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Pulis defended over youth policy

Stoke assistant manager Dave Kemp has pointed to the emergence of several of the club's players this season as evidence that his boss Tony Pulis is happy to back younger talent.

• Potters eye top-ten finish
• Blog: 150 not out

Pulis has endured a sometimes frosty campaign, with criticism that he prefers to stock his squad with tried and trusted campaigners.

But Kemp says those at the opposite end of the experience scale are given their opportunity as well at the Britannia Stadium and points to the likes of Asmir Begovic, Ryan Shawcross and Steven Nzonzi as proof.

Keeper Begovic, who was signed as a 22-year-old from Portsmouth three years ago, scooped four awards at Stoke's end-of-season ceremony on Tuesday.

There was good news for Shawcross, too, the 25-old defender signing a long-term new deal this season almost six years on from his move from Manchester United.

Nzonzi was 23 when he switched south from relegated Blackburn last August and Kemp said: "They are all players who have joined us in their late teens or early 20s.

"Ryan is now an England international and Asmir is being linked with clubs in the top four. They have progressed under our system to become top Premier League players.

"Marc Wilson is another example. These players have become established in the Premier League. It is the manager's policy but it sometimes gets overlooked."

Nzonzi scored his first goal in Stoke colours last weekend and Kemp believes he will now feel happier about going off in search of more.

The midfielder's header early in the 2-1 defeat against Tottenham was his first appearance on the scoresheet since he netted for Blackburn at Bolton in March of last season.

Kemp says the club's coaching staff have been encouraging him to join in the attacking play more and try his luck at goal.

"He is such a perfectionist that he hadn't been shooting much because he didn't believe he was good enough at it," Kemp added. "He has been scoring more in training and it is about confidence."

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