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Five Aside

Pulis has no problem with Owen punditry

Stoke striker Michael Owen will not receive a dressing-down from manager Tony Pulis despite a late return home in the countdown to Saturday's clash with Fulham.

• Blog: A game of two halves

Owen, 32, stepped outside of the club's curfew when not arriving home until the early hours of Thursday morning, following some television punditry work.

However, Pulis was happy enough with the arrangement as the former England international is still sidelined with a hamstring injury and took due care with his travelling plans.

"He was in at 8.45am working anyway," Pulis said. "If he was going to be involved on Saturday, it might have been different. But he has a driver and sits in a big car. He's not the biggest in the world, so he can stretch out, sleep going down there and sleep coming back. We'll let him know if he's doing things he shouldn't be."

Owen is still waiting to start a game for Stoke, nearly three months on from his arrival, but he is close to challenging for a place again and could be fit for Wednesday's league visit of Newcastle. He was last involved - as an 80th-minute substitute - in the home draw with Sunderland on October 27.

"We hope Michael will be fit for the Newcastle game," Pulis said. "Whether we involve him, I'm not sure. But the West Brom game (three days later)...most definitely, fingers crossed. He'll have had 10 days of integrating into the group.

"We need to integrate him into the group first. From that point, we need to see how he goes and if he passes that next stage, then we can get him in. When he felt his hamstring again, it was a case of us pushing him a little too quickly, so we don't want to just chuck him in this time."

Local boy Ryan Shotton is set for his first league start of the season against Fulham after deputising from the bench for back injury victim Andy Wilkinson in the 1-1 draw at West Ham on Monday.


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