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Pulis accepts Stoke fans' criticism

Tony Pulis says he understands why some Stoke City fans have subjected him to a gauntlet of disapproval this year - despite the club being in sight of their best ever Premier League finish.

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Speculation over whether Pulis will remain in place for the 2013-14 campaign has accompanied Stoke's late-season slide into the survival battle. But he insists he has no complaints with how he has been treated.

"In the last six years, we have had unprecedented success and if you drop off, you are going to endure criticism," Pulis said.

"It's difficult in the Premier League. You're under a spotlight that's ten or 20 times more than any other league and you're going to have to handle it. The fans have a right to say what they want.

"I'm pretty down to earth. Never mind what you give them, they always want more and the expectations here have gone through the roof. I understand you can't always meet them but other people don't. You have to take some knocks."

Stoke head to Southampton on Sunday hoping for the victory that might enable them to leapfrog West Ham and secure a top-ten Premier League finish for the first time.

Having hovered dangerously around the survival scramble for several weeks, they came good again to secure a sixth successive campaign in the top flight. And Pulis doesn't think his side are alone in having endured their tribulations.

"It has been a surreal season in lots of respects because clubs have had good runs then fallen away badly," he added.

"It happened to us with winning lots of points and then falling away. Five or six teams have done exactly the same. We hope to get a good result on Sunday and keep ourselves in a really good position in the Premier League.

"You have ups and downs and the Premier League is relentless. It's important to stay as level as you can.

"If we can finish in the top ten, that would be absolutely wonderful for everyone here. We have built a club that is unrecognisable from the one I left and came back to.

"We're taking 4,000 people with us down there and we hope to go and be really positive and put a performance in."

Pulis will contemplate giving Michael Owen a cameo role by way of a send-off into his retirement as a player and will give late checks to midfielders Glenn Whelan (groin) and Brek Shea (calf).

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