009 - and manager Tony Pulis has been full of praise for his impact since arriving at the Britannia Stadium.

"He's been first class,'' said Pulis. "Whether we take a chance and play him [against Split], we'll have to wait and see, but he's close. He's trained, he's played half a game so it will be big decision for me.

"Obviously we have to tread carefully and get him to a level of fitness where he can get through the games and then we can manage him during the week.

"The way we've structured Jonathan's contract is beneficial to both. If he plays in the team then he'll be on the wages the rest of them are earning, and if he doesn't then he won't. But Jonathan took that gamble, we managed to persuade him to do that, and I think it's fantastic. He's a good player, he's a good lad, and he's really settled in.

"I think he's been pleasantly surprised by the way he's been received and how good the club is in lots of ways.''

This is Stoke's third foray into Europe and their first since the 1974-75 season but they have never won a tie while Hajduk are three-time European Cup quarter-finalists.