Pulis: Relegation fight could go distance
Tony Pulis is prepared for the possibility of Stoke City's survival battle going to a nerve-jangling final afternoon at Southampton.
The club have taken only one point since the second weekend of February – a goalless home draw against West Bromwich Albion – and have long been chasing the remaining six points their manager believes they need to guarantee a sixth successive top-flight season.
"If it means going to the wire, so be it," said Pulis, who well remembers both the victory over Reading that achieved Championship salvation in his first spell at the club and the last-day draw against Leicester that secured promotion to this level in 2008. "It wouldn't be the first time for me.
"The top of the table is almost sorted out - it's much more interesting at the bottom! You get yourself in the spotlight but we have to keep the players focused and the best way to do that is to keep them relaxed. I think they will respond in the right way. We must make sure we are on the front foot.
"This is a first in my seven years back and we have five rolls of the dice to get the six points we need. We need a call to arms to everybody in Stoke-on-Trent because it has been a dreadful run. We haven't deserved to be where we are but we've shot ourselves in the foot and have to stop that."
Pulis took his players on a visit to the House of Lords on Tuesday by way of a break from routine, conscious as he is of the need to lift the tension following a sequence of six defeats in seven league matches.
Despite Sunderland's eye-opening victory at Newcastle on Sunday and Wigan's defeat at Manchester City in midweek, he has not wavered from the belief he has expressed for several weeks.
"We're looking for 40 points," he added. "Forty keeps you up. So we need six points whether it's from the next two, the last two, whatever.
"We have needed to score more goals. Even when we were doing well, we weren't scoring enough goals. We've had great chances and missed them and struggled in both boxes. We've given poor, poor goals away.
"We have to eradicate that and get the points we need to stay up. The players have looked really bright in training and we have to keep them bright. Their attitude has been first-class but you have to keep them away from negativity.
"Little bits haven't gone for us but they need to keep working hard and I'm sure they will. We need a break and the only people who will turn it round are the players.
"The next five games are vital. We have to show our true colours and get the job done. I haven't prepared them any different to the last seven years. You have bad times but keep them focused and keep them together. They are the ones I worry about."