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Villa tops Audi Player Index in win vs. Fire

Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Stoke seal double Faye swoop to make it five

Stoke have signed Abdoulaye Faye from Newcastle for a fee of £2.25million.

Faye has signed a three-year deal at the Britannia Stadium after spending a year on Tyneside.

The arrival of the 30-year-old defender follows the earlier signing of Senegalese compatriot Amdy Faye.

Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes said: 'Abdoulaye is a fantastic player with top-flight experience in abundance.

'We have worked extremely hard to conclude the deal, and we are absolutely delighted to have signed a player of his quality.'

The Potters begin their debut Premier League campaign at Bolton tomorrow and manager Tony Pulis has put his close friendship with opposite number Gary Megson on hold until after the teams meet at the Reebok Stadium.

Pulis handed Megson a place on Stoke's coaching staff last summer after his managerial career hit the buffers following an ill-fated spell at Nottingham Forest.

The position served as a rehabilitation period and the rest is history after Megson first took charge at Leicester before inspiring Bolton to Premier League safety.

The 50-year-old said: 'I've not spoken to Gary for two weeks. As the game gets closer you tend to concentrate on your own team's preparations, but I'm sure we will get together afterwards.'

He joked: 'He's a tight so and so and I hope he splashes out on a nice bottle of wine.'

Pulis' relationship with the Megson family goes back more than 35 years to when Gary's father, Don, managed him at Bristol Rovers.

He added: 'Don gave me my Football League debut and I remember Gary being around as a young kid then. I had great admiration for Don and I've always taken notice of Gary's career as a player and as a manager.

'Most managers have rocky patches and I'm just delighted Gary has come through his. But I don't think he has been given the credit he deserves. He did a fantastic job to stop Bolton being relegated.'

Stoke make their first visit to the Reebok for their Premier League bow, and Pulis, his players and the fans cannot wait.

He continued: 'The whole city is buzzing and the players are really looking forward to it. We are under no illusions about the season ahead, but we will give it everything we've got.

'A lot of pundits are saying Stoke and Hull are certain to get relegated. We will just keep quiet and get on with the job.'

Pulis will have to decide whether to risk his 15-goal top scorers from last season, with Ricardo Fuller (knee) and Liam Lawrence (hernia) only returning to full training this week.

Both have been used sparingly in pre-season, but Lawrence insisted: 'I'm raring to go and I think I would be fine to play 90 minutes.

'I'm lacking a bit of match fitness, but I've done everything in training this week and I've been in the manager's ear all the time. I'm desperate to play.

'But the gaffer is a strong-minded bloke and we all know it will be him who makes the decision in the end.'

Lawrence believes he has some unfinished business to attend to after enduring a miserable season in the top flight with Sunderland two years ago.

The Black Cats finished rock bottom with only 15 points - then the lowest points record - and he admitted: 'It was really tough. It is incredibly difficult to keep your spirits up between games and stay focused when you are losing all the time.

'But I would like to think we are a better side than that and we've certainly got a great set of lads and a terrific spirit between us.

'All the players are looking forward to the challenge immensely and we start off with a massive game. Bolton are one of the teams we must look to take some points off.'

Longer term, Lawrence aims to catch the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni and become established in the Republic of Ireland set-up.

He added: 'It's a big year for Stoke City and it's also a big year for me on a personal level. It would be great to play for Ireland, but first I want to prove to myself and to the supporters that I can perform at the top level.'


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